The Nightjar by Deborah Hewitt

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The Nightjar by Deborah Hewitt

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Wilson
Reviewed by Ruth Wilson
Summary: On the surface this is a story about redemption but instead it turns into one of treachery, half-truths and betrayal. With everyone determined to use Alice to fulfil their own desires she must find the right people to trust, and decide what it is that she desires the most.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 480 Date: September 2019
Publisher: Pan
ISBN: 978-1509896462

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The Nightjar is an unusual and exciting story. Alice Wyndham lives a normal life in London until she finds a box on her doorstep one morning and her life begins to unravel, fast. From that very moment, her life is flooded with magic, loss, expectation and particularly, betrayal. As everything around her shifts, all that she knows, all that she thinks she knows, must change. Who can she trust? Who must she trust? Who will she trust? More importantly, can she even trust herself?

The plot of The Nightjar is ceaseless. From the moment the story begins there is not a moment of calm throughout the rest of the book, the plot explodes off the page in a rush of characters, near misses and red – herrings, though whilst the plot is frantic it is always clear. Alice feels responsible for the injury of her best friend, Jen, and the loss of Jen's nightjar, and has decided to do whatever it takes to retrieve it. The overarching plot is always what Alice is prepared to do to try to travel to The Moors to get the nightjar back. As the plot continues Alice, who was adopted, finds out more about the world of her biological parents, and starts to have suspicions about her own potential 'gifts' and so the plot develops into something larger. Alice is something of a rarity in her world and everyone around her has their own agenda when offering assistance. Betrayal surrounds her, and whilst her own intentions are noble it becomes clear that no-one will help her without first demanding a heavy price.

Alice and Crowley (to rhyme with jowly) are fabulous characters, Alice is headstrong and stubborn and she is deliberately antagonistic to Crowley because she knows he is hiding something. Crowley's actions are all 'good', he says the right thing and does the right thing, but he is quite clearly hiding something from Alice. These characters are not the traditional heroes of the story; they are flawed, messy, awkward characters who are scrambling around desperately trying to make the best of a bad situation. Equally, Vin, and any others who could be characterised as 'bad guys' are all similarly messy and flawed. The main distinction between 'good' and 'bad' within the story really comes down to how far the character is prepared to go for what they want, where they will finally draw the line. It makes the characters seem very normal and human in a story where every aspect of their lives and world is so incredibly fantastic.

As the plot wears on, it becomes more complicated and twists and turns come thick and fast. My only criticism of the book is that there are so, so many twists that they begin to lose some impact. Twist after twist means that the huge shock of one chapter is forgotten when the next massive twist happens in the next chapter, however, they were all beautifully written and moved the plot and characters in a new direction and they all add something important to the greater story. I presume that this will be the first in a series, the epilogue seemed to suggest that there is more to come from these characters, certainly more from Alice, and I will definitely read any sequels Deborah Hewitt writes. I was intrigued by the character of Alice and the world of The Rookery's and I would love to read more, so I will keep my fingers crossed for a sequel and I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a flight of fancy. Alternatively, for something much darker, you could try The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge. You might also enjoy A Crown for Cold Silver: Book One of the Crimson Empire by Alex Marshall.

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