Saturday, 17 December 2011

100. "An Artificial Night" by Seanan McGuire

Publisher: Daw
Page count: 368 pages
Date begun: December 4th, 2011
Date finished: December 7th, 2011

In An Artificial Night, Toby Daye, half-human changeling and faery knight, has to face Blind Michael, the leader of the Wild Hunt, one of the oldest and most dangerous of faeries. Every hundred years, his riders go into the world and gather new recruits, stealing children from faeries, changelings and humans alike (the faeries to ride, the humans to be mounts). Toby's best friends call her in a panic when their two youngest kids go missing and their middle daughter won't wake up from a mysterious sleep. Tybalt, King of Cats, informs her that several of the cait sidhe children and changelings have gone missing too. He promises that her debt to him will be cleared if she finds his missing subjects.

Luna, Duchess of the Shadowed Hills, has a mysterious past Toby never even guessed at, as Toby discovers when she goes to tell her liege lord what has happened. She tries to warn Toby to let the issue go, as it's nearly impossible to get to Blind Michael's realm, and to enter it means either eternal enslavement or death. Toby is determined to save the children, though, and with the help of Luna, and the Luideag, the ancient and powerful sea witch who is Toby's friend and Blind Michael's sister, she is put on one of the three paths to his realm, with a magic candle and 24 hours to complete her mission.

If Toby seemed to blunder around and get herself into mortal danger a lot in the previous book, things escalate massively in this one. Even though the mission means near certain death, Toby is determined to complete it. She cannot allow the children to become the twisted members of Blind Michael's Wild Hunt, and she thinks nothing of risking her life to save them. Suffice to say, before the book is over, Toby will have been on all three of the roads to Blind Michael's realm, and I was actually amazed at how much she was able to endure in order to save not only the children of her friends, but as many other of Blind Michael's victims as she can.

While she may seem bullheaded and too foolhardy for her own good, An Artificial Night also shows all of Toby's very admirable qualities. She's brave to the point of idiocy, and determined to see her mission through, no matter what the personal cost to herself. It's easy to see why her diverse group of friends (Luna, Quentin, Duke Sylvester, Tybalt, the Luideag) are desperate to try to save her from Blind Michael, and herself. As in the last book, I thought parts of the story dragged, but the cast of characters is compelling enough that I will keep reading, if only to find out whether Quentin becomes Toby's squire, and therefore a more permanent sidekick, and also to see whether Tybalt is actually going to become a proper love interest, instead of just a frustratingly enigmatic charmer.

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