Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Review: An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire

An Artificial Night
An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had already read this book, back when it first came out. I've been trying to reread all of the books in the October Daye series before the next, Ashes of Honor, comes out in September. I don't think I'll make it. I do, however, think that I'm enjoying my rereads.

This is the third in Toby's series, and, while it's just as good as I remember, I couldn't help but compare it to the later books and the successive game-changing developments. Still, it was fun to catch the foreshadowing and breadcrumbs Seanan McGuire left in this book, and to predict what we might see in future installments.

In this book, Toby goes to a 4-year-old's birthday party, then gets a frantic call the next morning. The little boy in question is missing, as is his sister, and another sister isn't waking up. She can't make sense of the clues left behind, but the Luidaeg points her to Blind Michael's realm, where children are being harvested for the once-a-century Hunt.

Blind Michael is a Firstborn, which leads Toby to the unique situation of facing off against someone she hasn't a chance against. In the previous two books, it was only that she hadn't figured it out, yet. But Blind Michael isn't hiding. He's right there in his realm. The trick is getting there (by a candle's light), and getting back out again. There are three roads, and Toby needs them all to free the children she's vowed to rescue.

This book introduces May Daye, Toby's Fetch. A Fetch is a physical double sent to accompany people on the occasions of their deaths. However, May is no passive herald of death. She's bright and sunny and cheerful, and winds up saving Toby's life, or at least sparing her a painful death. One might think that's against the rules, but no one knows what the rules are. Not even May, who's mad at herself for possibly wrecking the reason she's there.

I originally read this book in paperback format, but my reread was of the audio edition. Mary Robinette Kowal does an excellent job with narration. She has subtle pitch changes that separate out the characters. I needed an adjustment period to get used to how she voices Tybalt, my favorite secondary character and the source of my kitten's name. But, now that I'm adjusted, I hear all of his dialogue, even when I'm reading, the way she reads him.

The audio edition does highlight one thing several other readers have complained about: the repetition. Several phrases crop up more than once, Toby relates how she performs actions in the same words, and the "hero" concept is fairly well hammered home. This being a fairy tale with strong song elements, I felt the repetition served the story well. It was like a refrain. But, some of the repetition sounded like it might be a mistake.

If you've read the first book, or the first and second, and you're hesitant about picking this one up, I would advise that you stop hesitating. It only gets better from here. There's so much that's being set up in these books, and you are in for such a treat.

However, if you haven't read the earlier books, I strongly advise you do. You're missing out on a lot of story and previous worldbuilding. You can pick this one up without preamble, but I don't advise you do.

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