Book Review: A Day of Fallen Night

Samantha Shannon ~ A Day of Fallen Night

Synopsis

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, in the Queendom of Inys, Sabran the Ambitious has married the new King of Hróth, narrowly saving both realms from ruin. Their daughter, Glorian, trails in their shadow – exactly where she wants to be.

The dragons of the East have slept for centuries. Dumai has spent her life in a Seiikinese mountain temple, trying to wake the gods from their long slumber. Now someone from her mother’s past is coming to upend her fate.

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

Review

I adored The Priory of the Orange Tree (TPOTOT), but I didn’t think it needed a sequel. Or a prequel. However, I am more than happy to admit that A Day of Fallen Night (ADOFN) was the prequel I didn’t know I needed!

By telling us the story of Seiiki and Inys from centuries before TPOTOT, we are given access to extra research and history from Shannon’s imagination. And I loved it. Returning to the world that I’d loved just a few months before was phenomenal. Both books can be read as standalone books, but the additional insight gained from ADOFN makes me want to read Priory all over again so I can loudly exclaim “well of course Dumai was the one who inadvertently reinstated the Dragonriders”.

But that’s the brilliance of this book. It’s a powerful story in its own right. Nothing major happens in ADOFN that affects the characters in Priory. There are very subtle elements, such as a cloak changing colour, or a little extra history being shared so we feel smug, but otherwise Shannon is true to her word – these books are stand alone reads.

I did love returning to a world in which there are icheneumons, as these may be my new favourite creature. I also loved the contrast between the wyrms and dragons, as well as the different reactions towards them in the different provinces. This book is perhaps more brutal than Priory; the red sickness, mutilations and burnings are extremely vivid, but that is the nature of war. It has the casual queerness that I adored in Priory: there is no fanfare, just plenty of same sex relationships.

It was fascinating to hear more about the Priory Sisters and how they became protectors of the House of Berethnet. Tunuva’s backstory was sad, but despite the pain she carries within, she is a ruthless and determined fighter. Dumai is thrust into a life she did not expect when she discovers her true parentage, but accepts it with courage and resilience; her tough exterior gives way to compassion, especially in the way she treats her sister. Glorian lives in the shadow of her mother, until circumstances force her to become a leader.

Although the story centres around Dumai, Tunuva and Glorian, who are all strong and brave women, I felt that there were more male characters with interesting stories. Wulf is a great character who brings the stories together; I also enjoyed his blended family and the fierce loyalty his fathers and siblings showed towards him. His own reaction to the deaths of his friends is stark and harrowing.

The finale of this book is epic and we can only imagine what trials and tribulations the characters’ ancestors will have to face in the millennia before Priory.

Once again Shannon has shown she is a master of world-building, story telling and creating sympathetic characters. Despite its length of almost 900 pages, the pace and flow were excellent; when the book ended I was bereft, and eager to dive back into Priory and lose myself in the fantasy world.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing for my proof copy. Opinion my own.

Other books by Samantha Shannon: The Priory of the Orange Tree

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