He saw the darkness in her magic. She saw the magic in his darkness. 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. Love makes monsters of us all.
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On a mission to discover what is happening to the missing soldiers, Wren heals a spy for the other side accidentally allowing him to escape. The queen, her aunt, condemns her as this was her final chance and strips her rank, sending her to the abbey until further notice. Once there, Wren receives a strange letter from another neighboring mountain kingdom who has remained out of the wars waged below. They offer to lend aid to her country if she comes to heal a mysterious sickness plaguing the servants. Although the queen forbids it, Wren takes her chance and travels there.
What she finds when she arrives is unexpected and becomes more twisty around every corner. Wren will have to discover who she is and who she wants to be as she finds a path forward.
What I loved: Although ultimately not unexpected, the mysteries of what was going on really kept the pages turning in this book. The characters were also really intriguing, with much growth and development throughout the story (and bisexual rep). The setting was really fantastic, with all the creepiness and haunted feelings to set the stage. I was really interested in the kingdoms and their histories as well that have led to the present, and I felt that the book balanced the amount of information given with the length and pace of the story really well - we learn just enough to move through the book without any knowledge dumps.
The themes in this book were also thought-provoking. For instance, a major theme is that of strength, how it is defined and how it can be manifested. Wren is not traditionally strong - she has a lot of kindness and mercy for others that leads to difficult situations. She is not always the best soldier, and she cries on occasion. However, this does not make her necessarily weak - her strength is in these same qualities that make her feel out-of-place. There is also a potent theme about war, and the toll that it enacts on the countries involved as seen throughout the book. Other themes about grief, desire for belonging, jealousy, and fear add to these intriguing messages and would be great to discuss in a book club context.
What left me wanting more: The ending felt a little rushed after the heady build-up, and people change on a dime after single events in ways that suited the plot but without the lead-up that seemed warranted. In terms of the romance, I also wanted a bit more. I enjoyed it, but the healing bond is originally blamed, and I think I needed to see more of the substance behind it. Although the length of the book was right for a stand-alone, I think with the complexities of this world and the characters, spreading it out into a duology would have been helpful to take a deeper dive into it all - after the slow and deep beginning, the ending felt a bit too rushed to me. On the other hand, there is always something to be said for stand-alones, so I did appreciate that everything was wrapped up in this book.
Final verdict: Immersive, imaginative, and absorbing, DOWN COMES THE NIGHT is a dark YA fantasy that will captive readers in its unique world. Recommend for fans of THE WINTER DUKE, A GOLDEN FURY, and GILDED CAGE.