by Allison Saft
Publication: March 2, 2021
**I was provided a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**
After messing up, yet again, Wren is suspended from the Queen’s Guard and forced to head back to the abbey. After receiving a request from Lord Lowry of Colwick Hall to help heal one of his servants, Wren decides to head to the estate to put her magic to better use and to use her presence there as a diplomatic opportunity to return to the Queen’s Guard. Once there, she realizes that all is not as it seems when she recognizes the servant she is to heal is Hal Cavendish, an enemy to the Crown.
Down Comes the Night is one of my most anticipated reads this year. A YA fantasy with gothic vibes? Who wouldn’t want to read it? While there were elements I would have liked more of, overall, it generally does what it sets out to do–capture our hearts and leave us captivated–but you have to get past the beginning to get there. The beginning of the book attempts to immerse readers in the world Saft’s created and to familiarize us with Wren’s current predicament. Like in any fantasy novel, establishing the world is crucial. While interesting with its ongoing political conflicts and magic system, I was a bit turned off at the beginning largely due to a lovelorn Wren constantly lamenting over her love for best friend Una and not having those feelings reciprocated. It’s not until Wren arrives at the manor that she seems finally in her element and turns into the character I hoped she would be–compassionate and competent, less caught up in a tortuous, somewhat unrequited love. It is also at the manor that the writing itself takes on the tone I was hoping for–mysterious and slightly eerie. Had the book begun and ended at Colwick Hall and been able to retain the air of mystery cultivated at the manor, I likely would have enjoyed it a lot more–not that the other parts weren’t well written; it was just better there.
Once I got to the manor, where the gothic atmosphere settles in, I couldn’t stop turning the pages. The general plot is predictable, but Saft’s writing is engaging; I had to continue reading to confirm my suspicions. The mystery that forces Wren and Hal to work together is fairly straightforward. Saft drops enough clues throughout that, when paired with my suspicions, the reveals didn’t come as a complete surprise. I didn’t mind but what I did want was more blood and gore (I know. I know. For someone who stays away from thrillers, mysteries, and horror I sure do want more of what I don’t normally read in here accompanied with all the fixings, which might be a byproduct of not reading them but wanting a lot when I finally do.) The characters are well developed, with Wren and Hal fleshed out and the side characters also receiving backstories of their own. I felt like I knew them all well and understood their motivations. I think the Queen has the potential to be a more complex character and would love more on her. There’s still much to Wren’s background that remains a mystery whereas we learn a lot about Hal. The romance is a slow-burn (and I cheered when there was just a single bed…heh) and cultivated well.
Overall, I enjoyed the novel. It works as a standalone, but there’s a lot present that lends itself to the possibility of additional books. Individuals expecting a fully immersive gothic novel may come away a bit disappointed because, above all, it is a YA fantasy that contains elements of the gothic genre. (And I know it sounds a bit silly to explain it as such, but the novel isn’t as dark and creepy as what I would normally deem a gothic novel. It’s certainly atmospheric in parts, so it could still be a gothic YA fantasy. Semantics? Probably…Maybe my mind overly emphasized the gothic part prior to reading it.) Readers who head into the novel with this understanding will appreciate the book much more.