Monthly Archives: September 2017

Review: An Artificial Night (October Daye #3)

Fresh off her last big assignment, October “Toby” Daye barely has time to rest before trouble finds her again. Someone’s been stealing children from mortal and fae alike, and all signs point to Blind Michael, the leader of the Wild Hunt. Unfortunately, getting to him won’t be easy, as there are few roads that lead to his realm, each one can only be taken once, and some roads demand a more heavy toll than others, and once she’s in, she can only stay so long before her magical protection burns away and she’s at the mercy of the land’s formidable fae lord. To make matters worse, May Daye, her own personal Fetch and harbinger of her coming death, has suddenly appeared on Toby’s doorstep.

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I wouldn’t say the first two books in this series were a slog but they certainly had their slow points. This one kept me glued to the page. This one has a bit more action and tension, and of the three, this one is definitely the most “fairy tale” like. There’s a set of instructions the protagonist needs to follow in order to pass safely through Blind Michael’s realm. Blind Michael himself follows some very specific rules. Before this book there have been hints of fae protocol (like how you should never say “thank you”) but this book really highlights how Faerie is different from the mortal realm. I also really liked May as a character. As a Fetch, she shares many of Toby’s memories, but she also has more of a bubbly personality than our protagonist. I think Quentin and the Luidaeg are my favourites out of the recurring characters thus far.

I’ve criticized the series so far for October’s lack of investigative work and how the plot seems to happen to her. She takes more of an active role in this book, actually taking the initiative when she’s thrown a curve ball, though she still finds herself in situations where she needs rescuing. It’s not that I’m against characters who need rescuing, it’s just that it seems to happen more frequently to Toby Daye than it should. This book feels more like Toby is coming into her own. The word “hero” is repeated so often it gets annoying, but it really feels like Toby is starting to be the hero of her own story, so to speak. Another thing I like is the lack of a strong romantic subplot. While Toby does interact with men (including an ex) romantically, she doesn’t really have time to spend pages pining over men, unlike some other protagonists who by book three are usually juggling three love interests or at least trying to decide (because polyamory is never an option) between two love interests.

As far as complaints about the narrative, I felt like one of the twists in the second half of the book felt like the author was making excuses for October to put herself in harm’s way again, and the final confrontation seemed anticlimactic. It reminded me of the end of the College of Winterhold quest line in Skyrim, where I stood there and said “wait, that’s it?” but at least there wasn’t as much stumbling around and waiting for the plot to happen.

In terms of triggers, there is violence against children. Toby is physically abused by the antagonist (who also abused his wife). This book is a bit bloodier than the previous books, and at one point Toby describes bleeding from cuts all over her body. There is also a bit of body horror with children being turned into animals. When I say this book is like a fairy tale, I mean it in the sense of “sometimes horrifying story intended for adults” the way that uncensored fairy stories tend to be.

In terms of diversity, there’s Raj, Tybalt’s nephew, who is described as having bronze skin, but once again we have a dead Japanese girl and Blind Michael, the major antagonist, is, well, blind. I wish McGuire would stop killing off her characters of colour. Another thing I wish she’d stop doing is I wish she’d stop equating mental illness with evil (like with Rayseline). Although I doubt that’s going to happen soon.

The first two books in this series were good but this one seriously hooked me. It definitely has some flaws (like consistently failing on the diversity front) but even so I still couldn’t put it down, and I think that speaks volumes for the writing, the world, and the characters in particular.

Review: A Local Habitation (October Daye #2)

I know it seems like I write these reviews moments after I finish the work in question but the truth is some of these have been kicking around for months (I blame the depression), not this review though, I literally just finished the book in question.

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The first book in this series, Rosemary and Rue, was surprisingly good, and surpassed my expectations (which are, admittedly, very low for the urban fantasy genre). The world McGuire has created is so captivating that I can almost forgive her protagonist’s investigatory fuck ups (which often involved her getting shot in the first book).

This time around, October’s liege, Sylvester, Duke of Shadowed Hills, charges her to check on his niece, January, who is Countess of a the newly formed County of Tamed Lightning, sandwiched between his realm and the Duchy of Dreamer’s Glass. He can’t go himself, nor can he send more qualified members of his Court for fear of sparking a war with Dreamer’s Glass, though he does send her with Quentin, a page in need of some experience outside the knowe. What was supposed to be a simple courtesy call, however, quickly becomes deadly as someone starts killing off January’s key people.

As with the last book, I found many of the characters likeable. Besides Toby, there’s Quentin, an underage, inexperienced page currently being fostered in Sylvester’s Court, who is, interestingly enough, more savvy than October when it comes to technology. The staff of ALH computing were a mixed bag for me, I liked January and Elliot (who is a bannik, fae who are able to magically clean people and things), but couldn’t stand Gordan, who makes no secret of the fact that she hates purebloods and spends most of the novel hating on October (who she sees as the “lapdog” of the purebloods).

The world continues to be compelling. It’s populated by a wide variety of fae with their various organizations and politicking. Honestly, have the fun of urban fantasy for me is reading about the various fantastical elements and seeing how the author puts their own unique twists on myths, folklore, magical systems, etc. I love the ides of a company that specifically makes technology that is compatible with the weirdness that is Faerie, especially since traditional lore on the Good Folk often places them at odds with modern technology.

Unfortunately, like the first book, October doesn’t really do a lot of traditional investigating. Once again, I felt like the plot happened to her instead of her doing anything to drive the plot forward, to be fair, however, she’s facing an unknown assailant and something’s wrong with the phones. I’m probably jumping the gun by saying this, but her PI training seems like more of what TV Tropes calls an Informed Ability than a skill that has any bearing on the plot. My other major issue with this book is that the characters make a ton of questionable decisions. Guess what the remaining staff members at ALH do when Toby warns them not to split up? They split up, of course! One of the characters even references the “never split the party” rule in tabletop gaming. Personally, I was baffled that it didn’t occur to October to take a certain course of action (which seemed obvious to me) until about halfway through the book. At least Toby doesn’t end up injured and in distress as often as the first book.

Also unfortunate, but there’s not a lot of diversity here either. The only person of colour is one of the murder victims who was dead before October arrived on the scene. In terms of triggers, Alex, forces a kiss on October and his sister, Terrie, flirts with Quentin (who is underage), he also makes October feel attracted to him against her will. Fortunately, October is not having any of his shit (especially when other characters tell her “he can’t help it”) and tells him to stay away from her and Quentin. I also disliked how the killer is referred to using ableist terms for mentally ill people, which, while a pretty common trope, is still harmful.

Despite some very questionable decisions on the part of both main and minor characters, I’m enjoying this series and I look forward to reading the rest of it (provided I don’t get sick of it like I have with so many other series). I’m captivated by this world, even if the characters annoy the hell out of me sometimes.