ARC Review: Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft

  • Title: Down Comes the Night
  • Author: Allison Saft
  • Publisher: Wednesday Books
  • Release Date: 3/2/21
  • Genre: Romantic Fantasy
  • Age Range: Young Adult
  • Rating: ★★★★

Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft centers around Wren Southerland, a healer in the Queen’s Guard whose reckless use of magic and disregard for rules has left her in disgrace. She is invited by the mysterious Lord Lowry to his home at Colwick Hall to determine why his servants keep falling ill and dying. She takes him up on the offer, hoping to get back into the Queen’s good graces (and the Queen just happens to be her aunt).

From the very beginning of the book, I was hooked by Saft’s adept world building. When bringing readers into a fantasy world, it is incredibly important to establish the “rules.” I immediately understood much about Wren’s world, the Queendom of Danu. Saft immediately establishes who Wren and the Queen’s Guard view as their enemies, including Hal Cavendish, the Reaper of Vesria. The first pages of the book also ground the reader in Wren’s brand of healing magic.

Saft’s vivid imagery paints pictures of everything through the novel, really making it come to life. This begins even on the first page.

Shadows hung heavy as fog in the corpse, and what little sunlight leaked through the alders turned sallow, gleaming cold on the shard of bone. It jutted from his wrist like a splinter waiting to be pulled loose

These vivid descriptions engaged me immediately and really brought me into Wren’s world.

The characters’ moral ambiguity in Down Comes the Night is incredibly compelling. Upon first meeting, Hal Cavendish might be Wren’s sworn enemy who has murdered many with his magical eyes. As the story progresses, the reader learns that Hal struggles with that violent past and sees him show compassion. Even Wren, who begins the book by taking pity on an injured enemy, has moments where she feels the lure of ruthlessness. These shades of grey made the characters more interesting.

Wren’s relationship with her best friend (and the woman she loves), Una, also intrigued me throughout the novel. They complement each other so well: Wren always leads with her emotions while Una is a stalwart rule follower. It broke my heart when Una tried to prevent Wren from leaving to answer Lord Lowry’s summons, and it is so clear that there are so many romantic feelings left unaddressed. I was invested in whether or not Una and Wren would meet again later in the book and how that would turn out.

Going back and rereading pieces of Down Comes the Night, I noticed several pieces of foreshadowing. Saft has expertly crafted this book, and I certainly will need to read it again to catch all of its nuance.

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