Thank you NetGalley and Bookouture for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.
Synopsis: Like deep dark water, it pulls them down. The faint fire of magic within them flickers and dies. Their eyes turn black as night. They are nightborn now.
Grace Marchant has been many things: streetwise orphan, rebellious servant, and now beloved companion of Prince Bastien, heir to the throne of Larelwynn. But their sunlit happiness is not destined to last. The golden magic which brought them together in purest passion is threatened by strange and ancient forces. Innocent people are becoming nightborn – cruel, deadly, unrecognisable to their loved ones – and these two young lovers are the only ones with power enough to stop it.
In times of peace, striking a deal with their closest enemy would be unthinkable, but now their only hope is to ally with the neighbouring Valenti royal family: manipulative, cunning, and always with an eye on the Larelwynn throne. The partnership comes at a devastating price… if Grace wants to defeat the nightborn, she must watch Bastien marry a Valenti princess.
Grace knows she must make this heart-wrenching sacrifice for the good of the whole kingdom – but she also fears the magic in her veins, usually so warm and bright, is turning cold as deepest midnight. A beguiling darkness whispers to her from within. Is Grace herself becoming nightborn?
Time is running out. With Bastien promised to another, and a stony distance growing between them, will Grace find the source of the nightborn curse before every last soul is consumed by the darkness? (Amazon)
I liked Mageborn, it was a good story. But my attention and enjoyment of it wavered throughout the novel. With Nightborn, however, I was gripped from start to finish. I was thriving along that high tension.
In Nightborn, we pick up months after the end of Mageborn alongside Bastien, Grace, and the gang as they move into the Valenti Islands in hopes of an alliance against Rathlynn. One of the things that made me anxious about the synopsis of Nightborn was the premise that a love triangle might be found in the midst of this second installment. As a personal preference, I am not a fan of love triangles. They are cliché, they've been done a million times, and if I do read one, I hope and pray that it will be done in a way that will allow me to still enjoy the story while I attempt to manage my anxiety levels. I commend Jessica Thorne. Not only did she deliver on this fervent hope of mine, but she didn't give us the typical love triangle that I would expect in this scenario. The fact that she still gave the allusion of it, and then threw in a twist, made me like this book even more because I admire and appreciate an author who thinks outside the box. With just a little tweak of the characters and their personalities, the cliché was averted.
The plot of Nightborn was fascinating. We are given a hint as to what a nightborn is from the first novel—they are the reason that mageborn paid homage to Bastien. But without Bastien around, and with the Deep Dark disturbed after Grace's death and return in Mageborn, the nightborn now run rampant. Their magic is twisted, broken, and they are out to maim and kill and destroy. In mind of this, if you expect chaos, death, bloodshed and fear, you are not going to be disappointed. Nightborn more than delivers on this while the main cast of the novel runs for their lives in an attempt to not just solve this problem, but to find a solution for the way that the Deep Dark is affecting Grace.
If she played a strong role before, Grace steals the show in this book, and I am delighted by that. This is a case of me liking a character at first, but then really appreciating them the more that I get to know them. Grace is headstrong without being overconfident, and she is not immune from feeling the obvious fear that someone might feel when there is an ancient and powerfully magical force taking over you. She's more than willing to sacrifice herself for those she loves, but it's not a blind sacrifice. She wants to find a way to end what is potentially going to ruin an entire group of people, rather than blindly throw herself to the mercy of whatever god might make this happen and hope for the best. She was very human in her weaknesses and strengths, and her love for Bastien—and their relationship, in general—is not just stronger, but more deeply felt, and I couldn't help but connect with it.
There are going to be some surprises, many coming from the antagonists of this cast. Asher Kane is a delight to hate, and he almost overwhelms Aurelie in “bad guy” persona. Where Aurelie is hatred borne of pride and an ego the size of the entire kingdom of Rathlynn, Asher is smart. He uses that intelligence to his advantage. He certainly uses it a time or two here.
If there was anything that made me draw back in doubt about Nightborn, it was likely Kane and company's easy capture of Bastien and coercion into him going along with their plans near the novel's start. On one hand, I am not surprised. Bastien has been used before. But the ease with which it was done, while he still retained his powers at full strength and could defend himself, was unbelievable to me, rubbed me the wrong way, and left me dissatisfied. I'm still not wholly convinced, and in part feel that it was done so that the marriage with Rynn could happen. Besides, you would think that Bastien, who has lived in a nest of vipers for years, would know better than to go into another one, on his own, to reason with them.
You're lovely, Bastien, and I adore you, but that was never going to work out and you must have known it.
Book three must be coming next if the second's end is anything to judge by, and I want my hands all over it already. The ending to Nightborn was slightly weakened for me by Grace's neat salvation—again. It happened far too easily, although I'm sure that the Hollow King had/has a plan, and that we may (I hope) later find out about it. But I am eager, now that I find myself well and truly hooked into this story, to continue following its path.