Hi friends! I’m so excited to review this book because wow. Just wow.
A huge thank you to Wednesday Books for an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review! Quotes come from an unfinished copy and may not appear in the finished copy.
Wren Southerland’s reckless use of magic has cost her everything: she’s been dismissed from the Queen’s Guard and separated from her best friend—the girl she loves. So when a letter arrives from a reclusive lord, asking Wren to come to his estate, Colwick Hall, to cure his servant from a mysterious illness, she seizes her chance to redeem herself.
The mansion is crumbling, icy winds haunt the caved-in halls, and her eccentric host forbids her from leaving her room after dark. Worse, Wren’s patient isn’t a servant at all but Hal Cavendish, the infamous Reaper of Vesria and her kingdom’s sworn enemy. Hal also came to Colwick Hall for redemption, but the secrets in the estate may lead to both of their deaths.
With sinister forces at work, Wren and Hal realize they’ll have to join together if they have any hope of saving their kingdoms. But as Wren circles closer to the nefarious truth behind Hal’s illness, they realize they have no escape from the monsters within the mansion. All they have is each other, and a startling desire that could be their downfall.
I’m not really sure where to start.
Do I begin with the writing style? The characters? The atmosphere? The plot? There are countless elements that make up a great novel, and I’m happy to say that Down Comes The Night very nearly exceeded at each and every one of them.
This is a world where two magical kingdoms have been fighting over land for years and years, while a kingdom with only technological advancements sits untouched in the mountains. The magic is called fola, and it’s unique to every person that has it. Despite this being a fantasy world, magic isn’t the answer to every problem and it’s certainly not the focus of the story. Truly, I loved being immersed in place brimming with a fantastic balance of politics, history, and magic.
Wren as a main character was rather refreshing. Her magic is that of a healer’s, and you can see great empathy in how she treats others. It was really interesting seeing Wren grapple with a lot of confusion about herself: should she be more ruthless? Are empathy and trust weaknesses in a land rife with war and danger? I loved that the author didn’t rely on what is normally considered “strength” for a female protagonist. Wren is also bisexual I believe, but I don’t want to put a label if it’s not explicitly stated, you know?
“It takes incredible strength to be kind in this world. To endue suffering instead of furthering it.”
Hal gave me hardcore Zuko vibes. He’s brooding, angsty, and above all, is seeking answers and redemption. His character is both careful and reckless, caring and ruthless. I loved getting to know him, and seeing him and Wren grow closer.
This has such a slow-burn romance!!! With enemies-to-lovers!!! Which actually fits the story and setting perfectly. This is a slow-burn, character focused novel that doesn’t rush things. In that regard, it might not be for everyone.
Although with that being said, I have to praise the writing! Allison Saft writes atmosphere with such practiced ease, I sometimes forgot that this was a debut. It’s the sort of writing style that will only grow more polished with time and experience. I can only recommend curling up with a hot drink and a blanket to read this. The dark corners of a nearly abandoned mansion, the icy blizzards of a snowstorm, everything comes to life.
“Beautiful in that stark, wasting way impermanent things were: the sunlit drip of icicles in early spring, the flush of trees in late autumn.”
On that note, the second half of this book didn’t strike quite the same chords with me as the first half. The second half of the plot started feeling a bit too predictable and generic for me, as well as several of the events towards the end feeling especially a little too contrived for my tastes. Also, a few of Wren’s decisions did frustrate me. But I really loved the ending itself, and since this is a debut, I’m perfectly satisfied to let my minor grievances go.
Finally, I wanted to touch on the fact that while it is a book rich with gothic atmosphere, a slow-burn romance, and a solid plot, Down Comes The Night offers a thoughtful commentary on the price of war. And not just the cost of lost lives, but of lost humanity. Not only did this flesh out the world and characters, but it left me with a somewhat deeper appreciation of the novel as a whole.
“Maybe the only difference between a monster and a hero was the color of a soldier’s uniform.”
That’s it! This is probably more of a 4.5 star read but I honestly enjoyed it so much it’s getting a solid 5 from me. Talk to me in the comments about your thoughts! Are you anticipating this? You can add to Goodreads here or preorder here! This comes out March 2.