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Review: Book of Night

3/5 stars

First of a series which.... I think I'd be interested enough in to keep reading? Not totally convinced, but I did enjoy this book. My biggest critique is that it's forgettable.

Charlie, a gritty 20-something woman, works as a bartender, having removed herself from her previous life of petty crime - or trying to remove herself, anyway, but the past just keeps catching up to her. She lives in a world not too unlike our own, except, of course, that magic exists. In particular, shadow magic, where people can manipulate their own shadows to take on different shapes, and do things without their "owners." Everyone is desperate for shadow magic, including her younger sister, who spends her nights glued to the dark web learning all she can about how to become a "gloamist," i.e. magician. Charlie also has a boyfriend, Vince, who has no shadow. He is ultra secretive about his past, and refuses to say how he lost his shadow. (Did someone steal it? Did he cut it off himself? Did he sell it to a gloamist?)

At any rate, through multiple twists of fate, and the return of some shady characters from her past, Charlie gets embroiled in a murder mystery that involves her arch-nemesis, a billionaire, mob-boss like criminal who will do anything, and use anyone, for power.

I loved the idea of the magic system, but the world-building just wasn't very sophisticated or deep, which made the world itself, and the characters in it, feel unexceptional. I kept wishing for more... Not that I need every aspect of the rules of magic to be spelled out, but I never felt like Black spent enough time setting the stage for me to care about what happened on it, or who it happened to. Charlie and Vince are supposed to be interesting, I think? But I never really cared much about them as individuals, or about their relationship. I didn't feel any tension, and I didn't know enough about the characters to feel invested in their feelings. The only relationship that felt true was that of Charlie's and her little sister. But... as I say that... I realize I can't even remember her name. There are also a lot of minor characters that show up and then don't have much of a purpose and/or just disappear from the narrative, which adds to the confusion and forgettable-ness.

BUT! But. I still enjoyed reading it! It has a sliver of a Leigh Bardugo Ninth House kind of vibe, and since it's Black's first ever adult novel (previous works were all YA), I'm willing to forgive a little, with the hope that her writing will get more sophisticated as she does more of this style. It's not the best version of this type of dark-atmospheric-underground-magic book... but if that's what you like? (and I do) Then you'll like it.


UP NEXT: The Door of No Return, by Kwame Alexander

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