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Title: Down Comes The Night
Author: Allison Saft
Narrator(s): Saskia Maarleveld
Running Time: 12 hours, 47 minutes
Trigger Warning(s): gore and violence, murder, death, torture, surgery and medical procedure, drugging someone
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.
Allison Saft’s Down Comes the Night is a snow-drenched romantic fantasy that keeps you racing through the pages long into the night.
Love makes monsters of us all.
Oh, Disappointment, we meet again. *deep sigh*
Well, friends, another one bites the dust. I had such high hopes for Down Comes The Night, and yet here I stand, betrayed by the hype once again.
Down Comes The Night was promised to be a dark, gothic fantasy and when I heard that elevator pitch, lemme tell ya, I was here for it! I was so convinced this book would be a new favorite! But did it deliver? Sadly, no.
Down Comes The Night follows Wren Sutherland, a healer in the Queen of Danu’s Army and neice of the queen. When Wren recieves an intriguing invite to the notorious Alastair Lowry’s eerie estate to treat a servant of his who has contracted a mysterious illness, Wren jumps at the chance to prove her usefulness to the queen. But when Wren arrives at the mansion, she finds that her patient is in fact the infamous Hal Cavendish, a.k.a “the Reaper of Vesria” and number one enemy of Danu. However, there are more perilous and sinister forces at work inside Lowry’s mansion, and Wren and Hal just may have to team up in order to find out just what is going on and how to put an end to it.
Sounds interesting, right?! Unfortunately, despite the few aspects of this book that I enjoyed, I ultimately felt like it was poorly executed, with none of the story elements being fully fleshed out. Let’s take a closer look at what I liked and disliked about Allison Saft’s Down Comes The Night…
plot & pacing
To be completely honest, the plot and pacing of Down Comes The Night were MAJOR sticking points for me. I found the plot to be watery, thin, and weak and the pacing to be snooze-inducingly slow. I’ve seen a lot of other reviewers say this book is more of a murder mystery with a fantasy twist than anything else, and while I agree, I also think that structure was part of where Down Comes The Night failed. Part of the thing is it felt like the book never fully committed to being a murder mystery nor a fantasy. A fantastical holy war rages in the background of the novel and it’s important enough to impact Hal’s and Wren’s (the main characters) lives, but it’s never really fleshed out and brought to the forefront in order to truly raise the stakes. As for the murder mystery element, the main issue is that Wren and Hal discover the identity of the culprit about halfway through the book…and then nothing really happens except for filler until a flurry of activity during the final quarter of the story. This in particular contributed to the pace of Down Comes The Night just totally stalling halfway through the novel.
The other thing is that the entire story felt incredibly predictable and the ending felt insanely easy. There were no points at which I felt true tension or danger, in part because solutions to all of Wren’s and Hal’s problem came so quickly and easily. Saft never really lets her characters be in peril long enough for readers to feel like anything is actually at stake.
In the past decade in YA, we’ve seen the rise of a very…erm…specific…kind of “strong female character.” You know the one—the sassy, beautiful, confident, tough as nails, she-can-do-anything-the-boys-can-do-too kind of heroine. And while I love a good badass woman, I think there’s a big issue in modeling every heroine around this archetype, namely because it doesn’t show the variety and nuances of women’s personalities and because it sends the message that in order for women to be seen as “just as good as The Boys™,” we have to take on “traditionally masculine” traits such as being physically strong, stoic, sarcastic, and relatively emotionless. But anyhoo, that’s a rant for a different post—the point is that Wren’s character is a really wonderful divergence from this archetype!
Soft, vulnerable, and a tad naïve despite her exposure to the evils of the world, Wren is a refreshing change from the stereotypical “strong female heroine.” Wren lives in a world where being gentle and emotional is not only seen as “weak,” but is also something that will easily get you killed. She’s been repeatedly told that her emotional nature and her compassion make her basically useless. This creates an interesting dichotomy within Wren’s character in that she doesn’t want to be so gentle, soft, compassionate, and innocent, but at the same time she understands that those traits are at the core of her personality and she can’t exactly fundamentally change them or rid herself of them for good.
I enjoyed seeing this duality play out on the page and I even found myself relating to Wren’s personality a good bit. Best of all, though, is that Wren is never forced to compromise or change her soft nature, but rather learns to embrace it. If I’m being honest, Wren’s soft character was definitely my favorite story element!
Hal’s characterization felt a little lacking, in part due to the third person limited point of view which Saft employed. We only ever see Hal through Wren’s eyes, and so in some ways it felt like we were missing bits and pieces of Hal’s history and motives that would have helped to flesh his character out and make him feel a little more rounded and a little less wooden. I mean, all we really know about Hal for the majority of the story is that he has a reputation as a monstrous killer and that he’s paradoxically kind when Wren finally meets him. But why??? The only motive we really get is a vague line from Hal about how he’s haunted by those he’s killed. But somehow, when taken into context with what little we know about Hal, plus the themes of forgiveness and redemption that Saft attempts to play out through his character arc, that excuse feels a little too shallow. What was the catalyst for Hal changing his mind about his nation’s cause?? What emotional arc played out when he realized he didn’t want to be a killer??? Frustratingly, none of these questions are addressed, leaving Hal’s character to ring slightly hollow.
That being said, I did enjoy what glimpses of Hal’s personality, emotions, and motivations that we did get to see. I enjoyed how Saft kind of subverted the archetype of the villainous “bad boy” through his character. When we first meet Hal, we are expecting a remorseless villain. And yet, what we actually find is a soft, compassionate boy who is wrestling with his own conscience. Hal doesn’t embrace his deadly powers or his role as a villain. Instead, he’s haunted by the ghosts of his past and desperate for redemption.
Unfortunately, while I enjoyed this subversion, ultimately Hal’s character just needed a bit more in order to feel truly rounded out.
setting & atmosphere
I was promised a dark gothic fantasy and did I get it? Ehhh…well, kind of. The worldbuilding and atmosphere of Down Comes The Night honestly fell a bit short, if for no other reason than that the world of the book wasn’t greatly explored or invested in. We’re told that there are at least three countries in this world, and that two of them—Danu and Vesria—are constantly at war with each other due to religious differences. But Saft doesn’t really go in depth beyond that. This is worsened by the fact that Down Comes The Night pretty much only has two settings that we really get to know—the capital of Danu and Lowry’s estate. In addition, Saft doesn’t build up the religion or magic system, both of which are at the heart of the story’s major and minor conflicts. We know Danu has a goddess…aaaaand that’s it. We know Danubians and Vesrians have magic, but we don’t know its limits. It’s all just…not enough…Together, these factors, sadly, made the world and atmosphere feel disappointingly shallow.
Sadly, for me, Down Comes The Night was a disappointment. I went in expecting great things and instead got a “meh” novel. I did enjoy hoe Saft subverted a few tropes and expectations with her main character and the love interest, but ultimately the characters, plot, and world weren’t invested in enough to provide a truly compelling story. In conclusion, this book was a bust for me.
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spill the beans, friends!
- Have you read Down Comes The Night?
- If yes, how did you like it?
- If no, is it on your TBR?