Book Reviews, Middle Grade

Review: Feast of the Evernight by Ross MacKenzie

The Evernight has been defeated and the sun has returned, thanks to Larabelle Fox and her friends Joe and Double Eight. White Witches have their souls back and the evil Mrs Hester is no more. It should be a time of celebration and relief. But a new threat emerging from the mists of the Veil, the dangerous forest that surrounds the Silver Kingdom’s southern lands. Mysterious killings are taking place, and Double Eight is the suspect. Lara and Joe journey to Lake End to discover what’s really happening, all the while trying to stay one step ahead of the secret police…

Thank you to NetGalley and Andersen Press for the eARC in exchange for an honest review.

*This is a sequel, and the review will contain spoilers for the first book*

Feast of the Evernight is the sequel to Ross MacKenzie’s Evernight, which came out in 2020, and which I read at the time. I’m actually going to include the blurb of the first book for context as well, which will make me talking about its sequel more clear:

Thousands of years ago, the Evernight came to the Silver Kingdom and turned everything to darkness and chaos. It was only defeated thanks to the skill and bravery of the Witches. But now the Evernight is about to return, released by the evil Mrs Hester, and the only spell that might stop it is lost, deep below the great city of King’s Haven. Then orphan Larabelle Fox stumbles across a mysterious wooden box while treasure-hunting in the city’s sewers. Little does she realise she is about to be catapulted into an adventure, facing wild magic and mortal danger – and a man who casts no shadow…

The sequel picks up a year after the events of Evernight; Lara has been in Westerly Witch, studying to become a witch herself, and as the story starts, she graduates. However, her friend Joe has become restless, and wants to return home to King’s Haven. The capital is still full of unrest; since the Evernight was defeated, the White Witches who were previously under the control of the evil Mrs Hester have regained their souls – some have run away, wanting to discover their new power, while others have remained to serve the king, and become part of a secret police intent on rounding up and killing all wild witches (who they call Hags) and the slum folk who were marked by the Evernight.

I say it picks up there, but the first two chapters are actually from the point of view of Sam Hushby, a ranger in the city of Lake End. On his first night on the job, Sam witnesses the murder of his partner Annalise in the forest of the Veil. Her throat is cut and Sam sees the killer draining her of blood. This was quite a shocking opening for a middle grade book, and the rest of the story doesn’t pull its punches either. These characters, even in the first book, are living in a harsh world where they are the underdogs.

This murder, and the report of others in the area, leads to Lara being sent to investigate with Ginny, an older witch, and Joe being sent on a secret mission with Rob Nielsen, one of the characters from the first book. And though Lara is keen to go out into the field as a fully fledged witch, there is a problem; her friend Double Eight, previously a white witch under Mrs Hester’s control, is the main suspect of the murders. From here the story launches into action, shifting between quite a few different characters: Lara, Joe, the head of the secret police Karl Younger, and Ivy, a former white witch with incredible powers who is on the run from Younger.

When reading the first book, I felt swept away by the magic of the words, and by the newness of everything, but with this sequel there was something lacking, though I can’t quite put my finger on what. The plot was still compelling, and the twist – thought predictable to me – came at the perfect moment of tension buildup. I think younger audiences will find it shocking and chilling (the good kind). However I don’t feel that the characters were developed as much; Ivy, the new character, does go from being afraid of her powers to embracing them and gaining confidence, but otherwise I feel that things were quite static. And when I first encountered Karl Younger, I was reminded of Shadow Jack, and the way he was such a chilling villain, but ultimately a complex one, and was disappointed to find that the head of the secret police had no moral dynamism.

All in all, though, those are picky things. I did really enjoy seeing more of the world -though I do wish Lake End had been as developed as King’s Haven, since it felt like it was written as a colonial-style city- and I did appreciate the fact that not everything went back to being perfect after the events of the first book, and the way in which Feast of the Evernight deals with the aftermath of its previous conflict, and the tension between the king and the people he left to die. I’m sure children will love this and I look forward to reading more by the author.

Book Info

Published: 6th May 2021 by Andersen Press
Genre: Middle Grade/Fantasy
Pages: 336
Series: Evernight, book two
Narration style: third person past tense, multiple narrators
Format read: eARC 
Copy owned: No

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