Book of Night – Holly Black

Title: Book of Night
Series: Book of Night #1
: Holly Black
Genre: Fantasy
: May 3rd, 2022 (Tor Books)

Synopsis: 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 doppelgängers, mercurial billionaires, shadow thieves, and her own sister – all desperate to control the magic of the shadows.


In a world where shadows can be manipulated for a variety of reasons, Charlie is bartender and former con-artist trying to leave her past in the dangerous world of shadow trading behind her. She supports herself and her sister by doing odd jobs for the bar’s patrons. When people start approaching Charlie about hiring her to acquire a powerful book that is said to contain the secrets of controlling shadows, she is reluctant to get involved. But when a deadly figure from her past returns, Charlie finds herself caught up in the matter regardless and she has to figure out a way to protect those she loves even as everyone around her is desperate to gain knowledge of this magic.

As I’ve mentioned several times on my blog, I’ve never read any of the other books by Holly Black, not for lack of trying – somehow, I could never get through more than a couple of chapters of The Cruel Prince and finally gave up on it. When I heard about this book, I was quite excited to try it as there have been several authors whose YA works I didn’t like but I enjoyed their adult novels much more – and vice versa. And this reading experience did turn out much better, the story was engaging for the most part, the world building intriguing, and the writing and narration style held my interest easily – more mature sounding as suits the age group of the novel. I managed to miss out on the fact that this was urban fantasy though, which immediately put this book in the ‘difficult to get through’ category as I’ve always had trouble with the genre.

The characters were good enough, though personally, I was far more caught up in trying to figure out what was going on with the plot. I wouldn’t say Charlie and Vincent were particularly memorable but they were well written and likeable. The major POV is Charlie’s, but I really liked the brief interludes that Vince gets too, along with the flashbacks that popped up every now and again.

However, while the plot, magic system and world definitely had potential, the execution felt a little lacking. For a fantasy novel, the mystery/thriller aspect was just a little too heavy and more or less overshadowed the magic system which I would have loved to see more of – the concept of shadows being altered was so fascinating and I was rather disappointed that the story didn’t go into more depth about it, making the world building weak. The excitement of the adventure isn’t there until the last quarter or so of the book, and for most of the time before that, the story seemed to wander without much happening. This book was also very short in terms of page length at barely 300, but by the time I finished it, it felt more akin to a 600 page novel.

The ending was great, and it was actually what I was expecting the mood and tone of the entire book to be like. There were a lot of unexpected twists in those final chapters and I think it made up for the rest of the book atleast a little. Overall, I guess this was a decent read, but it is unlikely I will be reading the sequel regardless that this book ended on a sort of cliffhanger. While Book of Night didn’t really work for me, I would still recommend it if the premise appeals to you, and especially for readers who are more accustomed to reading urban fantasy.

Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!
Other reviews in this series:

10 thoughts on “Book of Night – Holly Black

  1. jkennedy August 23, 2022 / 10:11 am

    The world building was confusing for me too. Like please explain this to me like I’m 5 lol. But i enjoyed it for the most part!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I'm All Booked Up YA August 23, 2022 / 2:33 pm

    We had similar problems with The Cruel Prince at first. We found the first 1/3 boring, but then really liked that last 2/3s.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Raji (@journeyintofantasy) September 11, 2022 / 9:29 pm

      I haven’t yet managed to read The Cruel Prince, I keep stopping after a couple of chapters, but maybe I’ll give it another try!


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