A fine addition to Brigid Kemmerer’s wonderful collection.
After global success with her mega Cursebreaker series (which sprouted the beloved A Curse So Dark and Lonely) and several other young adult sensations, Brigid Kemmerer has blessed fans with Defy the Night, the first book of a highly anticipated new series.
Dual protagonists Tessa Cade and Prince Corrick of Kandala narrate their star-crossed story, set in a kingdom that is slowly being ravaged by a mystery illness. One a lowly orphaned apothecary’s apprentice, and the other the ruthless younger brother of the king, Tessa and Corrick join forces to find a way to save the people while simultaneously preventing a bloody rebellion.
Kemmerer is truly skilled at creating real characters you can’t help but root for. While Tessa shines as a brave and altruistic saviour of the people, Corrick seems to shed another skin with each passing chapter, revealing the complexities that make him so human. Corrick’s dialogue, in particular, feels natural and witty, helping to establish him as more than just the cruel King’s Justice.
The detailed world building makes Defy the Night an effective form of escape for readers, as does the enthralling love story. The chemistry between Tessa and Corrick can’t be denied, and the interesting dynamic of forbidden love raises the stakes.
The book flies along rapidly until Tessa’s arrival at the palace, after which it seems to become slower and doesn’t pick up again until the final quarter. Still, a few twists and unexpected revelations keep things exciting, and there are many points throughout where readers will feel genuine worry for the safety of the characters—a sign of masterful immersive storytelling. There are quite a few action scenes included, but, thankfully for the intended YA audience, the book doesn’t feature too much heavily graphic violence.
In the acknowledgments at the end, Kemmerer admits that, despite the element of an illness devastating the world she created, this isn’t a pandemic book. She may have started working on this novel prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, but current readers can’t help but draw the parallels which actually make the story even more relatable and enticing. The kingdom of Kandala is so far away from our reality, and yet so very close.
A captivating story with fully fleshed characters and a world that echoes our own, Defy the Night is a fine addition to Brigid Kemmerer’s enchanting collection.
Reviewed by Vanessa Elle
Distributed by: Bloomsbury
Released: 14 September 2021