This crossover teen horror/fantasy impressed me tremendously. It recently arrived in the UK without much fanfare, but I am sure it will pick up an audience over time. This is often the case with quality YA novels and I was not surprised to find out that “Nightfall” already has a sequel “Edgelands” projected for a September 2016 release. It’s well known in the YA world that you’re more likely to sell a book is there is a sequel in the pipeline, or even a trilogy.
So the million dollar question is would I bother with the sequel? The publisher would be pleased to hear the answer is a resounding ‘yes’! Generally books which end with a cliff-hanger irritate me, as I believe they need to exist as standalone reads. “Nightfall” does both. It has an ending of sorts, but also concludes at a point with an obvious follow on. Lots of crumbs are thrown to entice us into the next stage of the adventure of which I’m sure teens will take a massive bite from.
The first real strength of this novel was the setting, it was a fantastically well realised fantasy world and Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski took their time painting a vivid picture of what life on an island where one day lasted FOURTEEN YEARS is like. When the novel opens the fourteen years of day are just about to end and the last tiny slither of sun is about to disappear from the sky. Meantime the whole of the town are getting edgy as their fourteen year ritual is soon upon them. They are all very, very, edgy indeed. As they are waiting for boats to come and take them to their second home where they will live for the next FOURTEEN YEARS. So effectively they abandon their homes to darkness and live in this far away desert community. The desert land is obviously saved for the second book and the packing is almost over. So where’s ‘home’ then? This is one of the many clever things about this novel. The main characters are Marin, Kana (twins) and their best friend Line. These teenagers were born in the early stages of the last fourteen years and so don’t know any other home and don’t want to leave their island. Except they have no choice as nobody survives the darkness and nobody remains. However, the twin’s parents long for their ‘home’ which they see as the desert land. So most villagers see ‘home’ where they were born and spent their formative years. The authors weave a wonderful background and realistic story which hints at how this community ended up on the island 150 years earlier and why they follow so many weird traditions. The twins and Lane don’t really understand these traditions, for instance, before they leave everyone must clean their houses top to bottom ‘THE HOUSES MUST BE WITHOUT STAIN’ and all the locks must be removed from the doors. But why? The answers are revealed cleverly and slowly in the second half of this well paced read.
I don’t want to ruin anymore of the plot, but as the blurb indicates the teens are left stuck on the island and there is something nasty lurking in the darkness. This very accomplished teen novel had three very likeable lead characters, Marin, who realises that her life will be very different in the desert world, her twin Kana who senses they are drifting apart and Line who has a thing for Marin and also has a little brother to look after. It’s an interesting concept, having never seen darkness, and the teenagers who have never known anything else know their lives will change forever in the desert. The island was so well drawn it was a character in itself and often you read about the differences between ‘night’ and ‘day’, well this novel really has a terrifying night, as the temperature begins to drop, the sun disappears and they realise the town no longer belongs to them. They are the invaders. They are not welcome. They are the prey. Great stuff and a top notch fusion of fantasy riffed with horror.