Blood and Shadows || The Book of Night Review

Initial Thoughts:

I think I’ve solved my Holly Black beginning-book problems, because she did the EXACT SAME THING to me in The Cruel Prince and–to a lesser extent–Tithe. Book of Night was definitely on the slow end, and while it picked up for me a third in, it sputtered again in the middle. However, I thought the last 50 pages were EVERYTHING and the slow lead-up was almost worth it. Almost. It was like reading the high-energy end of TCP again after slogging through a lot of worldbuilding, with a really good entry into what I can only hope is a sequel coming soon (probably not too soon, considering this one just came out recently…but one can hope!). Also, Charlie Hall is a fantastic protag, and I love her.


by Holly Black
Tor, May 2022
Adult urban fantasy, mystery
Rated: 3.5 / 5 cookies

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.

After the high I had gained from reading The Folk of the Air trilogy and How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories, picking up another Holly Black book seemed like the next logical thing to do. That said, I still had some hesitation around Book of Night because ultimately it was marketed as an adult book, and seemed to take place in an urban fantasy setting. Now I love me some urban fantasies–I still almost religiously follow at least one (Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series)–but this brought me back to the fact that me loving Cardan and Jude’s story does not mean I would love everything Holly Black has put on the table, fae or non-fae alike.


Charlie Hall is a size 14 (yes, get it, girl!), tattooed bartender with a chip on her shoulder, a sister to support, a mysterious boyfriend to investigate, and a lot of thievery under her belt. I absolutely love her. While she spends a majority of the beginning avoiding being pulled into the conspiracies of the shadow underground, fate does not seem to let up, and she finds herself entrenched once again into the the realm of shadow and death.

There is a lot of worldbuilding set-up in this book, particularly when it comes to the magic of the shadows. I thought it was extremely cool to set up shadow magic as a mixture of blood magic and almost “sewing” the shadow into a person (did this remind anyone else of Peter Pan? ‘Cause I was definitely getting that here!). I found I wanted to know more, especially about the prominent figures within the shadow underground. I was really intrigued by the side chapters of this mysterious shadow and his “master,” and for a most of the beginning, I actually thought these scenes were more riveting than Charlie’s.

BoN isn’t without its fair share of slowness, though. Like The Cruel Prince, it took me a while to acclimate myself into the world. I really didn’t get into the swing of things with Charlie and Vince and the mystery behind the “Book of Blights” (Or is it “Book of Night”? I kept getting confused here, because people kept referring to the same book with different names) until the scene with Vince at the bar near a third into the book. Unlike The Cruel Prince, it’s a very slow middle, and not much picks up until near the end when every subplot actually starts to connect. And boy, do they connect.

Was it worth slogging through the next hundred pages or so? Well, if I got through The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue and ended up loving the book in the end, I sure wasn’t going to let some measly hundred deter me!

Needless to say, I enjoyed the high energy that the end of Book of Night provided. I didn’t have very many “WTF” moments, but when I did, I TRULY lost my shit. If the ending has any indication of how the next book will play out, then by all means, Holly Black, keep tugging at my shadow-strings! I’m ready for the next installment.

3.5 out of 5 cookies! Hopefully now that a lot of the setting has been established, there isn’t so much infodumping in the sequels.

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