Nightchild by James Barclay
Review by Joshua S Hill
One thing that is always tinged with a measure of trepidation is the treatment of children in a fantasy world. A measure of reality must always be held in one hand while you attempt to watch over them. For as much as you would love to see them always come through unharmed, happy, and well, it is just not how it would have played back in the middle ages and before.
Subsequently, when the focus of the Ravenís attention is the five year old daughter of two members of their mercenary band, Erienne and Denser, a master storyteller is needed to tell the story.
Thankfully, James Barclay is that person, and in what is one of two books which I hold above the others, Nightchild keeps you enthralled and leaves you devastated.
Balaia is home to four colleges of magic, each acquiring their skills and abilities from a different aspect of the One magic. Many mages are unaware of this linkage, but in Nightchild the secret is the deadliest danger facing Lyanna. Some colleges want her dead, others want her power for themselves, and all the while the young girl is losing what little control she has over the magic and destroying Balaia in the process.
What makes this story interesting from the get-go is that the Raven have parted ways since the end of book two. Itís a surprising move on Barclayís part, who apart from one other moment leaves his books pretty much bookending each other in their timeline. Subsequently, this story must first see the Raven reunite before they can protect Lyanna from the hunt.
But as always, just because there is a time gap does not mean storylines have been left unattended too. Noonshade finds a measure of conclusion within the pages of Nightchild, and the continual reshuffling of the Ravenís ranks continues unabated and yet continually realistically.
As I mentioned, a mastery of storytelling is needed to properly convey some aspects of fantasy. And there is something devastating in reading a tale of two parents desperately trying to fend off anything and everything that may hurt their childís life. Alike to the hints we get of James and Lily Potter saving Harry, Barclay takes it much further, shedding a harsh spotlight into the reality that Rowling only glimpsed. It is harsh, it is brutal, and yet it is entirely rewarding for having read it.
You donít have to love what is happening to your favorite characters to enjoy a story. In fact, tragedy is part of humanity and to deprive the reader of it verges on the insane; like trying to remove the shadow from sunlight.
This book had me in tears by the end, weeping for the realism in which Barclay enthralled me, but never hating him for doing so. Possibly the best he has ever written, Nightchild must soon make it onto your bookshelf, if it isnít there already.
What did you think about Nightchild?
Submit your own reader review and award the book the rating you think it deserves.