Written by: Seanan McGuire
Paperback: 400 pages
March 2010, $7.99
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Series
October "Toby" Daye is a changeling, the daughter of Amandine of the fae and a mortal man. Like her mother, she is gifted in blood magic, able to read what has happened to a person through a mere taste of blood.
Half-human, half-fae, outsiders from birth, most changelings are second-class children of Faerie spending their lives fighting for the respect of their immortal relations. Toby is the only changeling who has earned knighthood, and she re-earns that position every day, undertaking assignments for her liege, Sylvester, the Duke of Shadowed Hills.
Now Sylvester has asked her to go to the County of Tamed Lightning—otherwise known as Fremont, California—to make sure that all is well with his niece, January O'Leary, whom he has not been able to contact. It seems like a simple enough assignment—but when dealing with the realm of Faerie, nothing is ever as simple as it seems. January runs a company that produces computer fantasy games, and her domain is a buffer between Sylvester's lands and a rival duchy whose ruler is looking for an opportunity to seize control. And that's the least of January's problems. For Tamed Lightning has somehow been cut off from the other fiefdoms, and now someone has begun to murder January's key people. If Toby can't find and stop the killer soon, she may well become the next victim...
Most people know that I am a sucker for everything fae. Maybe I just wanted to be a fairy princess when I was younger. Maybe I still do. Like I have said before I think it is largely due to my parents reading me and telling me stories of the Tuatha, of faerie lore and then Tinkerbell. Authors like Melissa Marr, Holly Black, Neil Gaiman, Charles de Lint, and Emma Bull make a girl like me happy. I love the political intrigue between the Courts. I like the myths and legends of the tales I was told when I was a child. Sadly though I have picked up Rosemary and Rue in the bookstore, I never picked it up and bought it. So when the Borders closed and I got my 80 book pile of goodies, I got Book Two and Three of Toby’s stories. I know, I know I suck for starting at the sequel rather than at the beginning. But hey, I really liked A Local Habitation, so am picking up the first one so all of my gaps of knowledge are no longer missing before I read An Artificial Night.
A Local Habitation begins half a year after Rosemary and Rue ends. October “Toby” Daye is relaxing and enjoying herself for once by hanging out with a few of her friends and imbibing far too much alcohol. One drunk Changeling. Check. See the lovely excerpt below to see how great Toby’s entrance is. So while Tybalt carries her home and she falls into a drunken stupor of sleep, she wakes up to find her vacation short lived when Sylvester Torquil, her liege lord, asks her to go and check on his niece January. Oh and Quentin, a foster of the Court gets to tag along. Simple job right? Except that when they get to January’s office, it becomes clear that everything is not all right. People are dying and dying in ways that even Toby cannot see with her blood magic. And the Night Haunts are not taking care of the bodies. A bit disturbing. It’s only a matter of time before someone else dies and it just might be Toby.
Excerpt: Several pixies had congregated around a corner store’s front-porch bug zapper, using toothpicks as skewers for roasting a variety of insects. I stopped to watch them, taking the pause as an opportunity to get my balance back. One of them saw me looking and flitted over to hover in front of my nose, scowling.
“S’okay,” I informed it, with drunken solemnity. “I can see you.” It continued to hang there, expression turning even angrier. “No, really, it’s okay. I’m Dao…Dao…I’m a changeling.” Whoever was responsible for naming the fae races should really have put more thought into making them pronounceable when drunk. It jabbed the toothpick in my direction. I blinked, perplexed.
“No, it’s okay. I don’t want any of your moth.”
“He’s offering to stab you, not feed you. I suppose the difference is trivial, but still, one assumes you’d want to avoid finding that out first-hand.” The voice behind me was smooth as cream and aristocratically amused. The pixie backpedaled in mid-air, nearly dropping his toothpick as he went racing back to the flock. They were gone in seconds, leaving nothing but faint trails of shimmering dust in the air.
“Hey!” I turned, crossing my arms and glaring. “I was talking to him!”
