Book Review

Night Spinner

Night Spinner

  • Author: Addie Thorley
  • Genre: YA Fantasy
  • Publication Date: February 11, 2020
  • Publisher: Page Street Kids
  • Series: Night Spinner #1

TRIGGER WARNINGS: child soldiers, torture, war, murder, starvation, gore

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Before the massacre at Nariin, Enebish was one of the greatest warriors in the Sky King’s Imperial Army: a rare and dangerous Night Spinner, blessed with the ability to control the threads of darkness. Now, she is known as Enebish the Destroyer―a monster and murderer, banished to a monastery for losing control of her power and annihilating a merchant caravan.

Guilt stricken and scarred, Enebish tries to be grateful for her sanctuary, until her adoptive sister, Imperial Army commander Ghoa, returns from the war front with a tantalizing offer. If Enebish can capture the notorious criminal, Temujin, whose band of rebels has been seizing army supply wagons, not only will her crimes be pardoned, she will be reinstated as a warrior.

Enebish eagerly accepts. But as she hunts Temujin across the tundra, she discovers the tides of war have shifted, and the supplies he’s stealing are the only thing keeping thousands of shepherds from starving. Torn between duty and conscience, Enebish must decide whether to put her trust in the charismatic rebel or her beloved sister. No matter who she chooses, an even greater enemy is advancing, ready to bring the empire to its knees.

Enebish is a difficult character. She rose through the ranks of the Imperial Army, which would indicate that she’s not only tough, but smart. However, while she’s got the tough part down, she doesn’t seem to be very smart throughout the book. She also struggled to make any decisions for herself, preferring to just follow someone else’s lead. I didn’t see how that would make her a good candidate for a leadership role in the army. Also, kids enlist in the army at ELEVEN years old in this book. That was definitely an issue for me. Currently, she’s emotionally scarred and physically disabled, and clearly isn’t willing to admit to either, even though both issues are blatantly obvious.

“‘I’ll tell you if I need to slow down,’ I say, even though we both know I never would. Admitting I need help is the same as admitting there’s something wrong with me. And if my physical ailments are real, that means the ones inside me are real too.”

The kingdom is loosely inspired by what seemed like Mongolia at some points — a central city, nomadic peoples, expanding borders, and a character named Temujin — but at other points it seemed more European. There’s a clash between the centralized kingdom and the Protected Territories, who are not allowed to practice their religion, traditions, and maintain their culture. The magic system isn’t fully explored, and there are parts of it that I felt were unclear. Of course, Enebish’s talent is discussed a little more than others, but that’s about as deep as it goes:

“I am a Night Spinner, able to paint the sky with blackness and call down starfire like rain. It’s a rare and dangerous ability — and the reason I rose through the ranks so quickly.”

Temujin is a morally gray character, and Enebish only wants to believe the best about him, even though he literally tells her like A MILLION TIMES that he exists in shades of gray. More evidence that she isn’t as smart as she likes to think. In the end, I realized I just didn’t care that much about any of the characters.

“‘Good is relative, Enebish. There are a thousand sides to every story. A million shades of gray between black and white.’”

I didn’t love the story. It was kind of slow moving, with long periods where not a lot went on. It felt like the author couldn’t really decide on whether to create a slow-burn romance or a love triangle, and ended up just not really doing much with that angle. I would have preferred if she had just come down on one side of the fence or the other, but instead there was a long, drawn-out, not quite romantic angle. It was honestly a little disappointing.

The final nail in the coffin for me? The fact that it ended on a total cliffhanger without any real resolution, which is a total pet peeve of mine. I don’t mind when there are some loose threads to carry into the next book, as long as there is some kind of closure provided, but there really wasn’t any closure at all, and then it hit me with “END OF BOOK ONE” which made me want to just scream in frustration.

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 7

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