ARC Review: BOOK OF NIGHT by Holly Black

I received an ARC from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.

Title in white on dark teal next to gold cresent moon in starburst
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: standalone


Book cover for BOOK

In Charlie Hall’s world, shadows can be altered, for entertainment and cosmetic preferences—but also to increase power and influence. You can alter someone’s feelings—and memories—but manipulating shadows has a cost, with the potential to take hours or days from your life. Your shadow holds all the parts of you that you want to keep hidden—a second self, standing just to your left, walking behind you into lit rooms. And sometimes, it has a life of its own.

Charlie is a low-level con artist, working as a bartender while trying to distance herself from the powerful and dangerous underground world of shadow trading. She gets by doing odd jobs for her patrons and the naive new money in her town at the edge of the Berkshires. But when a terrible figure from her past returns, Charlie’s present life is thrown into chaos, and her future seems at best, unclear—and at worst, non-existent. Determined to survive, Charlie throws herself into a maelstrom of secrets and murder, setting her against a cast of doppelgangers, mercurial billionaires, shadow thieves, and her own sister—all desperate to control the magic of the shadows.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


BOOK OF NIGHT is a dark contemporary fantasy about not-so-secret societies, bad decisions, and a world where shadows can be magical – and take on lives of their own.

Contemporary fantasy can be a bit hit or miss with me, but this is one I absolutely fell into and devoured. The pacing was wonderful, managing to intersperse chapters about Charlie’s past and a few non-Charlie POV chapters in without losing the tension of the main story. The occasional timeline flips and POV switches could have utterly confused the story, yanking the tension rug out from beneath the reader, but that doesn’t happen here.

It’s really clever how the series of event is designed to get you invested in the story. At first, most of what happens to drag Charlie into the plot is a pretty disastrous set of terribly unfortunate accidents (wrong place at the wrong time). It means that you’re on her side as she tries to claw her way out of the danger she’s landed in largely by sheer dumb (un)luck. And then it’s hard to shift you from her side, from wanting her to win, because of the simple fact that it’s not her fault she’s in this mess.

And then once that’s firmly established, Black can unload twists and surprises galore on you to flip the story on it’s head. My favourite was the story line/assumptions that got flipped on itself enough times to create origami. It felt so believable each time, so in line with the world and characters – and did make you question so many things that had come before (yet again!)

The book flitted close to “con-men magic” that I love. Charlie is an ex-con artist, with a history of petty theft, breaking and entering, and convincing people she’s been possessed. She doesn’t really used magic in this book, mostly just her wits (and a heavy dose of luck at times) but the way she interacted with the magic, turned it against the wielders, and furthered her own aims felt reminiscent of that tricksy magic.

AND THEN THE ENDING. I think this is a standalone. It’s a really good standalone ending, feeling very satisfying and perfectly in line with the tone of the book, but it certainly leaves room open for another book. I would not object if we got a sequel!

Read my reviews of other books by Holly Black:

Young Adult:

The Folk of the Air:

2 thoughts on “ARC Review: BOOK OF NIGHT by Holly Black

  1. Great review! I’m still unsure on this one — I wasn’t a big fan of how Black ended the Folk of the Air series, but as this one is an Adult novel, maybe I’ll have better luck?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Folk of the Air was definitely marmite! BOOK OF NIGHT has those darker, contemporary aspects also in FotA, but the magic is very different (and I liked the LI in this one much much more!)

      Liked by 1 person

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