Tybalt eyed me with amusement, which just made me glare harder. “No, you were inciting him to stab you with a toothpick. Again, the difference is small, but I think it matters.”
My glare faded into bewilderment. “Why was he gonna stab me? I was just saying hi. And he came over here first. I wasn’t saying anything before he came over.”
“Finally, a sensible question.” Tybalt reached out to brush my hair back behind one ear, tapping it with the side of his thumb. “Round ears, blue eyes, smell of magic buried under the smell of alcohol…it’s the perfect disguise. Well done. Although it doesn’t suit you.”
My confusion didn’t fade.
Tybalt sighed. “You look human, October. He was protecting his flock.”
“I said I was a changeling!”
“And he, quite sensibly, didn’t believe you.”
“Oh!” I blinked, reddening. “Oops.” Then I frowned. “What do you mean, it doesn’t suit me? I like this skirt!”
Tybalt pulled his hand away, stepping back to study me. I returned the favor, looking him up and down.
As the local King of Cats and the most powerful Cait Sidhe in San Francisco, Tybalt rarely bothers to go anywhere that requires him to wear a human disguise. As far as I can tell, it’s not that he feels it’s beneath him; it’s just that he doesn’t care enough about the human side of the city to bother interacting with them. This was one of the few times I’d seen him passing for human, and he wore it well. Tall, lean, and angular, he held himself with a predatory air that would translate into feline grace when he moved. His dark brown hair was short, curly, and banded with streaks of black that mimicked the stripes on a tabby’s coat. The human illusion he wore concealed his sharpened incisors, pointed ears, and cat-slit pupils, but left his simple masculinity a little more noticeable than I liked. I tore my eyes away.
Saying that Tybalt and I have a complex relationship would be understating things just a tad. I endure his taunting because it’s easier than having my intestines removed by an angry Cait Sidhe. On top of all that, I owe him for services rendered following the murder of Evening Winterrose. Sadly, my being in debt to him encourages him to prod at me even more frequently. It’s getting to be a habit.
“The skirt passes muster,” said Tybalt, finishing his survey. “I might have called it a ‘belt’ rather than a ‘skirt,’ but I suppose you have the right to name your own clothing. While we’re on the subject of apparel, tell me, were you intending to walk all the way home in those shoes?”
“Maybe,” I hedged. The straps were starting to chafe my ankles, making walking even less comfortable than it had been to begin with, but he didn’t need to know that.
“You’re drunk, October.”
“And you’re wearing really tight pants.” I paused. That hadn’t come out right. “I mean, those are really nice pants. I mean…”
Tybalt snorted. I glanced up to see him looking decidedly amused, shaking his head slowly from side to side. “Indeed. I don’t suppose you’d consider taking a taxi?”
“There aren’t any,” I said, feeling as if I’d won a battle with that stunning point of logic.
“Did you consider phoning for one? I understand they can be summoned.”
“Didn’t have a phone.”
“I see,” said Tybalt. “Well, as there are no taxis, and you have splendid reasons not to summon a taxi, and you are, in fact, drunk enough to be making comments about the tightness of my trousers, I believe it would be a good idea for me to escort you home.”
“I don’t need you to.”
“That’s nice,” said Tybalt, shrugging out of his jacket and draping it around my shoulders. “You look cold.”
“I’m not cold.” That was a lie—it was a nice night, but even the nicest night gets chilly after midnight in San Francisco. I pulled the jacket tight, trying to preserve the illusion of dignity. The leather smelled of Tybalt’s magic, all pennyroyal and musk. “I can get home just fine.”
“Of course you can,” Tybalt agreed, planting a hand on the small of my back and urging me to begin walking. “You are, after all, a perfectly reasonable, competent woman. It’s just that at the moment, you’re so drunk you can’t remember whether or not you’re wearing your own face, and I would really rather not scrape you off the sidewalk.”
