Nightfall by Will Elliott
Review by Ryan Lawler
Aden awakens naked in a bath tub, knowing only that he is dead. His new world is Nightfall, a place filled with characters bizarre, grotesque and magical: Julius the duke, the monstrous Gorr family, the goddess Muse, Slythe the deadly assassin.
On the night Aden awakens, the Forgetting closes in, erasing everything it touches. Aden has little time to discover why this world and its characters seem so familiar to him, and why they call his grandfather the Worldmaker… and he must work out if he is here to save this world, or to help destroy it.
Yep. Last Friday I became one of those guys. You know? Those guys who tear up at the end of a book? I saw a tiny little tear stain the last page of Nightfall and in the two days since that moment I am still thinking about that ending and the whole experience I just went through. I have read hundreds of books over the years, and a few of them have been emotional, but nothing has even come close to extracting the types of emotions that Will Elliott managed to pull out of me. I can’t guarantee you will have the same experience. I can’t guarantee you will be as moved as I was by the ending. But there is a chance that this book will resonate with you on every level, and I think it would be a great decision for you to take a chance on this book and see where it goes.
Nightfall tells the story of Aden, a young man who wakes up in a bathtub in a strange land having just committed suicide. As Aden starts to explore this strange land, he learns that it is being destroyed by a slow moving boundary, and that he is probably the person who holds the key to save it all. The problem is Aden has already committed suicide once before, and he isn’t all that enamoured by the thought of having to save a world he barely knows when he should be at rest. Yeah, it’s that heavy. Right from the very first page. Complete with a steep learning curve. The first chapter is very dark, very confronting, and full of some very grotesque imagery, but this is not reflective of the whole story so I would recommend you try and get through the first three chapters before deciding whether or not you want to finish the book.
While the heavy themes are always there, they quickly give way to curiosity as Aden explores an eclectic world full of the most bizarre imagery that feels like it has come straight from Elliott’s dreams. For a few chapters it really does feel like you might be reading Elliott’s dream log, but if you pay close enough attention you will see that the plot has been there right from the start, subtly working it’s magic and giving you all the pieces you need at the right times so you can put the puzzles together just moments before the big reveals. The way in which Elliott times his reveals is excellent, but what he does once you have been given those reveals verges on the masterful. This is where the emotion takes over – figuring out the premise for the whole story, watching Aden figure out the premise for the whole story, watching hope dwindle as Aden continues to delay the decisions he needs to make if he wants to save the world, and knowing that the longer he takes to make the decision, the less of the world he will be able to save.
The characters of Nightfall are as strange and varied as the world they populate. They all feel familiar, they all act familiar, they all feel like caricatures of people we all know, but in the same instance their motivations are so unfamiliar that you spend a lot of your energies trying to comprehend why exactly they do the things they do. In my opinion it is energy well spent in the end – it all just adds to the appeal and enigma of the whole story, and at some point you come to an agreement with the story that you may never completely understand these characters. I know this doesn’t sound all that appealing, and I know it’s a cop-out to say “just read it” but really I cant think of a better way to explain these characters. I would just implore those struggling with the characters to stick with them. You do get pay off’s at various increments throughout the story, which in my opinion validates the energy you spend early on trying to understand the characters.
For me, the thing that made this story so good was the writing style. Elliott has a way of making his words convey such powerful imagery and emotions that it feels like some of these scenes must have an autobiographical component. It is unlike any style I have read before, every sentence is just so intense, and you feel like every single word is just carrying so much weight of meaning. And despite the obvious dark overtones, Elliott gives a full range of the emotional spectrum, including humour and happiness. In fact, there are liberal amounts of humour thrown in which does a great job at cleansing the palette after a particularly heavy scene. This humour usually takes the form of some wicked slapstick – bumbling soldiers killing each other at the request of their Sergeant, men whose day job involves having their blood extracted via various methods of torture, and a Duke (who reminds me of King Julian from the movie Madagascar) playing the most inappropriate pranks on his court scribe just for his own amusement. You almost feel bad for laughing, or at least a sense of wrongness that you shouldn’t be laughing, but it is all handled so naturally that it never feels forced or tacky and you can just laugh because it’s funny.
Nightfall is a strange, strange world, the themes are very heavy, but it all comes together in such a clean and methodical way that you can’t help but to keep turning page after page. It’s addictive. And the ending, wow. I have only ever seen one other ending (Mr Monster by Dan Wells) that was so perfect, so uplifting and heartfelt, but at the same time so crushing and devastating. You may not get the same reaction as me. In fact you may not be able to get through the first chapter and be able to eat again that day. But if you do get through to the end and you feel the same way as me, I would love to get in touch with you so I can discuss exactly what I felt going through those last few chapters.
What did you think about Nightfall?
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