Review: Holly Black’s Book of Night

Holly Black’s first adult novel night book follows Charlie Hall, a supposedly retired con man who tries to get by as a bartender. Living with her boyfriend Vince and younger sister Posey, Charlie struggles to keep the straight and narrow. But when things go wrong in his shadowy world, Charlie can’t help but want to investigate the strange happenings. In Charlie’s World, shadows can be changed – for entertainment and cosmetic preferences – but more importantly, to increase power and influence. But manipulating shadows comes at a cost – and once Charlie finds herself sucked into other people’s schemes and characters from the past come to haunt her, she’ll have to do whatever it takes to protect the people she loves.

What a premise, right? And with gorgeous writing, a big mystery at its core, an underdog protagonist, and a race against time in a high-stakes heist, night book certainly did not come to play. I can already tell this will have readers putting it on their “Best of 2022” list and begging Holly Black for a sequel (because that ending. Phew).

What I will say is that night book takes some time to pick up its pace. Sometimes I almost felt like reading two different books: the first half dragged on and got bogged down with confusing information about the range of shadows and the changes one can make and the backstory of Vince, Charlie and Posey but over time the second half came around I was so hooked that I couldn’t put Charlie’s story in writing because it all came together beautifully with twists and turns that shook me . So you may have to work your way through the endless setup, but if you do, you’re rewarded with one heck of a ride.

What makes this novel remarkable is of course its protagonist Charlie. What I love about Charlie is that his mess doesn’t just go away. Yeah, she initially takes steps to get back on the legal side of things, yeah she tries her best but I love how Black didn’t shy away from showing that being an adult…is hard sometimes, whether you live in a world filled with magic or not. Charlie is overwhelmed with responsibilities and memories of the past that haunt her, but she never gives up. This resilience, coupled with her dry wit and heavy sarcasm, made me instantly fall in love with her. Beyond that, she always finds another trick, another chance to make things work for her and the people she loves, which reminded me a lot of Kaz Brekker in Six of Ravens—Charlie may not always show it, but she’s damn good at being a thief and a trickster with a heart of gold. There’s also something to be said for her tendency towards self-destruction: in the choices she makes and in those she doesn’t. They’re those types of flawed characters that I can relate to so much that I almost feel like reading is holding up a mirror and that’s just writing at its best, honestly.

I can’t really say much about the plot without spoiling things (since the action takes place later in the novel and the information you get in the first half is kind of necessary for that… works) but what I can say is that if you enjoy dark atmospheric writing, grim events, and protagonists you can’t help but root for because of (not despite) their flawedness, then this one must be at the top of your TBR.

Black’s adult debut night book combines a world full of danger and magical shadows with an adrenaline-fueled heist and a flawed, memorable underdog from a protagonist who is sure to keep readers watching their own shadows. Captivating, dark and sinister, it’s perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo. Ninth House and VE Schwab’s Gallant.

night book is available from Amazon, Book Depository and other good book retailers, like your local bookstore, starting May 3, 2022.

Will you pick up night book? Tell us in the comments below!

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#1 New York Times Best-selling author Holly Black makes her stunning debut with Book of Night, a modern dark fantasy of shadowy thieves and secret societies in the vein of Ninth House and The Night Circus

In the world of Charlie Hall, shadows can be changed, for entertainment and cosmetic preferences, but also to increase power and influence. You can alter someone’s feelings and memories, but manipulating the shadows comes at a cost, with the potential to take hours or days from your life. Your shadow contains all the parts of you that you want to keep hidden – a second self, standing just to your left, walking behind you through lighted 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 underworld of parallel commerce. She earns by doing odd jobs for her clients and the naïve new pennies in her town on the edge of the Berkshires. But when a terrible figure from his past returns, Charlie’s present life is thrown into chaos and his future seems uncertain at best and non-existent at worst. Determined to survive, Charlie throws herself into a maelstrom of secrets and murder, pitting her against a group of doppelgangers, mercurial billionaires, shadow thieves, and her own sister, all desperate to control shadow magic.

With sharp angles and prose, and a sinister bent, Holly Black is a master of shadow and storytelling. Remember as you read, light doesn’t play tricks in Book of Night, people do.

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