I became a devoted Holly Black fan after reading The Folk of the Air series. It has stuck with me for years, and I find myself revisiting scenes from the books often. It should come as no surprise that I picked up her newest release, Book of Night, and consumed it in three days. I only finished the book hours ago, and I can already feel Black’s latest creation haunting my mind in the late hours of the day.
Charlie Hall is trying to be on her best behavior. She landed a steady bartending job and has turned down every opportunity to lie, cheat, or steal her way through the dark world of gloamists. These powerful people can manipulate their shadows, and Charlie is done playing their dangerous games. She wants to work hard, get her sister into college, hold down a relationship with Vince, and call it a day. However, trouble always seems to find Charlie “Charlatan” Hall. She stumbles upon a dead gloamist in the alley, gets caught up in a job tracking down someone’s crappy boyfriend, and Vince starts to reveal an interesting side of himself. Charlie has never been able to stay out of trouble for long, and this time, she might not be able to escape the web spinning around her.
My entry into Black’s new world of shadow magic was rough. Oddly enough, I remember having a similar experience when I started The Folk of the Air. In Book of Night, I struggled to buy into shadow magic. We get a lot of info about this magic upfront, but this ability was largely absent from Charlie’s story at first, and it tripped me up. While there are always growing pains jumping into a new world, it took me longer than normal to orient myself. There was a lot to grasp between the chapters switching between past and present. And Charlie’s background story and entry into the present chaos made the information about shadows seem like background noise. I needn’t have worried because it all became clear as the story progressed. Shadow magic becomes an element of the story that Charlie operates around, and it makes more sense as the story finds its groove as a joint murder mystery and heist novel.
I love an unconventional female protagonist operating on the fringes of society. This type of character gives the story a frenetic vibe that I could swirl around in all day. Charlie is incredibly flawed, but it allows her to thrive in chaos, which is both terrifying and awesome. She fails forward a lot, but even the threat of death cannot slow this woman down. Dark forces are at play, and Charlie has to rely on her somewhat basic abilities to operate in a situation that is much bigger and badder than herself. Book of Night also follows Charlie’s journey to accepting herself. She wants to put what she thinks is her best foot forward, but the more she leans into who she really is, the more interesting this story gets.
In true Holly Black fashion, the ending is where the magic happens. Of course, there were fun moments along the way, but Black knows how to hit you with a one-two-punch at the end of her stories. I thought this was an element that only existed in her world of the fae. However, there is a little bit of cruel, faerie trickery from The Folk of the Air that carried over to this book and it hurts so good. I cannot reveal much because of spoilers, but I am still reeling from how the events played out. I honestly do not know what to do with myself. Book of Night is out here smugly operating as a standalone but after what Black did, a sequel is no longer a want. It is a NEED.
This book gives me major Ninth House vibes. If you have not picked up that book from Leigh Bardugo yet, I highly recommend it. Ninth House feels darker to me, but the elements I loved from that story can be found in Book of Night as well. Holly Black never fails to deliver a unique and fascinating story. Even a rough entry was not enough to make me falter. Ultimately, I like where the story ended up and how shadow magic came into play. Although there are many twists and turns, Black will never lead you astray. You just might end up getting something you did not ask for.
Rating: Book of Night – 8.5/10