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.
That review will be short as I don’t want to spoil anything. The surprises are the best part of the book!
It took me some time to fall into the story. Honestly if it wasn’t for a book club read and if friends didn’t tell me that it really kicked in from chapter 12, I would probably have DNF the book!
The beginning of the story gave me similar vibes as Ninth House, the first adult book of Leigh Bardugo.
The world in which Charlie is living is weird, with shadow magics and as it reads as an urban fantasy, I really needed time to get my footing. I didn’t comprehend what shadow magic, gloomists, quickened shadows etc were for a long time.
That’s because Holly Black doesn’t do info dump but intertwine them throughout the plot.
What also took me some time was to warm up to Charlie.
When you read “There’s always been something wrong with Charlie Hall. Crooked from the day she was born. Never met a bad decision she wasn’t willing to double down on. Had fingers made for piking pockets, a tongue for lying and a shriveled cherry pit for a heart.” It does not make for the most friendly and moving heroine!
Charlie Hall is a con artist and comes in all shades of grey.
She was a character who had been beaten by life, had no good luck, was barely making ends meet and never shied away from conning people.
But slowly, thanks to flash backs to Charlie’s childhood, I began to understand why she was the way she was and I was intrigued and a little bit impressed by Charlie’s quick thinking!
The synopsis says that she’ll face a figure from her past and that she will be thrown into a “maelstrom of secrets and murder, setting her against a cast of doppelgängers, mercurial billionaires, shadow thieves, and her own sister” and that’s exactly what happened here!
She will be tasked to convince someone to come back home to his wife and kids but it will veer off course with stolen or lost magical books and horrible murders happening around Charlie!
She will have to think fast and adapt to dangerous situations in the hope of surviving.
Charlie is not the only character of the book of course.
Vince is Charlie’s Boyfriend and we’ll also have many questions about him. He has no shadow and is ready to take dirty jobs like cleaning hotel rooms where a murder happened. He feels like a mystery, even to Charlie. And I won’t say much about him.
I am aware that I am pretty cryptic in that review but if I had to sum it up I’d use the words:
-unique world building and magic;
-morally grey heroine who is a con artist;
-web of lies;
-twists that you won’t see coming;
-once you fall into it, you’ll never resurface before the end;
Now I need the sequel!
Thanks for reading!