Review of Book of Night by Holly Black
I’m convinced Holly Black writes exactly the type of women I want to read. They’re flawed. They have subversive desires, and they’re not afraid to do absolutely anything to meet their goals. I originally fell in love with her heroine Jude in the young adult fantasy series The Cruel Prince. Jude was everything a young female fairytale lead hadn’t yet been. She was brash, she was secretive, and made dangerous deals to make sure she succeeded. But Jude was also a product of her environment and the trauma that, as a human growing up in faerie, she was forced to endure. In a young adult series, Jude felt like a wholly new and daring feast for the senses.
When Holly Black announced a little while back that she would be writing an adult fantasy series, I eagerly placed it at the top of my 2022 Must Read List. Book of Night finally released last week, and I must say, I wasn’t disappointed. If you’re a fan of Black’s previous work, this new dark urban fantasy could be just the thing you want to pick up next. Set in an alternate reality of our world, it’s been discovered that our shadows can quicken and move as extensions of ourselves. These shadows can be altered; they can be manipulated and even stolen. But It’s only a lucky few who have this ability, so of course this leads to fame, fortune, and prosperous opportunities unavailable to the rest of the regular-shadow crowd.
Like most industries, even the new magic-shadow business falls prey to a thriving underbelly of crime. What’s a little fame and power if it can’t be exploited after all? That’s where we meet our lead in Book of Night. Charlie Hall, like Jude before her, is an antiheroine. Charlie Hall just can’t seem to stick to the straight-and-narrow that regular people seem to achieve with seemingly no effort at all. Charlie’s trying to put her life of small-time crime somewhat behind her, but let’s be real, this book wouldn’t have been written if our girl was succeeding at that.
Book of Night tells Charlie’s story in a fraught push-and-pull between the present and the past. We have gaps filled in at just the right time to add depth to the here and now. Black writes a cast of characters to populate Charlie’s small-town world that feel equal parts magical and real. None more so than Charlie’s shadow-less boyfriend Vince, whose enigmatic existence was possibly my favorite part of the whole story. If anything, I wanted more Vince throughout the narrative while reading, but it’s clear by the final act why Black keeps us wishing for more.
The plot begins to barrel forward at a breakneck speed when a dangerous person from Charlie’s past gives her an almost futile ultimatum of finding and stealing the Liber Noctem, an essential book that pertains to the magic of disembodied shadows. But it’s in the novel’s final moments that, with nothing left to lose, we see Charlie Hall become more herself, and more than herself. Because yes, Charlie Hall is a con artist, but she has goals, and plans, and love in her heart – and no amount of evil is going to stand in her way to accomplish them.
I’ll give away a mini-spoiler that Book of Night is the first in a series. I can say without a doubt, that I’m itching to get my hands on the sequel. The absolute banger of an ending sets up book two’s premise so well, that it should be criminal. I know Black has more murders, thefts, and shadow magic awaiting us in the future, and at this moment, all I can feel is grateful that she decided to move into the adult fantasy genre. Her storytelling thrives there and it looks like the best is yet to come.
Book of Night is available for purchase now at your local independent bookstore or wherever fine books are sold.
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