Hello Humans! Today I’m reviewing The Nightjar – an adult fantasy book that takes on the difficult (to write not to read) ‘alternate London’ trope. I mean, it’s been done by some of the greats: Neverwhere is one of my favourite books/TV series and V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series has four Londons!
But this book also promised a connection to death/the underworld and that is basically catnip for me – I am a woman of simple pleasures – let’s see how it held up!
The Nightjar by Deborah Hewitt is a stunning contemporary fantasy debut about another London, a magical world hidden behind the bustling modern city we know.
Alice Wyndham has been plagued by visions of birds her whole life…until the mysterious Crowley reveals that Alice is an ‘aviarist’: capable of seeing nightjars, magical birds that guard human souls. When her best friend is hit by a car, only Alice can find and save her nightjar.
With Crowley’s help, Alice travels to the Rookery, a hidden, magical alternate London to hone her newfound talents. But a faction intent on annihilating magic users will stop at nothing to destroy the new aviarist. And is Crowley really working with her, or against her? Alice must risk everything to save her best friend—and uncover the strange truth about herself.
There were a lot of things I liked about this book, I thought that the concept of Nightjars, these magical birds that guard/are attached to human souls was interesting and seemed to come across well within the book. As I say, I’m a sucker for death and the underworld so those portions of the book I also enjoyed. I thought the times where they delved into the differences and similarities between ‘normal’ London and the Rookery were also fascinating – what’s the point in an alternate London if you don’t tell me about it? I particularly liked the connection this book had to the history of London and the buildings that no longer exist (at least in our version of the city).
In terms of concept, this book was strong, there was a clear idea of where the story was going and what it was there to do. Unfortunately, this book disappointed in a few other areas. Mostly, I put this down to the fact that this is Hewett’s debut, and I fully expect to see her grow as a writer in the coming years. There were just some characters who didn’t feel fully three dimensional and, for most of this book, it had that problem of the story feeling as though it was happening to Alice as opposed to her being an active participant. This also had the issue of a romance that doesn’t really add anything to the plot – a personal pet peeve. I wanted more alternate London, more description of the worlds and more exposition on the underworld and the myths that surround it. I would have also appreciated a lot more ‘this is how being an Aviarist works in comparison to other magic’ – there’s a bit of this but half the fun of the main character discovering powers is that you, as a reader, get to learn how to use them too!
Overall, this book felt pretty ‘ok’ to me, I think the ideas were very cool it just didn’t do anything new enough for me to feel like I could rate it higher. If you loved Neverwhere then maybe you will like this just for the similarities? However, it didn’t have that same quirkiness and humour that Gaiman’s writing has. It was just a tad bland and, while I won’t say I didn’t enjoy it, I don’t think I’ll be re-reading this any time soon.
My rating: 3/5 stars
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher – all opinions are my own.
The Nightjar is out Today!
What say you? Will you be adding this to your TBR? Let me know in the comments below!