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Magic Breaks
Ilona Andrews
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Helene Wecker
An Artificial Night - Seanan McGuire Dear October, Let me give you some sisterly advice. First, take charge of your life. Admit you are choosing to do what you are doing, not being forced to by Stacy, the Luidaeg, Lily, or Blind Michael, or anyone else. Own it. If you are the only private investigator for the fae, demonstrate some initiative and actually investigate; ask questions and stop acting like a child by whining "tell me, stop giving me riddles!" Since you of all people are constantly telling us such fae generalizations like, "never say thank you to the fae," or "undine are even more bound by protocol and politeness than most fae races," you should know better than to moan about riddles--go out and solve them.Secondly, stop pushing people you love and who care for you away. It's cheap emotional self-protection, and it's as annoying as all hell. While you are at it, stop lying to them under the guise of shielding them. Refusing Quentin's help was enough, but did you have to be nasty to prove how toxic you are? Then push Connor away after he comes to your driving rescue, justifying it because Selkies are "at the bottom of the hierarchy of power," when at least he is full blood? Sending the fetch in to pose as you to your friend Stacy in her time of grief and reunion? It's hard to follow a protagonist I can't at least moderately like. You keep telling us "Anger, I can use--I understand it. Sometimes it can even help keep me alive," but I don't see anger. I see self-pity and cowardice.Sincerely,Disappointed Reader*************The overarching question is, are these complaints character flaws or writing flaws? One of my biggest conflicts with this series is that I can't tell. I used to think writing flaws, but just maybe, just possibly, since we are constantly reminded about October's mother being queen of the self-involved, and Daoine Sidhe being manipulative--are we readers being manipulated by our protagonist? Nah, I don't think so, but enough hints about her bloodline were dropped at the end of the book that the possibility exists.Despite the inadequacies of the heroine, once October went into Faerie to find the missing children, I found the story engrossing. I applaud the inclusion of Spike the rose goblin as side-kick, and appreciate that he was also given the role of ambassador. The change worked on October to allow her to travel into Faerie was clever and added an interesting challenge for her. I love the way that the threads of the Wild Hunt have been woven into the book, and the twist on the Tam Lin story at the end is particularly creative. The wild wood and it's mad caretaker is old folklore, and it's integration into the story was done well, as well as the interconnection with the rest of October's world. I thought the atmosphere of tension and fear in Faerie and Blind Michael's kingdom (although I can't find that folktale listed anywhere) was well done. The glimpse into the world of the Cait Sidhe is interesting, as are the opportunities we have to see other sides of Tybalt besides knight in form-fitting pants. I'm relieved to see him and October behaving more often like adults (but unfortunately, not all the time) and less like fifth graders on the playground complaining the other has cooties. The Fetch was interesting, and I'm curious to see what becomes of it. In folklore, Fetches are created by somebody, not just an escort, so it'll be interesting to see if there is an agent behind her appearance.How would I have made this book better? First, decide on tone--are we going for snarky or serious? Neither the author nor October seems to know. I don't get anger or violence in this series; I get a sense of a modern jaundiced humor. Saying October is "angry," and then using sarcasm as a chief trait is confusing. I understand modern characters are supposed to be quick with the quips. But it doesn't work here, mostly because quips imply a great deal of emotional distance and/or confidence in an ability to handle a situation, and October has neither. Same with the author: should I have laughed at a Fetch being named "May Day?" I thought so, but why didn't anyone other characters have a sense of humor about such an obvious pun? And the chase scene with May's driving had me in stitches, but I wasn't sure I was supposed to find the death-defying experience funny, especially as October begins the scene crying.Second, decide where we are going with October's role in the fae world--investigate or act as disposable heavy? One of the greatest inconsistencies of the series is her claim to be a "PI," and then take jobs that have little do with investigating and basically require no personal initiative. She falls into danger and gets out, which has more to do with sheer perseverance than problem-solving skills (which would be an interesting angle if that's how she was viewed by other fae, but we have too many obvious fae of status who value her). I'd strongly recommend October's personality going through some character development--is she going to wallow or take charge? Third, lose the "pronunciation guide" at the beginning of the book, which adds insult to the reader by adding the plural afterwards (does it matter? do we care? No.) When most of your Fae have highly modern names like "Lily," "Sylvester," "Stacy," "Mitch," and "Connor," we can skip the Tolkienesque pretensions. Again, it kind of highlights the essential identity confusion of the series--silly or serious?Overall, three stars because it improved once past exposition, and the possibility of character growth at the end. As always, I love McGuire's integration of folklore into the series.