This week’s Biblioshelf Musings is These Violent Nights by Rebecca Crunden – a gritty, adult fantasy with a cast of characters that break apart but rejoin together in an epic, sweeping conclusion. I would really like to thank Rebecca for sending me a complimentary copy of her book in exchange for my honest review.
Book: These Violent Nights by Rebecca Crunden
Publication Date: 31st March 2021
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
Once upon a time, inhabitants of another world tore a hole through the universe and came to Earth. They called themselves Suriias, and rivalled humans in knowledge and skill with one great exception: they had magic.
War followed. Humanity lost. And three hundred years later, humans are on the brink of extinction.
Orphans Thorn and Thistle live in hiding. They are the last of their families, the last of their friends. They scrape by, stealing to survive and living on the streets or hiding in sheds. But even under the brutal regime of the Suriias, there are places where humans can mingle in secret with magical sympathisers, and one night Thistle gets an unexpected offer of marriage from a Suriia with high standing and friends in all the right places. For Thistle, it’s a chance at safety and comfort; for Thorn, it’s a chance to find the ones who killed her parents.
And so the pair move into the capital city of Courtenz. An urban monstrosity of magic and might, false friends and flying cars, drones and death tolls, the new city promises a fresh start – and new love – for both.
But if there’s one thing Thorn knows for certain, it’s that dreams can swiftly turn into nightmares.
I sometimes find that I read so many Fantasy novels that fit into the YA age bracket that I can often end up putting myself into a bit of a rut and end up crying out for something just a little more on the dark side…
Well readers, These Violent Nights was it.
Earth has been torn apart by a War involving humans and supernatural beings who came to Earth from Salfar via a Tear in the dimensions of the universe. At the start of the novel, we are introduced to the fascinating, magically-built world of Courtenz with its metropolitan vibes, modern skyscrapers and technologically advanced Coach travel. In this world there is no place for humans; they are outcasts, kept as slaves or treated as the dregs of society. We really begin to feel the segregation of humans through the eyes of Thorn and Thistle who struggle to keep themselves alive and hidden.
As Thorn and Thistle’s world collides with their Suriia enemies, the first part of the novel showcases Thorn’s animosity towards Kol and Nithin and her mistrust of their true intentions. It drives the plot forward as she sets out to try and track down those responsible for her parents’ death whilst also attempting to find a new group of humans to band together with and escape the magical hell she has found herself caught up in.
From the diverse range of Suriia backgrounds and abilities, to the harrowing levels of violence and segregation between the humans and magic-bearers, there was plenty of complex world-building and plot politics to get stuck into. I enjoyed that the differences of the Frai, Vrykos, Ghuls (amongst others) was explained alongside the backdrop of information about how the world came to be as it is now. There was lots to take in, but not too much that it overwhelmed the action within the story.
The structuring of the novel is quite different to other stories I’ve read before. At times, the narrative felt like it was three linked novellas forming as one complete story arc. As the end of Part One rolls into Part Two we get left on a cliffhanger then introduced to an entirely new cast of characters as the story veers away from Thorn’s viewpoint. The reader gets to experience a new group of Suriia and human characters who live in a different part of this strange, dystopian Earth Crunden has created. In Lucien’s part of the world, humans pose more of a resistance and threat to the magic-bearers and this new story dynamic keeps the whole novel fresh and action-packed – all the while wondering what and where we are going to be taken next.
By the time Part Three begins, characters from both preceding parts collide. We get to see the aftermath of that cliffhanger at the end of Part One whilst also benefitting from a greater understanding of the world and circumstances of the groups of characters that dwell within it from explanations within Part Two. The final part of the novel brings the world of Salfar to the fore and provides a more traditional fantasy element than the previous parts of the story. It seeks to tie up the loose ends which came before it and supplies a neatly wrapped up conclusion (with some pretty, sneaky twists along the way)!
This three part plot was a bold way to structure the novel and even though it initially felt a little strange to leave one set of characters behind completely, it really paid off in the final climax of the novel as plots and conspiracies merge back together with both Suriia and humans now fighting for a common cause.
Overall, These Violent Nights is a dark, gritty and edgy adult fantasy novel which, as its title suggests, is packed with a ferocious wildness and complex, multi-layered plot. It’s most compelling element for me is how poignant the divide between Suriias and humans could so very easily be transposed into today’s real world issues: race, gender, vaxxed and unvaxxed… As my mind probably read way too deeply into that element of the story (too much Twitter doomscrolling!), the unsettling feeling which the novel invoked in me was exactly the type of vibe I was looking for after reading many fluffily-wrapped up happy endings.
Ultimately, underlying all of that segregation, revolution and warfare, These Violent Nights brings about an immensely memorable and strong group of characters to champion. Characters who overcome their personal issues and fight to craft out a world they truly believe in. A cast who sacrifice and compromise, who break down their barriers, who overcome their differences, all with the aim of trying to bring about a more understanding, hopeful and harmonious future for all… and that’s got to be something worth fighting for, isn’t it?
Why Should I Read This?
For a dystopian future Earth which could easily be reminiscent of today’s segregated societies.
For the intriguing design structure of the three-part narrative.
For an originally crafted fantasy world and magical beings.