Series Review: Night World by L.J. Smith (Spoiler-Free)

    

    

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.

#CRUSHYOURTBR: Wrap-Up

The readathon is now sadly over, but I had a good three reading days, and I think I did quite well overall! I managed to finish three of the five books on my TBR, as well as one other that I wasn’t planning on reading for #CRUSHYOURTBR, and I also managed to get through a couple more chapters of a fourth book from my list. 😀 Here’s a breakdown of the books I read this weekend:

DAY 1 (161 pages)

Terry Pratchett//MortMort by Terry Pratchett (the final 190 pages). The story of a boy called Mort who gets hired as an apprentice to Death, and on his first day taking on the duties of Death by himself, he accidentally saves the life of someone who was meant to die, which has some very bizarre consequences on the Discworld. This book was hilarious, as all Terry Pratchett’s books that I’ve read have been. The main characters – Mort, Death, his daughter Ysabell and his servant Albert, the Princess Keli, and the wizard Cutwell – were all brilliant to read about, and the story and setting were delightfully weird.4 stars

Nawat by Tamora Pierce (71 pages, from the Tortall and Other Lands anthology). A follow-up novella to the Daughter of the Lioness duology, wherein Aly gives birth to triplets, and she and Nawat (a crow who’s taken human form) try to raise them according to both their human and crow heritages. This was probably my favourite story in the whole anthology, despite the fact that I wasn’t as keen on the Daughter of the Lioness books as I have been on some of Tamora Pierce’s other works… Nevertheless, it was a really cute and funny read.4 stars

DAY 2 (584 pages)

The Dragon’s Tale by Tamora Pierce (62 pages, from Tortall and Other Lands). This one is set sometime after the events of The Immortals quartet, and follows Kitten, the baby dragon that Daine adopted in Wild Magic, as she tries to befriend a young homeless woman who’s been cast out of the nearby village with her infant son, because the villagers are afraid of her magic. I wasn’t a huge fan of Kitten’s voice in this, but otherwise I thought it was very well done. Fans of The Immortals quartet will undoubtedly like it a lot, but I don’t think it was quite as good as Nawat3 stars

At this point, I picked up The Harlequin, and I managed to get through 80 pages of it, but since this series isn’t exactly safe for work, I decided not to take it with me while I was at work all afternoon, then babysitting. 😛 So…

Lost by Tamora Pierce (41 pages, fromTortall and Other Lands). The last of the Tortall-universe stories in the collection, Lost didn’t feature any familiar characters from her previous books, but instead focused on a young but talented mathematician called Adria, living with her abusive father, who one day meets a darking called Lost. This story was really sweet (darkings are so cute!), and all the characters were very relatable – it would’ve been nice if Adria had done a bit more to try to save herself, but it was really great seeing Lost try to help her regain confidence in herself and her abilities.4 stars

Chuck Dixon & Scott Beatty//Batgirl/Robin: Year OneBatgirl / Robin: Year One by Chuck Dixon & Scott Beatty (the final 374 pages). The origin stories of both Dick Grayson (the first Robin) and Barbara Gordon (the first Batgirl). Dick’s story involves a plot by Two-Face (with some input from Shrike, of the League of Assassins), while Barbara has to face off against Killer Moth and Firefly, but both are really engrossing – fast-paced and well-thought out, with great art and character development. I liked the Batgirl comic a little better than the Robin one (which probably only really deserved 4 stars), but they were both excellent.5 stars

Time of Proving by Tamora Pierce (9 pages, from Tortall and Other Lands). A very short story about a girl travelling in the desert, who meets a wounded bull-man and decides to teach him how to survive in the wild. This was an interesting story, and I liked the characters a lot, but it was just much too short, and would really have benefitted from having the world a bit more fleshed-out…3 starsPlain Magic by Tamora Pierce (18 pages, from Tortall and Other Lands). Another snapshot of a story, this time about a girl living in a town that’s about to be attacked by a dragon, and how she meets a woman who has magic with cloth and thread. This was a little more substantial than Time of Proving, so I was able to get a bit more into it – it reminded me a lot of Sandry, from Tamora Pierce’s Circle of Magic books, though I know they’re not actually connected… 😛4 stars

DAY 3 (242 pages)

Mimic by Tamora Pierce (42 pages, from Tortall and Other Lands). The story of a young shepherd girl who finds a strange lizard-like creature that can mimic other animals, and nurses it back to health. This was one of the anthology’s stronger stories – the characters were likeable and well-developed, and I got emotionally invested enough that the ending made me quite sad (though it’s not a sad story overall). I’d definitely like to see more from this universe!4 stars

Laurell K. Hamilton//The HarlequinThe Harlequin by Laurell K. Hamilton (the final 104 pages). Anita and co. are sent a white mask, which means that the Harlequin (the vampires’ equivalent to the bogeyman, but real) are watching them. And things escalate from there. I can’t believe how long it’s taken me to read this book! 😡 I think I’ve been around halfway through it for about three years or so, so I was pretty surprised that I still remembered what was going on (& therefore, thankfully, I didn’t need to re-start it). And reading it really brought back just how much I love most of the characters in this series (though, just for the record, I still think there are way too many of them…) It’s such a shame that, story-wise the books have gone so far downhill – there was a plot in The Harlequin, but about half of the book was still taken up with all Anita’s relationship issues. (And sex. Lots and lots of sex. Apparently I was right in the middle of a sex scene when I last put this down, so that made for an interesting place to start… 😳 ). I still don’t know if I’m going to read any more of this series, but if I do, then I’ll definitely be picking them up at the library rather than buying them…3 stars

Huntress by Tamora Pierce (26 pages, from Tortall and Other Lands). A story set in modern-day New York, about a girl who gets into huge trouble while trying to fit in with the popular crowd at her school. The real world isn’t something Tamora Pierce usually writes about, but there was a little magic in this, in the form of a goddess who shows up at the end. It was also rather more violent than most of what I’ve read of her work, though I still quite liked it… 🙂

3 stars

Testing by Tamora Pierce (24 pages, from Tortall and Other Lands). This is the last of the short stories in the collection, and has no fantasy elements at all, much to my surprise! 😮 It tells the story of a group of girls in a group home, who pull pranks in order to scare off their new housemothers, and of one particular housemother who manages to surprise them. I didn’t think it was a bad story, exactly, but it did drag rather, and it felt a lot longer than the 24 pages that it actually was. It apparently drew partly on some of Tamora Pierce’s own experiences as a housemother, and I appreciated the brief notes section that came before it in the book…

2 stars

Lastly, I picked up The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud in the last few hours of Sunday, but I only managed to get through 46 pages, so I guess I’ll be finishing that in the next few days…