Last night I finished the sprawling Book of Night by Holly Black. It’s about old and rediscovered magic, the bonds between people, their shadows, and the implications of becoming detached from oneself — sometimes literally. The New York Times called Black “a master of world building,” and that’s exactly right: there’s a lived-in feel to the setting, and a weary familiarity passes among characters like a well worn borrowed jacket. Around two-thirds of the way in, there is a crush of information delivered through conversations with relatively minor characters, creating a rushed feeling without necessarily providing a sense of raised stakes. And because the world building is front loaded, the reader has less time to absorb a well constructed but unwieldy finale. Black’s prose works best when it has room to breathe.
That said, the last few pages kept me awake long into the night: a horrific conclusion worse than any variation on “The Monkey’s Paw.” Black has said that she always intended to write at least one sequel to Book of Night. I look forward to another story set in this shadow magic world — with a great deal of trepidation, I might add.