Book Reviews, Fantasy

Review: A Day of Fallen Night by Samantha Shannon

Tunuva Melim is a sister of the Priory. For fifty years, she has trained to slay wyrms – but none have appeared since the Nameless One, and the younger generation is starting to question the Priory’s purpose. To the north, Sabran the Ambitious has married the new King of Hroth, narrowly saving her queendom from ruin. Their daughter, Glorian, trails in their shadow – exactly where she wants to be. Meanwhile, the dragons of the East have slept for centuries. Dumai lives in a Seiikinese mountain temple, where celebrants strive to wake the gods from the Long Slumber – but someone from her mother’s past is coming to the mountain for her.

When the Dreadmount erupts, bringing with it an age of terror and violence, these women must rise to protect humankind from a devastating threat.

Thank you NetGalley and Bloomsbury for the free copy in exchange for an honest review.

This book utterly consumed me. I fell in love with The Priory of the Orange Tree back in 2019 and have since been thrusting it into the hands of anyone who wandered too close to the fantasy section of my bookshop, so I was more than excited to find out Shannon was working on another book set in the same world. I was worried I wouldn’t take to it as much, though, because none of the characters I loved before would be around. A Day of Fallen Night is set centuries before the original narrative, and there is potential for confusion. But do not fear, dear readers, for you are in safe hands. With A Day of Fallen Night Shannon has created something epic, ambitious, and fresh, and she pulls it off remarkably. I had the sense while reading it that I was discovering a real and ancient history, and it was utterly absorbing.

The point of view characters span the map, which comprises concentrated areas of land to the east and west, divided by a vast and dangerous ocean called the Abyss. Glorian, the young princess of the Queendom of Inys is in the west; Dumai, a temple resident awaiting her gods’ awakening, is in Seiiki to the east; Tunuva, a sister of the Priory, is in the lands of Lasia to the south; and Wulf, retainer to the king of Hroth, is in the north, though he is the character that travels across countries and continents the most throughout the story. These four lead an impressive cast of characters, and though I found myself getting confused between people and places at first (it’s been a while since I read Priory), their focused narratives kept me gripped to the story and slowly unravelled the complex politics and history of this vast world.

Similarly to the first book in the Roots of Chaos series, A Day of Fallen Night is an epic in one volume, and there is so much going on that it’s hard to give it a concise summary, but the main event in this book is the eruption of the Dreadmount, the volcano that first brought forth the Nameless One generations before, and the effect this has on each country. The Queendom of Inys was founded on the belief that their first (and only) king defeated the Nameless One and that the blood of his descendants –all daughters with the same features spanning generations– are the only thing keeping the enemy chained in his prison, and so the spawning of new dragons fills the people with doubt and endangers political alliances. In the south, the Priory finds they may not be as prepared as they believed despite all their years of training to slay wyrms. And in the east, the arrival of fire-breathing dragons makes the people even more desperate for their gods –the great dragons of air and water– to wake from their slumber.

In amidst cataclysmic events and twisting politics of shadow courts, lost heirs, and secrets from the past, Shannon deftly weaves magic and myth, and ties it together with incredibly compelling character interactions. Though I wanted to see things unfold on a grand scale, what kept me turning pages long after bed time was the push and pull between people, both point of view characters and others; the romance, the deceits, the betrayals, the rekindled friendships… it was all brilliant and balanced very well with the moments of action. Plus, there is plenty of excellent representation to be had.

As I said at the start, reading this book felt like uncovering a lost history, and part of that is the sheer attention to detail, not only with the people and events, but all the elements that comprise the world. Clothing, landscape, hair and jewellery traditions, fighting styles, city structures… every culture was clearly defined, and they made the moments in which two or more bleed into each other more satisfying. I did notice a lot more that the different cultures do draw quite significantly from some of our real-world ones, whereas while reading Priory I saw the influences but they didn’t feel like imitation, and that was the one thing that occasionally brought me out of the narrative a bit, but everything was done respectfully and fit with the story. I found that having read The Priory of the Orange Tree first was beneficial in understanding the intricacies of this prequel, but it is not strictly necessary to do so. Though, if you haven’t read The Priory of the Orange Tree I highly recommend you give it a chance; these books may be big, but they are definitely worth the time and heavy-lifting!

Book Info

Published: 28th February 2023 by Bloomsbury
Genre: fantasy
Pages: 880
Series: The Roots of Chaos, book 0.5
Narration style: third person past tense, multiple points of view
Format read: eARC
Content Warnings: childbirth, child loss, child marriage, climate change, mass death, mind control, miscarriage (mention), pandemic, parental death, postnatal depression, pregnancy, reproductive coercion, violence, vomiting  (as listed on the author’s website)

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