Sunday, November 21, 2010

An Artificial Night

by Seanan McGuire

An unexpected pleasure, this. Certainly a lot better than Rosemary and Rue, Feed, or even A Local Habitation. There are problems--the overall thinness of the worldbuilding, emotional flatness of the not too bright protagonist, the book consistently snarking in a way that is about as tenth as amusing as the text seems to think it is. Nevertheless, it's a step up in quality in a number of ways. Unlike all her other novels up to this point, McGuire wrote a book that doesn't depend on any kind of mystery or conspiracy with a psychotic mortal. Instead it's a standoff with a creature of myth and terror, someone who makes no attempt to hide and who everyone knows immediately is the villain. That avoids the utter idiocy of the previous Toby Daye books as well as Feed, and settles into an overall momentum that's quite engaging. The book feels significantly better paced for the main part, with action sequences spread across the bulk of it organically, and some areas where things are really quite tense. There are also some very appealing supporting cast members, I'd like to have seen more of them but as was they brightened the book considerably. Tybalt is one of them, naturally, the other has to be May, Toby's harbringer of doom that just keeps hanging out. She's so cheerful and weirdly optimistic that there's a lot of pleasure in seeing her interact with people.

The book is far from perfect, and has some issues that should have been cut in the first draft. Blind Michael is rather anti-climatic when he finally appears, for one thing, and doubly so when he's killed off far too easily. It doesn't really make sense why Toby is being employed in this crucial matter, and she continues to not be smart enough to keep the work viable. And there was a reappearance of Julie that that was completely unnecessary, serving no plot or emotional point beyond dragging things out for another chapter. I also wish the worldbuilding made even a little sense, the whole practice of conservative xenophobic changelings routinely entering their children into public school with humans is rather silly. Plus for this book there's the notion of a group of immortals being surprised by Blind Michael's kidnapping, despite him doing this for ages every hundred years. Still it was fun, exciting and makes me interested in McGuire's next book, even if it's in the Newswatch series.

Similar to and better than: Dead Beat by Jim Butcher

Similar to and worse than: Daughter of Hounds of Caitlin Kiernan

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