Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.
Alice Wyndham spent her childhood seeing birds that weren’t there. Well that’s what she thought until an old woman leaves her a feather as a dying gift. When a mysterious man turns up at her door, he tries to convince her she’s seeing nightjars, the keepers of souls. Alice thinks he’s having a laugh. When her best friend is injured in a car accident, she learns that embracing her gift might just bring her back. As she follows Crowley through the Marble Arch into an alternate London, she embarks on a mission to retrieve Jen’s nightjar from the brink of death.
There was a long pause as she wrestled with the absurdity of it. Rescue the mythical bird that was supposed to be guarding her friend’s soul? The one that had taken early retirement and deserted as soon as she’d fallen into a coma?
The Nightjar is an entertaining portal fantasy, borrowing from Finnish mythology. The Sielulintu were birds who protected souls, and here they are portrayed as nightjars, connected by an invisible tether to their humans. Väki are the descendants of Finns and are the residents of The Rookery, a version of London created to keep them safe. Those with magical abilities are often persecuted and the Beaks would like to see them eradicated from the world, but in the Rookery, those with legacy powers are safe.
The legacy powers vary from Väki to Väki but are connected to their ancestry; Mielikki (gifts related to wood, forestry and wildlife), Pellervoinen (stone, rock and opening doorways), Ahti (water) and Ilmarinen (fire and metals). Only aviarists can see nightjars though, making them able to see a piece of people’s souls, and Alice is one of them, her abilities activated when she is given a nightjar feather.
I loved the mythology and how Deborah used this to create a unique portal world, however the way the main character is written let it down. I’m not sure if it’s just that it’s trying to be humorous and failing or if Alice is deliberately meant to be a bit stupid. Whilst the Rookery is stuck in the 1930’s, it seems her office is stuck in the 70s. The fact that she’s a victim of sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace is treated as a bit of a joke and her best friend’s attitude wasn’t great, meaning I felt like Jen wasn’t really worth saving.
An anchor stops a ship from coming adrift, but it also weighs it down, rendering it sinkable. Crowley may not be the lifeline you need.
It throws in a bit of a romance that just sprang out of nowhere too. Maybe it was my distance from the main character, but there wasn’t much hint of emotions going on inside her head. Other than she had to save Jen, another character I didn’t feel she had a genuine connection to other than her words.
The rest of the book made up for Alice; it still managed to be engaging despite my dislike of her. And OK, I softened a bit towards the end. I would probably read another book in this world, because I liked the mythology so much. The characters just need a little bit more work.
The Nightjar is published by Pan Macmillan and will be available in paperback and ebook editions from 5th September 2019. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.
POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: 12. A book inspired by myth/legend/folklore
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