An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Changeling knight in the court of the Duke of Shadowed Hills, October “Toby” Daye has survived numerous challenges that would destroy fae and mortal alike. Now Toby must take on a nightmarish new assignment.
Someone is stealing both fae and mortal children—and all signs point to Blind Michael. When the young son of Toby’s closest friends is snatched from their Northern California home, Toby has no choice but to track the villains down, even when there are only three magical roads by which to reach Blind Michael’s realm—home of the legendary Wild Hunt—and no road may be taken more than once. If she cannot escape with all the children before the candle that guides and protects her burns away, Toby herself will fall prey to Blind Michael’s inescapable power.
And it doesn’t bode well for the success of her mission that her own personal Fetch, May Daye—the harbinger of Toby’s own death—has suddenly turned up on her doorstep…
Warnings: child abduction and abuse, domestic abuse, blood letting and blood use in ritual
Note: Not a YA novel; this is adult urban fantasy
Whoa, this book upped the stakes for Toby to a surprising degree – it starts with Toby dealing with a local Faerie noble’s infestation of Barghests but by the end, Toby has to fight a powerful Faerie, one of the Firstborns, who are practically immortal. Combined with the fact that the story is about Wild Hunt and has aspects of Tam Lin, this installment delivers a high-stakes and fast-paced storyline, with so much more to delve into Faerie mythology and human- Faerie relationships.
When a death omen for the main character arrive in the third book of a series, you are somewhat assured that the main character doesn’t die, but it is still anxiety-inducing. When Toby’s Fetch, May (again with the month names lol) arrives at her doorstep, she is shocked but kind of resigned to her fate. When she learns that her best friends’ children, who are family to her, have been abducted, along with some children from the Court of Cats and the human girlfriend of her protege Quentin, she sets out to find and free them. The only problem is that the abductor is one of the oldest fairies, Blind Michael, who collects children once a century for his Hunt. Reaching his court itself is not easy, and she has to resort to asking help from the Ludiaeg, as well as other major Faeries. Rescue missions are always risky business, but a supernatural rescue from a knowe that no one else can interfere in? Also did I mention she is a changeling who is going against an ancient and powerful pureblood faerie?
The fact that her Fetch arrives means that Toby is going into this mission knowing it is impossible and will most likely mean her death, so those are the stakes at which the story begins. Toby’s foray into his lands have her first changed into a child state, because that is one of the roads leading to that realm. Having Toby as a 10-year old kid knight was a bit amusing, if I am being honest, especially when she gets a little miffed that everyone she knows is still able to recognize her. She uses her smarts to outwit Blind Michael with a game, since his land works on a child’s logic. But even when she manages to rescue the kids, her mission is not over. She has to go up against him repeatedly, to bargain for her kids’ freedom, but also to try to put an end to the suffering he is causing. It also brings into question her tendency to run headfirst into danger without much concern for her own mortality. I honestly could see why the people around her were a bit frustrated with her – like even the Ludiaeg was practically maternal in this book, having to save her ass repeatedly. Speaking of the Ludieag, I love their relationship so much – like imagine befriending the faerie who is basically faerie children’s nightmare and have her care for you to such an extent as to ask for help on your behalf! Tybalt also makes regular appearances in this book, and I wish Toby would wise up and realize they aren’t really enemies anymore?
With that ending, I wonder how that changes Toby’s status in the Faerie world – she was already known as Amandine’s daughter to everyone and their mother, but this would probably make her infamous. Overall, an awesome sequel, even if it isn’t truly a mystery like the other books.
Previous book in the October Daye series