Title: Book of Night
Author: Holly Black
Release Date: 5/5/22
E.S.C.A.P.E Score: 43
(see below for breakdown)
I received a free ARC copy from Del Rey in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
In Charlie Hall’s world, shadows can be altered, for entertainment and cosmetic preferences—but also to increase power and influence. You can alter someone’s feelings—and memories—but manipulating shadows has a cost, with the potential to take hours or days from your life. Your shadow holds all the parts of you that you want to keep hidden—a second self, standing just to your left, walking behind you into lit rooms. And sometimes, it has a life of its own.
Charlie is a low-level con artist, working as a bartender while trying to distance herself from the powerful and dangerous underground world of shadow trading. She gets by doing odd jobs for her patrons and the naive new money in her town at the edge of the Berkshires. But when a terrible figure from her past returns, Charlie’s present life is thrown into chaos, and her future seems at best, unclear—and at worst, non-existent. Determined to survive, Charlie throws herself into a maelstrom of secrets and murder, setting her against a cast of doppelgangers, mercurial billionaires, shadow thieves, and her own sister—all desperate to control the magic of the shadows.
With sharp angles and prose, and a sinister bent, Holly Black is a master of shadow and story stitching. Remember while you read, light isn’t playing tricks in Book of Night, the people are.
I will preface that my Holly Black fandom comes from her Curse breaker series and not from Cruel Prince or Tithe so this got me super excited as it sounded like a more adult version of of the Curse breaker series and hopefully push into darker and more exciting areas that she couldn’t in the YA series. It completely delivers on this for me. It really has similar vibes with a complex magic system and the heist/con artist feel about the plot. This really felt like a more mature and developed version.
The world building and magic system was so interesting the concept of Shadows being manipulated, the gloamists studying the magic of shadows and the different factions of shadow magic that people can master. I found the explorations of this magic really interesting and what drew me into the story. However, I do think it took a long time for the story to get going. There is a lot of extraneous description. While I enjoyed this when it was about the magic system, there were lots of moments were I felt we got a lot of description of characters and places that were then never revisited in the plot and this left me confused at points especially when characters of which we got detailed descriptions are only present for a scene and do not return. This made the book feel a little bulky at points it really slowed down the pace as you had to decided if the details you were given were important or just filler.
I really liked how the main plot built in conjunction with the flashbacks into Charlie’s life, how we got to know her history and how she found herself in her current situation and developed her skillset and then how she is driven to apply those skills as the plot progresses. I wish there was a little more depth in reasoning for why Charlie finds herself pulled back into her days as a con artist. She really didn’t have a lot of pizazz and there was no real conviction or even a sense of danger dragging her back. It felt she could have just walked away from it all really easily. This all felt a little thin to me and this was the same fault I had within the Curse Breakers series. But Black’s writing is so engaging that this is eventually forgotten as I got swept away with the story.
I also enjoyed the way the multiple threads of the flashbacks combined in with the present to flesh out the story, throwing in twists and turns. Most of this was in the later half of the book where I felt the pace really increased and we started to dig into the more action, heist, con-artistry of the story. The ending was satisfying but slightly open-ended leaving a possibility for a sequel. I was happy where it left off personally.
Overall, this is a hard one to rate as I really enjoyed it, I devoured it in two days and had a lot of fun while doing so. But it was also quite slow and a little monotonous in the beginning. I didn’t find Charlie to be very interesting a character. Usually I either want to love characters or hate them to keep me interested in their story but she was just somewhat bland, yet I still read on. So I would conclude that this was a great read in my opinion but I could see it being somewhat disappointing to those that are fans of Black’s more fantastical works.