Title: The Nightjar
Author: Deborah Hewitt
Series: The Nightjar #1
E.S.C.A.P.E Score: 43
(see below for breakdown)
The Nightjar by Deborah Hewitt is a stunning contemporary fantasy debut about another London, a magical world hidden behind the bustling modern city we know.
Alice Wyndham has been plagued by visions of birds her whole life…until the mysterious Crowley reveals that Alice is an ‘aviarist’ capable of seeing nightjars, magical birds that guard human souls. When her best friend is hit by a car, only Alice can find and save her nightjar.
With Crowley’s help, Alice travels to the Rookery, a hidden, magical alternate London to hone her newfound talents. But a faction intent on annihilating magic users will stop at nothing to destroy the new aviarist. And is Crowley really working with her, or against her? Alice must risk everything to save her best friend–and uncover the strange truth about herself.
Content warning: Car Crash description, water based torture scene, scene containing description of Dog fighting ring. If you are not keen on reading about these topics this may not be the read for you.
I am always a fan of books that reveal hidden worlds, especially those that are hidden next to such familiar sights. I adore the worldbuilding here. The Rookery is just so interesting and rich and I feel we only got to scratch the surface on this one. I loved that it was built around strands of different mythology building such a magical society. The touches of London history that seeped through and stuck in this Rookery just gave it such a clear imagery. I loved that we also got to see the darkness, the democracy and the everyday lives as well as the magical. The concepts behind the magic system were fascinating and I loved all the little tastes we got of them. I like that we had a little taste of all of them from the traveling doors, to the various ‘Houses’ to the Nightjars.
The Nightjars, their mythology and their various experiences were my favourite part of this book. I really loved how they brought different combinations of what the soul is from various cultures and what death is. The prominence of Finnish Folklore is particularly interesting as I am not as familiar with those stories and reading this prompted me to explore more especially in the depictions or Death’s family.
The Plot itself was a little predictable. It is the chosen one trope all the way through. I did like for a little while it had me second guessing which of the possible ‘chosen ones’ Alice could be, but in then end it works out more obvious than I would have liked. I did like Alice as a character. I liked how erratic she could be. Sometimes resisting everything about this new world she had been pulled into, other time diving straight in without a thought. She was unpredictable and that kept her exciting. I loved how frustrated this made Crowley, Alice’s guide to the Rookery. He again was a very unpredictable character. I loved that we never quite knew what was going on in his mind, what he was hiding, wither he was telling the truth, wither he was a hero or a villain. A lot of the side characters traversed this grey area and it made them very interesting to read.
Overall the writing is great, the world building is detailed, fresh and exciting, the characters are compelling and the story is well paced with action, adventure, a touch of romance, friendship and exploration. I really loved this book and I loved getting to refresh my memory in time for the sequel – The Rookery.