4 out of 5 stars
Review copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley. Review was written in November of 2019 and may not reflect the final product. But I sure hope it does.
I know how it feels to lose everything. I know how it feels to be terrified and unsure. But I also know how it feels to be remade, to cloak yourself in steel and wash yourself in fire and refuse to be trampled. To stand and say ‘I am not what they make of me, but what I make of me.’
Enebish is the monster people use to scare children. She was once an elite warrior of the Empire, drawing on the darkness and stars with her Goddess-given powers to help expand their borders. But one unforgivable act – one lapse in control – and her powers make a monster of her. Disfigured and scarred from the horrific incident two years ago, Enebish is sequestered away in a distant monastery whiling away her punishment sneaking out of her rooms at night and training the King’s own falcon. And so her life goes, shunned by the monks tasked with her imprisonment and with only a heretical acolyte and the King’s falcon to call friends. Far from Enebish and beyond the monastery’s walls trouble is brewing in the Empire. Goha, Enebish’s sister and Right Hand of the King comes to her with a entente – capture the notorious rebel Temujin and her crimes will be forgive. People will no longer fear her and she can retake her place at her sister’s side. And all it will cost is one Rebel faction. Tracking down the charismatic rebel leader across the empire proves to be a worthy task for redemption, but coming face to face with the brutalities of war may be Enebish’s greatest challenge yet.
This was a surprising one! On NetGalley it is promoted as The Hunchback of Notre Dame meets The Grishaverse and I can totally see where they got that from. The frozen tundras, religious iconography and war room politics is very evocative of Budargo’s Russian inspired fantasy series. I was less sure about it’s connection to The Hunchback, as I have zero experience with the work outside of once performing God Help the Outcasts at a school musical night but I’ll take their word for it. It is apparently a re-telling but unlike Thorn‘s retelling of The Goose Girl, I don’t know enough about the original to judge it. There’s a lot to like about this book and a lot to be excited about in any future squeals it may have. The characters, politics and worldbuildilng made for an exciting delve into a new and sometimes unexpected world.
At the start of our story, Enebish, our main character, is an orphan, a refugee, a Night Spinner, an elite warrior, and a monster. In that order. That’s obviously a lot to deal with and Enebish manages to take much of it in her stride. Now sequestered in the monastery she finds small ways to rebel while still serving out her sentence. This is really the heart of what I enjoyed about Enebish’s character – how she held her beliefs (religious and otherwise) and the exploration of how these shift and change as the story goes. I love some good moral conflict in my main character and I just loved Enebish’s development throughout the story. Sure, sometimes she’s a little zealous and a little dense but overall I really enjoyed seeing the story through her eyes.
I was a little less excited about the villains presented to us. I don’t want to give much away but where I felt Enebish was a fully fleshed out person with morals, beliefs and a personality, the baddies felt a little two dimensional. They’re the kind of baddies you’d boo in a pantomime play and while it didn’t do much for them as well rounded characters, it sure was fun to root for their demise! They’re powerful, charming, cruel, everything to expect in a bad guy. As for the romance – it was an interesting one. It went in a direction I could see coming but not in a way I expected. It was cute and it didn’t feel like the drama from it overshadowed the main story-line. I’m interested to see where it goes in the sequel.
The magic in this world is a little bit Wicked Saints and a little bit Grishaverse. Nothing new or revolutionary but a functioning system for magic. I was a little unclear at some points what the different “schools” of magic did, and now different organisations utilised them, but that wasn’t to the determent of the story. We’re introduced to a number of political, geographical and religious factions within Night Spinner, all with different approaches to magic and religion. It was a bit much to keep track of sometimes but it wasn’t A Memory Called Empire level of complex, but there was enough going on. (Side note: I read these two books at the same time and THE PARALLELS! The exploration of Empires for the conquering and the conquered! The clash of customs! So interesting) I really liked how the religions and culture interacted in this world – especially as The Empire is as vast and as varied as it is – and I particularly enjoyed reading this through the eyes of a religious character, which isn’t something I’ve encountered much in fiction. Of my recent reads, I think only Wicked Saints had a character actually practising their religion in a non-perfunctory way and it’s a great way to really be immersed in a story with such an importance on holy figures. The world of Night Spinner was easy to immerse yourself in and Thorley has presented in such a, well, nice way.
I really enjoyed Night Spinner. It was just the book to get me out of my mid November reading slump and I’m glad I stumbled across it when I did. It hit all the right spots for a debut into a new fantasy realm. I know I haven’t spoken much about specifics within the book (intentionally vague about “The Incident” “The Magic” etc), but that’s because I think it’s one that needs to be read yourself. There are so many mysteries and twists and turns thrown in that you won’t know what’s happening …. er, in a good way! Night Spinner is a fantastic freezer-fresh take on a classic story, and a must read YA fantasy of 2020!
Happy reading 🙂
So you know that thing they say about Buses, right? Well it’s the same with ARCs. I’ve got a few up my sleeve including the much anticipated sequel to Wicked Saints – Ruthless Gods – and Beth O’Leary’s second novel, The Switch. Hopefully those will be posted in a timely manner!