How did I get it: I won a signed copy of both An Artificial Night and Late Eclipses from My Bookish Ways quite awhile ago. I’m just now getting around to reading them.
Why did I get it: I’ve been meaning to get back to this series for awhile. (The book will also count towards my Horror & Urban Fantasy Reading Challenge for 2011)
How I would rate it: 2.5 out of 5 stars.
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.
Review: Let me state for the record that writing this review was difficult. Nothing would have delighted me more than to have been able to rave on about An Artificial Night because I really enjoy McGuire’s writing, but I have a feeling that appreciation resulted in my having certain expectations that really weren’t met here by book three of the October Daye series.
In terms of positives, there was definitely enough of them to keep me going no matter how irked I became. I thought the premise, the overarching concepts, and the world-building remained pretty cool and strong. The writing in terms of descriptions, setting, and mood was great. I’m pretty much in love with the Ludiaeg and Tybalt, Blind Michael made for a neat villain, I’m fond of nearly all the characters I’ve met so far, and I really enjoyed learning more about Luna’s back story. In terms of the big picture, I like what this book is probably leading up to since I think there is a shift here in terms of what Toby needs to do versus what she has been doing. Good ideas and great moments were plentiful. There are also some really intriguing mysteries left to be unraveled in regards to Toby’s mother and other characters besides. There is also a pretty clear-cut sense of who is good and who is bad, which is rather disconcerting to say the least since the book is dealing with all things Faerie, but it was handled well by McGuire.
In terms of negatives, I think it does bear mentioning that the book could have done without such an overinflated sense of the dramatic as well as its own importance. However, the two major bones I’d like to pick with An Artificial Night involve the absurd amount of repetition and Toby being a less than stellar main character, hero, detective, knight, etc.
I got really tired of the same instructions, questions, sentences, and themes being used over and over again. I suspect the hope was the repeating them enough would make them true or at least make the plot take longer? It’s hard to tell because even the events and conversations occurred in such a cyclical fashion that it felt as if the book was a mix tape stuck on an endless loop. The only real difference between each of Toby’s visits to Blind Michael’s realm was the road she took, the people/person she went in to save, and the order of who helped her when. By the third set of people helping, explaining, being dismayed that she was going to die, and then sending Toby to some kind of certain doom, I felt like I was trapped inside a really annoying video game that was trying to mask a very simple storyline behind great graphics and an epic soundtrack.
Toby was also quite a letdown for me as a main character in a way that she wasn’t in the first or second book. Granted, she wasn’t particularly successful as a detective before, but this was the first book where she didn’t seem particularly good at being a knight either. Or a hero despite the novel and its characters using that word a lot in regards to Toby. I don’t think it helped matters that teenagers and children were in harm’s way for a significant portion of the book, but I don’t know how great it was to have their rescuer come across as unable to find her way out of a paper bag without the assistance of an entire village of Faerie elders either. I was even more amazed when even the other characters in An Artificial Night were quick to observe that Toby has a death wish, alienates herself from people in harmful ways, rushes into situations she has no business being involved in, and is constantly at the mercy of the choices of others as well as their consequences.
I understand that on a journey and quest into dark, dangerous somewhat mythical places one gets help and answers from others who act as mentors. I understand that a lot of anything Faerie-related involves a search, a hunt, vague allusions, and the utilization of old legends, ballads, and songs. But there is an incredible wealth of difference between a hero who goes to deal with destiny only after it has taken multiple chunks out of one leg, and the one who seizes destiny by the horns and then beats the crap out of it when it won’t say uncle. Personally I am a big fan and advocate of the latter when it comes to series fiction or anything that falls under the genre umbrella of Fantasy.
Don’t get me wrong. I like Toby to some degree. I’m not saying I need Toby to be well-adjusted or without a single flaw. I definitely appreciate the complexity of all she’s been through. I like that she remains somewhat human and I have no objections to her moments of reflection and doubt. However, it is still quite difficult to root for someone who is, by and large, way too passive and probably my least favorite good character in a series that is supposed to be all about her.
In conclusion, okay but not quite what I wanted. Because I wanted to see Toby making things happen, but this third book is mostly about things that happen to her coupled with a lot of repetitive padding. I’m not sure how I will feel about suggesting the series to others if the other books aren’t better moving forward, but I’m definitely going to give the next two books a chance.