Review Detail

Young Adult Fiction 640
intriguing YA fantasy
Overall rating
Writing Style
NIGHTRENDER is an intriguing dark YA fantasy that transports the reader to a world on the brink of war from all sides. The Winterfast accords divided the world of the humans from that of the Malstop, fed by the dark human compulsions and overrun with demon-like creatures called Rancor that use the weakening borders to break into the human world with their dark magic called malice. Malsites dot the landscape, trapping and torturing humans that stumble upon them. The Veil is weakening, and one of the three kingdoms, Ivasland, is poised to break the Winterfast Accords. To prevent this, Embria and Caberwill, the other two kingdoms, have forged a treaty to be signed in marriage of their heirs, Hanne and Rune, respectively.

As Hanne and Rune travel together to Caberwill, we learn that Hanne's intentions are anything but pure as she leads to her wedding. In pursuit of her own goals, she steps away from the caravan and is found by a Rancor, who chases her into a Malsite. Knowing that the fragile peace their kingdoms have forged is on the line and that the only thing that might save them is rescuing Hanne, Rune does something the royals have sworn not to do - summon the Nightrender, the almost mythical and immortal near-human being whose sole purpose and skill is destroying Malice and keeping the Malstop in check.

However, it has been 400 years since her previous wakening, and Malice has been spreading too fast and far - her waking may have come too late. After the occurrences of the last events, Nightrender lost humanity's respect and gained their fear. As she navigates this new and changed world, Nightrender must also find herself and the memories of before as she tries to save this world on the brink of its destruction.

What I loved: This was such an intricate plot with lush world-building. The book is told from 3 perspectives (Hanne, Rune, and Nightrender) with interludes of a diary from Hanne's confidant, lady-in-waiting, and cousin, Nadine. Through these perspectives, we come to understand the historical context, current politics, and the culture of these different kingdoms, barely surviving at the brink of the Malice. Although each country seems to want peace most of all, they seem to see no ways to obtain it beyond war and destruction. This elusive ideal is a particularly intriguing theme, especially as their wars and fighting feed the very thing they all wish to stop most and it is played out through all 3 kingdoms, with their own beliefs and reasons around their driving force towards peace, whatever that means to them.

Other themes around overpowering negative emotions, unexpected connections, humanity/human nature, life-or-death morality, politics, and government make this a really intriguing read that would be worth discussing. The villains here are not at all clear, and I appreciated the murkiness of this as well as differing perspectives - are wrong things done for the seemingly right reasons OK? I found these characters and their trials to be really compelling. Nightrender herself is a unique and imposing character with her own struggles as she seeks to fit into this human world and complete her tasks, while being above them at the same time. The idea of her Soul Shard to help maintain some of her humanity is also really interesting (part of her soul manifests as a human in every generation that she will do anything to protect).

As a heads up for those who want to know, the ending does leave the reader with some big cliffhangers, so the finale to this duology cannot come fast enough!

Final verdict: A lush and dark YA fantasy, NIGHTRENDER is a thought-provoking story that transports the reader to a world of danger, magic, and insidious politics. Highly recommend for fans of THE BONE WITCH, THE YOUNG ELITES, and THE WINTER DUKE.
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