February 2023 Book Club: The Book of Night

Cover art for Book of Night by Holly Black.

I should probably start by saying that one of the reasons this book was so much fun to read is that the setting of the story takes place around the towns I grew up in. When Holly Black mentioned different college campuses or iconic local places, I’ve been there. It is my opinion that this lead me to enjoy the book more because I shared a lot of the feelings around the different settings with the characters. For better or worse.

Now that that’s out of the way, Book of Night was an interesting take on what would happen if a select few discovered they had the ability to manipulate the world using magic. True, the idea that magic comes with a price is not a new one, the idea that you have to feed your shadow in order to do it is one I hadn’t come across yet. Much like the limitations to magic in the world of the Wheel of Time, there are physical limitations and risks to using magic. Use too much and you won’t be able to use any more. There is also a pecking order created by how strong you are, which seems to make sense in any world that uses this rule of thumb.

There’s also something to be said about a good anti-hero (queue Taylor Swift’s song? No?). Charlie Hall is not the worst person in the room, but she’s not the best one either. Due to her upbringing, she was forced to manipulate those around her in order to survive and it’s clear that the habit has stuck with her even when her original teacher left the picture. Things are always going wrong for Charlie, but a lot of her challenges are self-created. While you want to root for her, there are also moments where your gut reaction as a reader is along the lines of “I mean, you did sort of do that to yourself. You didn’t have to do what you just did”.

Did I like the book enough to be excited about the sequel coming out in the next year or so? I’m not sure. The ending of the book left a lot of room to expand the story as well as enough ends tied up that I could stop here. Do I need to read about the struggle that Charlie will face with her new shadow and trying to get him to remember who she is or can I imagine a possible happily ever after? Holly Black isn’t afraid to make her characters uncomfortable, so even if they do live happily ever after there’s probably going to be a lot of discomfort before they get there. This might be why I enjoy a good Holly Black tale, no one is ever given the ability to be perfectly happy. There are always compromises that need to be made in order to reach the end goal, something that is very relatable.

Cover art for Cinder by Marissa Meyer.

I’ve been putting off reading Cinder by Marissa Meyer since it initially came out and I think I’m in the headspace after Book of Night to take on a fairytale retelling. At the very least, it will be a fun read while I wait for my hold on the 8th book of the Wheel of Time series. As this is my third attempt to get through the series since I read book 1 in high school, I will say this confirms that the timing of a book is really everything. So many people have called the middle books a slog and here I am, enjoying the slow world-building. It also probably helps that I’m not able to read book after book due to everyone wanting to read them now that Amazon has turned the first book into a TV series.

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless Lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . . Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg.

She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

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