Now, to actually catch up with book reviews, today's is An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire.
This is the the third book in the Toby Daye series. It's a complete story, but it is part of a series, and it's easier to understand the characters if you start at the beginning with Rosemary and Rue.
My favorite thing about the Toby books from the start has been the world -- rich and deep and well thought out. In this book, we concentrate on one particular part of the faerie world, and we draw on a lot of folklore material. We don't really advance any of the big questions about how Toby's world works that I'm really curious about, which was a small disappointment, but as I thought about it, I realized that in this book, we take on head-on one of the darker, ickier parts of the traditional folklore, and show both that it really is part of Toby's world, and how it is possible for things to get better. However, the development that's most important in this book is of characters, not of the world. Toby started out the series troubled and damaged by her past; in this book she really starts to come into her own, and it's awesome. We also get to see a lot of development of a couple of my favorite minor characters.
As I'm writing this, I'm realizing that I don't feel quite as enthusiastic about this book as I think I should. I think it's because of the mood I'm in right now, but I base my ratings on how I feel about having read the book, without trying to second-guess too much. So I'm giving this an 8 out of 10.
**** PLOT SUMMARY -- MASSIVE SPOILERS ****
(I may be mixing things up a bit here, but I'm not going to re-read the book just to get the plot summary in order.)
We open the book with an amusing little scene of Toby, in her role as general supernatural trouble-shooter, cleaning a nest of barghests out of a noble's house, with her hired muscle, Danny the bridge troll taxi driver, determined to rescue and raise the baby monsters because they're cute. From here we go to a birthday party for some friends' kids. Then Connor, the already-married one of Toby's love interests, calls her unreasonably early to invite her to breakfast. Before she can actually go to breakfast, though, Toby's Fetch shows up. A Fetch is a duplicate of a person who shows up when they're about to die to escort them into the afterlife. Somehow, this puts Toby off her breakfast. Toby manages to survive longer than she's supposed to, and May, as the Fetch names herself, turns out to have more of a personality of her own than expected. A couple of the kids Toby just visited are kidnapped, a third is in a coma, and there is weird magic at the scene that Toby can't recognize, but which burns her hands. Very soon, Tybalt the King of Cats tracks Toby down and tells her that five Cait Sidhe kids have also been kidnapped. And Quentin, the plucky kid sidekick, tells Toby that his human girlfriend is missing. Toby goes to Lily, the Undine who lives in the Japanese Tea Gardens at Golden Gate Park, who heals her hands and gives her cryptic advice. Some faerie rule forbids her from saying more than "ask the moon". Toby eventually realizes that this means to talk to Luna, the kitsune wife of Toby's liege. Luna points her to her old friend the Luidaeg. I forget just when Toby learns that the kids have been taken by Blind Michael, but the Luidaeg sends Toby to Blind Michael's lands by the Children's Road, which involves turning her into a child (which Toby finds inconvenient) and giving her a magic candle. Toby encounters the spirit of Karen, the comatose kid, and rescues Quentin, who followed her somehow. Toby gets out, but has to go back to rescue the kids. She takes a token from Acacia to Luna, and thereby reveals that Luna is actually the daughter of Acacia and Michael. Luna sends Toby back by the Rose Road. Toby rescues the kids, but before she can get out herself she's caught by Michael, who forces her to ride with the hunt. But her friends, lead by the Luidaeg, do the whole Tam Lin thing, and pull her and those of the riders who have kin or lovers who can do it, out of the Hunt. The kids are physically rescued, but Katie is still turning into a horse, Karen won't wake up, and Michael has a hold on Toby's mind. So Toby goes back a third time, by the Blood Road, by which she can only return if she kills Michael. She confronts Michael. Acacia gives her an iron knife to go with her own silver one, and with the two blades together she kills Michael. Life starts to return to Michael's domain. Acacia will stay, but she can now visit her daughter. The Luidaeg manages to put Katie back together, but she forces Quentin to make a choice: he can leave her forever and let her be human, or he can take her into faerie never to return. He lets her go, but he's hurt.
Toby manages to reconcile herself to the fact that she will die at some point and decides to get on with doing the best she can of living until it happens. And both of her boyfriends have backed off, leaving her and the reader not sure what's happening next in Toby's love life.