It’s difficult to start off a review of An Artificial Night, because it was nothing that I expected, and everything that I needed. An Artificial Night is the third novel in the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire. The first book, Rosemary and Rue, introduces the universe and the character, while taking the readers on an insane ride and a great mystery. The second book, A Local Habitation, continues the story, advancing the characters and giving a somewhat less compelling mystery. I expected An Artificial Night to be somewhere along the lines of Rosemary and Rue, rebounding from what I’ve heard described as the weakest book in the series to bring on a long-term series. Instead, what I got was pure catharsis.
There are those times in your life when you’ve got to be a big shot, don’t you? You’ve got to open up your mouth. Toby had to be a big shot, didn’t she, and her friends were so knocked out. She had to have the last laugh that night; she knew what everything’s about. She had to have a white hot spotlight. She had to be a big shot last night.
I’m fairly certain that Billy Joel meant that with a negative connotation, while this is what I love about An Artificial Night. Everybody sometimes needs to kick a bully in the teeth and punch him in the kidneys, and that’s what An Artificial Night is about. It’s not a mystery. There are questions, but that’s not the point of the story. The fact that there are more sequels to this implies that October survives, so I hope I’m not spoiling much when I say that Toby accomplishes just that. The question isn’t who is the bad guy or whether Toby is going to beat him, it’s what the hell Toby is going to do and how she’s going to get out of this.
Every moment was glorious. Toby is already an extremely cathartic character. She is a girl whose mixed blood causes her to be initially seen as less than nothing to those that she interacts with, yet this never causes her to still her tongue or her hand. She earned her way to knighthood, it was damned hard, and there is no way she’s going to let anyone talk down to her. Just to add to this, An Artificial Night introduces a conflict that is essentially that of a satyr reaching up and punching Zeus in the nose for being a dick - and then doing it again because the message didn’t stick.
An Artificial Night is really one of those stories that should be experienced, rather than explained, but even more than that it should really be experienced when you’re in a foul mood and could use something to bring you back. Anybody who has ever been bullied, or been out of reach and unable to stop a bully, or witnessed a bully, or known of a bully, can’t help but to love Toby as she goes above and beyond and says “I don’t care if I am an ant standing up to an anteater, this ends here” (that’s not a quote, unfortunately).
I would gladly say that this story stands on its own, but it is also a part of the mythos, and should still be regarded as such. I don’t know enough about the series yet to say that it must be read in order, but it certainly ought to be read after A Local Habitation, which in turn is best read by somebody who has already read Rosemary and Rue. This is an expanding universe, one that is taking on new characters and mythical elements with each story, so this is to be expected. Ultimately, this is a double-edged sword: while I am glad that it appeals to me even more as a sequel to books that I’ve already enjoyed, I am disheartened to think that there might be circumstances in which it is out of place for someone picking it up to read it. Maybe that’s just another reason for somebody who’s never read Rosemary and Rue to pick it up: when you never know when you’re just going to have to read An Artificial Night and need some background for it.