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.
I knew Book of Night wasn’t going to be like the Folk of the Air series, but I have to admit that I’m disappointed that it isn’t. Apparently, the difference between YA fantasy and adult fantasy is that the characters are repetitive, and nothing happens until the end.
Honestly, I wanted to start counting at one point how many times Charlie would comment about the family curse or her predilection for bad choices. It happened at least once a chapter with almost always the exact same wording.
There'd 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 picking pockets, a tongue for lying, and a shriveled cherry pit for a heart.
We get it, Book of Night is a dark and gritty noir detective fiction. Unfortunately, the story gives in to every stereotype. The bars, the dominatrix boss, the sketchy dude who keeps trying to get you to take jobs, the old acquaintance who hates you but needs you to do something for them. And most of all, the powerful enemy who isn’t aware of how much you hate him but needs you to find the thing you were already looking for.
This was barely fantasy. Well, it was more about fantasy with lots of talk about shadows and magic but not much actual magic. I’m still pretty fuzzy on how all of this works, but I’m pretty sure that’s because everyone in the book is as well.
There are lots of different kinds of lies. Fibs to lubricate society. Deceptions to avoid consequences. Misrepresentations to hide behind, because you're worried another person won't understand, or won't like you, or because what you've done is bad and you're ashamed of it. And then there are the lies you tell because everything about you is a lie.
There are a couple of good twists, but most of them are foreshadowed heavily by multiple characters. The flashbacks to the past are often either boring or repetitive nonsense to drive the point home that Charlie had no choice. I did like Vince’s flashbacks, though there weren’t many, and he was the most compelling of the characters. Charlie was too one-dimensional, and Posey was selfish and obnoxious.
Obviously, I’m going to read the next book in this series, but I’m glad it’s only planned to be a duology. I’m much more excited for Oak’s duology and a return to Black’s YA fantasy.