Book Review : A Day of Fallen Night

Book Review : A Day of Fallen NightA Day of Fallen Night by Samantha Shannon
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing USA on February 28th 2023
Genres: Fantasy, Epic, Coming of Age
Pages: 880
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three-stars

The stunning, standalone prequel to the New York Times bestselling The Priory of the Orange Tree.“A magnificent, sweeping epic. Shannon has created a world rich in intricate mythology, beautifully realized and complex.” Jennifer Saint, bestselling author of Ariadne
In A Day of Fallen Night, Samantha Shannon sweeps readers back to the universe of Priory of the Orange Tree and into the lives of four women, showing us a course of events that shaped their world for generations to come.
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.

 

When I found out there was another entry in The Roots of Chaos series releasing, I was absolutely ecstatic. The first novel in this series, The Priory of the Orange Tree, is one of my favorite novels of all time, so I was beyond excited to return to this world once again. A Day of Fallen Night takes place before the events of The Priory of the Orange Tree and this prequel does a great job of setting up for the events of The Priory, while also providing a complex cast of female characters and expansions on the same world and its cultures.

 

A Day of Fallen Night, like The Priory, feels like a feminist fantasy and is filled with lots of different examples of strong female characters. We follow the heir to the Berethnet throne, Glorian, as she reconciles herself with the fact that her number one duty to her kingdom is to marry and to produce a female heir in order to protect the realm from The Nameless One, an evil dragon of legend that emerges from the earth, bringing with it not only an army of wyverns and other creatures, but also a deadly plague. According to legend and religion, as long as a queen of the Berethnet line, each one appearing identical to the last, sits the throne in Inys, The Nameless One cannot rise again. But to Glorian’s horror, strange events are happening in her kingdom, and agents of The Nameless One take wing once more. She alone must hold her people together.

 

“Thrones and houses do not matter. Your disputes do not matter. If the fire rises, all will burn. Furtia lowered her face, unleashing her cold breath on Dumai.”


In the Eastern part of the world, in Seiiki, a young girl called Dumai lives on a remote mountain top temple and finds there is more to her own bloodline than she thought. She will have to leave everything she ever knows to fulfill her sacred duty to the gods and to her people. Lastly, the third female narrator in A Day of Fallen Night is Tunuvia, a high ranking member of the Priory of the Orange Tree. The fourth perspective of the novel is offered by the sole male narrator named Wulfert “Wulf” Glenn, a housecarl to Glorian’s father and Glorian’s childhood friend.

A Day of Fallen Night explores what it means to be a strong female character and does not shy away from tough subjects such as pregnancy, labor, motherhood, the relationship between mothers and daughters as well as sisters, and the loss of a child. What I like the most about this novel is that each female character showcases a different kind of strength. Unlike most modern forms of entertainment, which associate a strong and independent female character with one that is single, alone, or without family, friends, or other loved ones to rely upon in times of need— A Day of Fallen Night shows these women as fiercely capable whether they are with loved ones or not.

To top it off, each of these powerful women have very different varieties of strengths. Glorian is able to singlemindedly determine the right path, despite naysayers, and confidently blazes towards it. She does not ask of her followers what she would not do herself—taking up a sword and shield and riding into battle against all of the hellish creatures risen from the Dreadmount. Dumai, on the other hand, is able to quickly learn the role she must play, adapt to it, and to watch and wait for the right time to strike. And unlike her counterparts, Tunuva the tomb keeper of the Priory, is led not by the rules and rituals of the Priory, but by her heart. It is so refreshing to see these women, all of whom are in leadership positions, wrestle with what is most important during what is essentially the end of the world as they know it. And to make things even better, the female side and background characters are also full of complexity too. 

 

“‘I’m not a warrior,’ Glorian said. Her throat ached. ‘I want to be, Father. I want to be like you.’ The cast of his jaw softened. ‘But a warrior possesses her own body. Inys has mine.’”


My favorite character out of all of these complex characters was by far Glorian. Glorian is unlike other queens of the Berethnet line, being born of a union between a Hrothi king and a Berethnet queen. The people of Hroth are warriors, with bands of housecarls serving a thane, and put me to mind of Vikings, or the nords of Skyrim. I really liked that Glorian always felt a pull to her father’s icy world and that she was not content to solely remain a pampered princess. Instead, she learned to wield a sword and shield to defend herself in battle. I loved learning more about the kingdom of Hroth through Glorian’s longing for the country and also through the eyes of her father’s housecarl, Wulf. Similarly, I liked taking a closer look at the cultures of the Seiiki and Lacustrine through Dumai.

Though each character is perfectly poised to shed light on different beliefs and cultures throughout their world, I found the perspective of the sole male character, Wulf, to be lacking— much like Loth in The Priory of the Orange Tree. Though author Samantha Shannon is incredibly talented at crafting a multitude of complex female characters, I can’t help but to find her male characters bland and one dimensional by comparison, with even female side characters having more development than the male protagonists. If I had to describe both Loth and Wulf, it’d be in woefully basic terms—loyal to a fault and more than willing to do whatever is asked of them. Even when Loth and Wulf are in extraordinary circumstances, both men are incontrovertibly boring, which is a shame. Plus, neither of their romances are ever given the same focus or build up as their female counterparts, especially in the case of Wulf. This disappointed me, as I was pretty invested in Wulf’s budding relationship. I can’t help but to wonder if the author even wanted to write from a male perspective in each of these novels or if she was forced to include these perspectives in order to appeal to a wider audience. 

 

Though I adore the entire premise of A Day of Fallen Night—an ancient evil that must be prevented from awakening, a false religion, a secret organization of warrior maidens, and a battle fought between dragons and wyrms—and love that I had the opportunity to look at the events that shaped the world before The Priory of the Orange Tree, I found that because I had already read The Priory, a plot development that would have been a twist, or at the very least, a shocking revelation to readers brand new to the world, lacked any impact for me. Instead, I was simply watching these blatantly obvious signs and waiting for the reveal to come the entire time, as I knew it inevitably would. Sadly, this rendered the build up to this reveal and the actual reveal itself pretty anticlimactic and unsatisfying for me. It was frustrating to watch the characters fail to miss all of the signs of this again and again as well, as they were super obvious to me. Author Shannon has said that readers can read A Day of Fallen Night or The Priory of the Orange Tree as standalones or in any order, but I found myself disappointed that I had already read The Priory before A Day of Fallen Night, which was a weird thing to feel about one of my all time favorite novels.

 

In contrast to The Priory of the Orange Tree, I really struggled with the pacing of A Day of a Fallen Night. I don’t really understand the narrative choices that were being made with the pacing. Sometimes, it takes characters days of travel to make it somewhere else, and other times it happens in the blink of an eye. Time skips happen with little fanfare or definition of the length of time passed as well, which I found disconcerting. I also felt that many developments that were given ample page space were not as important as other events that took place off page and that were then only alluded to later. Other times, important events that should have been climactic happened so quickly that I felt as if I was reading the CliffsNotes of the events rather than the actual proceedings themselves. 

 

For example, at one point, a character is fighting on dragon-back with an army of other dragons and has apparently established a sort of resistance in which to fight this battle, and then leads survivors into woods for sanctuary—all of this happens in a matter of paragraphs, instead of chapters and after an apparent time skip. It is hard to feel as invested in these characters or to celebrate their achievements when I was not witnessing them firsthand or when they happen so abruptly it feels unreal. I found it pretty disappointing to miss out on these big events in favor of people riding their ichneumons through the desert or passing through the security of a bordering country. Don’t get me wrong, I know A Day of Fallen Night is already massive, but I would have gladly hefted around an even bigger book to read more of these details.

 

‘After five centuries of waiting, we are the generation who will not only exalt the Mother, but do as she did,’ Esbar declared. ‘Ready yourselves. From today, we are at war.’

 

I would have especially liked to read more about why exactly a mysterious connection had appeared between two characters (other than for convenient plot reasons), and what regular life and training in the actual Priory of the Orange Tree was like, especially during this time period when the Priory was more in its prime. Though readers do get to witness more of the lifestyle of the Priory than ever before in A Day of Fallen NightI wanted more exposition. I wish that Tunuva’s adopted daughter, Siyu, a child of the Priory, had narrated her own life throughout the years, or at least in the later ones, so I could have learned firsthand about the practices of the Priory and what daily, habitual life was like there when a great war was not being fought. Seeing the Priory through the eyes of one of the leaders of the organizations doesn’t really offer much in that regard and I hope that this is something explored in future novels in the series.

 

Despite not having as much detail as I would have liked, I really did enjoy reading about this time in the world. It was very interesting to see how certain practices in The Priory of the Orange Tree that were already accepted came to be. This novel did a solid good job as a prequel and set up events in a way that enriches what we know of the same world in The Priory of the Orange Tree. A Day of Fallen Night is simple a no-brainer read for fans of The Priory of the Orange Tree. Although this novel doesn’t stray too much from the winning formula of the other entry in the series, it does provide further insight into the same world and its cultures, featuring strong female characters with diverse backgrounds and beliefs, LGBTQ+ romances, dragons, and plenty of magic.

 

I also feel as if this series, The Roots of Chaos, is perfect for fans of The Wheel of Time series as well, as it features powerful female mages in a secretive organization, an ominous mountain, and an unspeakable evil which must be stopped at all costs.  Even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of the pacing or the characterization (or lack thereof), of the sole male protagonist, Wulf, I truly loved returning to the same world in A Day of Fallen Night.  Though I ultimately do not feel as if A Day of Fallen Night was quite as strong as The Priory of the Orange Tree, I will most definitely be picking up any other future entries in this series.

 

 

three-stars
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Book Review : A Day of Fallen Night - Blogging with Dragons

Posted March 10, 2023 in Book Reviews, Fantasy

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2 responses to “Book Review : A Day of Fallen Night

  1. ANNA

    Will we ever find out if the inner voices of the lead cbaracters belong to the same spirit or person? Not clear where these are coming from and why they stick around, disappear, retur and then go silent.

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