A review of An Artificial NIght (Obtober Daye #3) by Seanan McGuire

READ JUNE 2013

ONLINE PLOT SUMMARY: “Experience the thrill of the hunt in the third October Daye urban fantasy novel.

October “Toby” Daye is a changeling-half human and half fae-and the only one who has earned knighthood. Now she must take on a nightmarish new challenge. Someone is stealing the children of the fae as well as mortal children, and all signs point to Blind Michael. Toby has no choice but to track the villain down-even when there are only three magical roads by which to reach Blind Michael’s realm, home of the Wild Hunt-and no road may be taken more than once. If Toby cannot escape with the children, she will fall prey to the Wild Hunt and Blind Michael’s inescapable power.”

MY REVIEW: Where to begin, where to begin? There’s so  damned much that’s good here, very, very good. Memorable, engaging characters. Incredible world-building. Vivid, even poetic description, especially of magical events. Powerful action scenes. Moments of touching poignancy. Technically sound writing. Wry wit. Taut suspense.

And, yet…

A lot of people have commented on all the stupid, potentially life-threatening, things our intrepid protagonist does. She even comments on it herself. More than once. But, hell, she says everything more than once. <i>Does</i> everything more than once. October Daye, a changeling, sometime detective, and knight to the fae Duke of Shadowed Hills, is a peripatetic ping pong ball.

Go see Luna. Go see Lily. Go see the Luidaeg. Set out for Blind Michael’s realm. Mix well and repeat. And, ah, well, repeat again. Still, in each recurrence, enough is added to make it, if not fresh, at least interesting. What’s truly exasperating, though, is the repetitive prose, iteration on such a level that I will never again complain of it in another writer’s work. Even Jennifer Estep gets a pass from now on.

While a catchphrase isn’t bad, per se, I swear, if I ever hear, “Root and branch! What had I done?“ again, I may not be able to stifle the urge to drive an ice-pick into my brain. Worse than the constant “Oak and ash,“ and “Root and branch, though, is the fact that McGuire tells us things we already know. Again and again. Over and over. Are we stupid??? Senile??? We got the thing about not saying “Thank you” to fae the first time around. And the second. And…We got it from a dozen other books we’ve read, too, and from the general mythos. Eliminate the continual recapitulation, and the book would come in at less than three hundred pages. It’s like the tape loops in an old porn film.

Despite all that, however, McGuire’s Toby Daye stories are  quite compelling reads, often a delight, largely because of the characters. Despite, or maybe because of her ill-considered actions, we can’t help rooting for Toby. Whatever she may lack in foresight is more than made up for in heart. Both types, the compassionate and caring kind, and the courageous variety. Bottom line, her actions are motivated by her concern for those she cares about. Toby has pluck, moxie, spirit. Choose your own term. My favorite, pace Charles Portis, is “grit.” Toby may not be the biggest badass in town, or the greatest planner, but once she the task is in front of her, she’s relentless until it’s accomplished.

McGuire peoples her well-conceived world with unforgettable characters. The series, and An Artificial Night in particular, would be seriously diminished without the Luideag, Firstborn Fae sea witch, one part crone, the other meddling granny, fiercely protective of those she befriends (or at least supports) one minute, but apt to flay them alive the next. Duke Sylvester’s quiet strength is Toby’s anchor. New to the series in this book, October’s “fetch”, the spirit who leads the dead off this mortal coil before they can be scarfed up by the Night Haunts, is a great addition, and I hope we see a lot more of her. Would like to see Rayseline with a bigger role to play, too. Even the most minor of characters contribute to the whole, and are never just filler.

So, yes, An Artificial Night has some issues, quite maddening ones, in fact, but all the positives ultimately outweigh the defects. I’ll definitely continue reading this series at some point.

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