Pros: Fulfills all the promise of Black Wings and then some
Cons: Slightly stilted start; faerie queen could have used a little more depth
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Review book (uncorrected proof) courtesy of Penguin Group
Expected publication date: 7/26/11
Spoiler alert: I’ll try to avoid too many spoilers for the previous novel in this series, Black Wings, but I can’t avoid all of them. Even summarizing the premise for this one will give away plot points from that other book. So if you haven’t read that one yet, you might want to wait to read this review.
Madeline Black is an Agent of Death, whose job is to collect souls and deliver them to their final destination. Deaths are occurring that weren’t expected, meaning they never should have happened. But before Maddy can investigate much of anything, family duties pull her away. Her grandfather, Lucifer, wants her to act as a diplomat to the faerie court. It’s a very delicate mission, which means Maddy is exactly the last person who should head it up—and the last emissary lost his head (literally) just for a minor breach in protocol.
Now Maddy has to figure out who’s killing werewolves, negotiate a treaty, cope with the fiance she despises, figure out how she can get closer to her bodyguard without getting him killed by her demonic father, and keep her head (literally). It’s a tall order for someone who has a knack for getting into trouble.
Christina Henry’s Black Night fulfills all the promise of Black Wings. In my review of that book, I said that the world-building and story were fantastic, but it felt as though the writer hadn’t quite yet gotten her verbal footing. In Black Night, Ms. Henry has clearly hit the ground running. There’s a brief bit of that stilted feeling right at the beginning, but it fades quickly, leaving behind only a riveting adventure of a novel. The tonal issues I noted have also smoothed over—the narrator’s voice is less light-hearted, so it doesn’t clash with the darker material. (There’s still plenty of personality and humor, however.)
While Maddy has the by-now traditional snarky attitude of modern heroines, she has a nice variation on that attitude: she has a temper. She has difficulty keeping her mouth shut when she should, and that definitely gets her into trouble. It’s a believable flaw that causes her trouble and complicates the plot without feeling overly frustrating. The other characters surrounding her are delightfully fascinating—my favorite is still Beezle, her gargoyle, but her boss is great, as is her grandfather (Lucifer!). Her obnoxious fiance gets a lot more screen time, revealing some interesting facets to his personality. My only character disappointment was, mildly, the faerie queen. On the one hand she’s a fairly simplistic character. On the other hand, faeries of legend often seem to embody specific traits, so it was easy to look past that.
The pacing of Black Night caught me up and wouldn’t let go. I started reading the book at a cafe in the morning and had difficulty getting up to leave because I didn’t want to close the book! The events, characters, and mysteries kept me guessing, kept me flipping the pages to find out what would happen next. I must have finished the book in record time. I also have to say that Black Night has within its pages the most utterly believable and wonderful depiction I’ve ever seen of a character forced to face her darkest fears. It’s a setup so many writers attempt, and it usually ends up feeling hollow. Not so this time.
I believe it would be relatively easy to start with Black Night, although I can’t say for sure; certainly you’d be better off starting with Black Wings. Just remember that if you aren’t wholly bowled over by the first book, the second is worth checking out regardless!