by Addie Thorley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The nice thing about going in with low expectations is you can be pleasantly surprised! While it took me a few chapters to really get into this; once I was in there was no getting out. If you think you know how this story might go because it’s a retelling then think again. There are twists and turns here I did not expect (or even see coming!). All of the plot points play well into the character personalities set-up (nothing cheap) and adhere to the constructs were given for this (somewhat gothic) fantasy universe.
A Creative Retelling
The biggest mistake here would be to expect the Hunchback of Notre Dame (Disney or original) characters or story in anything more than on the surface. While the basic construct of the story is similar, our lead gal is obviously the hunchback, and many themes are picked up; Night Spinner has so much more to give. In fact I think it probably doesn’t give enough credit to Addie Thorley to say this is ‘just a retelling’. The last 100 pages took me by total surprise (which was great) and is where Thorley really makes this plot her own once and for all.
How many different essays could be written based on the themes, archetypes, and twisted plot of Night Spinner? Dozens at the very least! There’s so much to unpack here. Of course we have the major theme which is what makes someone a ‘monster’. Other themes include: desertion, morality, loyalty and betrayal, family versus blood, and finally treason. All these are globbed together in such a way that we feel every decision our main gal (and others) make.
This may be on the one place where Thorley could make some larger improvements; but given most YA fantasy literature out there these days I’m willing to give it a pass. Our characters are very clear archetypes at times and make decisions as expected (nothing cheap here). Some are a bit one dimensional at first; but all of them play key elements in the end. I love the way many characters who seem to be ‘unimportant’ at first become critical players in the end.
I want our leading gals magic so bad! It’s different from most of the people in her land and seriously badass. The ability to gather darkness and surround yourself (or others) in it, so that you become almost invisible, is crazy cool and has a gothic feel I adore.
”...as soon as I flex my wrists, the ribbons of darkness wing from the forests like bats...”
Thorley uses this control of shadows and darkness in unique ways and ensures we are aware that the magic comes at a price and needs certain sources in order to work. Use of magic takes a massive physical toll on the user. Bringing me to one of my favourite elements of the novel, actual injuries and fatigue.
One of the constant themes in Night Spinner focuses on mortality. Although our characters are all from different areas, races and religions, they are all still human-like and mortal. And each of them is falliable and subject to injuries they can’t just ‘fight through’.
Even more surprising is while there is magic to essentially revive someone or bring them back from the brink (and yes it’s used); it didn’t feel cheap to me when used. Thorley is selective about using the magic and healing; instead generally defaulting to having characters that need actual rest and sleep to heal. It’s refreshing to not have characters that seem to be unbeatable and have an endless amount of energy. In fact our lead gal spends most of the story needing rest and pushing herself to accommodate and overcome her physical disabilities and it’s probably 50/50 whether she can find reserve strength or falters entirely.
What I have no doubt of is that Thorley has set us up with a beautifully constructed fantasy world. There is so much to explore still. This could be the type of series that runs past a trilogy if continuity is held up and advance thought out into the plot. Given how much happens in Night Spinner I don’t think plot or twists will be a problem for Thorley to continue to deliver on. As each time our characters do (almost) anything it’s subject to a morality test there are innumerable number of circumstances available.
My recommendation, get in now and be a part of what could very well be the next big YA fantasy series. I hope that even though this is with a smaller publisher it gets the marketing and attention it deserves. This gothic fantasy universe has so much more to give and I can’t wait to read more!
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
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