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Fairyloot Adult #3: Book of Night

At the end of last year, Fairyloot announced that they were going to launch a new product in March 2022, namely the Adult Fantasy Book-Only subscription.
While their standard subscription focuses on Young-Adult fantasy with extra goodies, this subscription would only contain fantasy books intended for an adult audience. That box would then contain only a book, with no extras.

As a subscriber to their regular YA subscription, I was given priority to sign up for this new service and as a book and fantasy enthusiast I couldn’t resist of course.

May already brought the third box of this subscription, this time with the theme Into the Shadows.
As a hint, Fairyloot added that the book of the month would be a long-awaited title from a bestselling author. With this I actually knew enough to guess which book it would be and I was really curious about it, because I had put it on my list of anticipated releases in my reading journal.

Of course I’m talking about Book of Night by Holly Black, the author of The Cruel Prince.

At first glance, the Fairyloot edition doesn’t seem all that different from the standard edition. I’m glad Fairyloot didn’t go for a colour inversion here, as they did with the two previous boxes, because this wouldn’t have fit with the content of the book.
No, the changes to the cover are much more subtle this time, but I think they are very successful and certainly add value to the design.

Underneath the cover, however, there is also a completely unique illustration printed on the hardcover, the edges are sprayed in a uniform black and the endpapers have a beautiful unique illustration on both the front and back. The book was digitally signed by the author and also has an incorporated ribbon as a bookmark.

So again a very nice piece, with an eye for detail, but what about the content?
I really try my best to read these new hauled books in time, so I finished this one in August, about three months after I received it from the mailman.

Black, Holly – Book of Night (Book of Night #1) ★★

Genre: Fantasy

Holly Black makes her adult debut with Book of Night, a modern dark fantasy of shadowy thieves and secret societies.

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 doppelgängers, mercurial billionaires, shadow thieves, and her own sister—all desperate to control the magic of the shadows.

Although I always try to know as little as possible about a hyped book before reading it and I especially want to know as little as possible about the actual opinions of people, I had already heard mostly negative things about this first adult book from popular author Holly Black before diving into this book. This helped tone down my expectations a lot, which is probably fortunate, because even though this book was not exactly a win for me, I ended up liking it more than expected.

That being said, this book certainly has its flaws.
For one, it is excruciatingly slow and reads like a much longer book than its actual 300 pages, while providing little tension or drive to keep reading. I had no problem putting this book down in the middle of a chapter and waiting days before continuing.

Secondly, context and world building are severely lacking.
It introduces a lot of interesting ideas and a fascinating magic system revolving around shadows. Unfortunately, it is hardly fleshed out. Terms and ideas are introduced, but nothing is really explained, leaving me often confused about the mechanics and rules of it all.

The main character, Charlie, was someone I could never really connect with.
We live in her head most of the time, but we only get to know her a bit through flashbacks. These are certainly necessary to get a handle on the story and to understand her motivations, but telling this behind the facts made emotional connection difficult.

Apart from Charlie, we get a lot of names of side characters, but again, none of those get really fleshed out or actually introduced. A name is mentioned once and then chapters later they are mentioned again as if we really should know who that is, but I for one had to look back to try and find who that was on multiple occasions.

The story was okay, but lacked motivation and again fleshing out. Also, I guessed the biggest plot reveal around the 40% mark.

The ending is not really an ending at all. It ends with a big question mark, while this book was initially presented as being a standalone, meaning a well-rounded story. That’s not it though and we’re still left in the dark by a lot of it.

All and all, I really like all the ideas in this book, but not so much the execution. The pacing was off and the fleshing out of both the world and the characters was severely lacking. The ideas however are sufficiently intriguing and the cliffhanger at the end revolves around something that I really was curious about that I probably will be picking up the sequel when it comes out.

Cheers,
Charlotte

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