Proving once more that the third book of any urban fantasy series is where it hits its stride, An Artificial Night was absolutely everything I’d been looking for in this series and more, with Toby’s supposed investigatory skills taking a back seat and the strangeness of Faerie brought to the fore.
When a number of children, both fae and human, are kidnapped from their homes one night, leaving behind nothing but a strange smell and burning window-glass, Toby heads to the older fae for answers and gets far more than she bargained for. For the culprit is Blind Michael, one of the Firstborn and leader of the Wild Hunt, under whose command the children will become either Rider or steed, depending on their race. To save them Toby will have to go it alone into Blind Michael’s lands and face a challenge of his devising, while being careful not to break any of the rules laid down lest he come to claim them once more. To raise the stakes even more, before heading off, Toby’s Fetch arrives on her doorstep – making it very clear that Toby is on a suicide mission.
I loved pretty much everything about this book, from the childlike fairytale rhymes and rules that powered the magic, to backstories of other characters that were eked out through Toby’s tribulations, alongside the fact that Tybalt is scoring more and more page time as the story progresses (Tybalt, alongside the Luidaeg, is one of my favourite characters). This book was also the first time I actually started to get why Toby is so highly thought of amongst her peers. It’s not because she’s a good investigator (she’s not), but because she’s a hero, always willing to take the ultimate risk and sacrifice her life to save others (rather than, as I’d previously felt, just having a predilection for self-harm as a way out of dilemmas).
If the rest of the series continues in this vein, with Toby’s drive to do the Right Thing being more important than her mystery-solving, I’ll be a very happy reader indeed.