His hand was a firm, insistent pressure. I began to walk, steadier now that I had something to lean against. “Nah, no sidewalk-scraping. You’d find me in an alley somewhere.”
You can read the full chapter online HERE.
Things I loved: I enjoyed McGuire’s writing style. I liked that she didn’t over describe settings and lets her reader fill in the blanks. I loved that each character was distinct which doesn’t happen a whole lot. April had her own style of dialogue as did Toby or even Quentin. This book was fast paced, fun and interesting and even though I did begin with Book Two I never felt lost. I just had gaps to fill and a bit more questions than those who had started at the beginning. In terms of plot, as someone who reads a lot of mysteries and watches equal amounts of said mysteries and thrillers, it wasn’t hard to figure out some of the plotting such as Alex and Terrie or even who the eventual killer was. And yet even though I figured out some of the plot twists and turns, I had fun doing it. Just because I had solved it, or thought I had solved it, I didn’t stop reading. It’s a great little ‘locked door’ mystery. There was a nice balance of action, mystery, character development, world building, etc. And as I said the pacing was nice.
I really like Toby. She’s a heroine that yes is a PI/Knight and that definitely has her fair share of snarky comments, is fairly normal. There are quite a few scenes in the book where we really get to see her vulnerability. She is not some overpowered changeling. She has the power to see how someone died through their blood. Blood magic isn’t really that high on the Fae power hierarchy. She is aware and understands her limitations, being both a Changeling and not being as powerful as her mother as a Blood Rider. But as I said she’s pretty normal. The fact that she didn’t immediately connect the dots on some things was frustrating, but it happens. It’s like solving the CSI murder before they all do and then wanting to know why they didn’t figure it out as quickly as you did. And I said, she has flaws, one big one…falling for and continuing to have a relationship with a married man. I enjoy these flaws though. I enjoy her relationship with Luidaeg, her guilt over Dare’s death (even though I don’t know who this Dare is quite yet), her relationship with Quentin, and how Toby will do anything to protect those she cares about. She is a great heroine that I look forward to reading more about.
I loved the pronunciation guide. As a Celt it bugs me when things are mispronounced. So it is great that she is letting people know how to pronounce things. Yeah. Now people can understand why Bainsidhe is pronounced Banshee. Shiny gold star McGuire.
Things I didn't love so much: While I like Tybalt, he reminds me far too much of Curran from the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews. There was even a ‘here kitty, kitty’ moment. So I guess instead of werewolves, we have werekitties being the go to shapeshifter species, although yes Tybalt is a Cait Sdhe, but you have to admit Curran and Kate have a lot in common with Tybalt and Toby. And also in my head Tybalt looks like John Leguizamo from Romeo + Juliet. I blame this largely on the name. I do like him though. And I love the interaction between Toby and the King of Cats even if it is a bit familiar. I will say that the way she describes cats is great whether they are faeries cats or not.
Admittedly I am a bit lost. Toby has a daughter? She was a fish for 14 years? How does she know Connor? So what’s the deal with Sylvester’s daughter? Etc, etc. This is largely due to my own fault for not picking up book one. Though I would think that there might be more mention or exploration with Toby and her daughter considering he circumstances with April and January. This would have been a great way to really develop that side. By the way loved April even though she reminded me of the creepy little girl hologram from Resident Evil.
Buy or Borrow: Buy. But don’t start at the 2nd book like I did.
Part of: A series.
Book One: Rosemary and Rue
Book Two: A Local Habitation
Book Three: An Artificial Night
Book Four: Late Eclipses
Book Five: One Salt Sea
Also Recommended: Seanan McGuire also writes under the pen name of Mira Grant whose zombie apocalypse trilogy is one I cannot wait to read. For more Fae fun I would recommend Holly Blacks Modern Faerie Tale series as well as the series by Melissa Marr. War for the Oaks by Emma Bull is a fave and amittedly I do have a soft spot for Laurell K Hamilton's Merry Gentry series.
3.5 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks