Alongside the world we know exists the Night World, inhabited by vampires and werewolves and witches, and all other manner of supernatural creature, and ruled over by the incredibly strict Night World Council. And one of the Night World’s most fiercely enforced rules is that of isolation; no human can ever know of its existence, under the pain of death – a rule which causes huge problems when some Night World citizens begin to discover that they have human soulmates…
The Night World series is comprised of nine fairly short books, each following a different pair of unlikely soulmates, and vary in quality from great fun, to good fun, to somewhat mediocre. All nine are primarily romance-driven, but most of them also include some kind of stakes for the characters beyond the danger that is posed to them by their feelings for one another – those being the best of the lot.
Some of my favourite stories are:
- Daughters of Darkness (#2), in which the three Redfern sisters (a powerful vampire family) come to live with their estranged aunt, only to find her murdered – which raises the question, who could possibly be able to kill her, in a town where no-one should even know that vampires exist? Meanwhile, their less-than-friendly brother Ash has been dispatched to bring them home, whether they like it or not, and their human neighbour Mary-Lynnette, is becoming increasingly suspicious of their night-time activities.
- Soulmate (#6), in which Hannah Snow begins finding notes in her own handwriting, warning her of her own death, betrayed by a vampire who claims to love her. He has killed her countless times before, and in every life he is fated to find her again… But in this life, will she be able to break the cycle?
- and Black Dawn (#8), in which Maggie leaves home in search of her missing brother, only for her search to lead her to one of the Night World’s most closely-guarded secrets: a hidden kingdom ruled by vampires, where the only humans are slaves. There she meets Prince Delos, and learns that she is his soulmate, but even that won’t guarantee her survival, or her brother’s.
Smith’s heroines tend to be spirited, pro-active (though always distinct) and likeable, and although her use of the soulmates trope means that much of the romance is a little on the insta-love side of things, the relationships do continue to deepen after being given the “one true love” label. And I particularly appreciated, given the bad-boy love interests that Smith seems so keen on, that the love of a soulmate wasn’t presented as something that would fix personality flaws, or wipe away the more problematic aspects of the characters’ pasts.
There is an overarching storyline that makes itself known in the last few books, but each one also stands very well on its own… which is probably for the best, as the series remains unfinished. The tenth book, Strange Fate, has yet to be published, and since fans of the series have been waiting for it for more than twenty years already, and there’s still no sign of any progress having been made on it, I don’t really expect it to ever be released (despite it still being listed on Smith’s website as “to come”).
Otherwise, the main thing that connects these stories together (apart from the backdrop) are a few character cameos from earlier books, which are nice if you spot them, but not essential to understanding or enjoying each book’s individual plot. Like many contemporary series, the Night World books can be read in pretty much any order (I personally started with #9, Witchlight), though naturally the later books expect at least a very basic understanding of the world…
Overall, this is a really fun romance series, with some really great highs and only a few lows. There was only one book which I found myself actively disliking (#4, Dark Angel, which had a truly frustrating main character), and even that one improved a lot as it went on. The series as a whole is let down by the unfinished state of its overarching plot, but each of the currently-published books has enough substance to stand on its own.