I admit that sometimes, I am spectacularly uninformed about the books I read. Take Brigid Kemmerer’s new series which begins with “Defy the Night” and its sequel, “Defend the Dawn.” I was sure that this was a duology, and I was thrilled that I would get to read both books in a row. I was especially psyched to do so while reading the first book and becoming so completely immersed in the fictional kingdom of Kandala, that I didn’t want to wait to find out how it all ended. I really enjoyed meeting and reading about Tessa and Corrick, one an apothecary apprentice and the other the King’s Justice, brother of the king of Kandala, and a feared royal figure.
Two thirds of the way through the second book, “Defend the Dawn,” I started to realize that there was really no way the story was going to end by the conclusion of the book. Why do publishers do this? Why don’t they just admit up front that there are going to be three (or more) books in a series?
No matter how many books are in this series, it’s one I can highly recommend. Each book is over 400 pages, and I read both in three days. I just didn’t want to stop reading. Kemmerer’s writing immerses us in the action—and there’s plenty of that going around with a revolution being fomented and a disease with a cure that is expensive and not available to many. The elites are able to stay healthy, but those with little money, who live in the rural areas, die from the disease because they can’t afford to purchase the Moonflower petals that are the cure. The Moonflower plant only grows in certain areas of Kandala, and those areas are under the control of a corrupt consul, whose only allegiance is to his pocketbook.
Trying to do their best are the young king, Harristan, and his brother, Corrick. Their parents were murdered in front of them when they were still teenagers, and since that day, they’ve had to fight off others who would wrest control of Kandala from them. As the second in command, in a position called the King’s Justice, Corrick has been forced to be brutal in his efforts to stop crime and those who would steal the Moonflower petals to sell. Tessa’s parents were killed by the king’s night patrol when they used less-than-legal means to get the petals so they could distribute the elixir to those in need.
In the first book, the revolution sought by the rebels, who are really just those in the kingdom who want access to medicine, is stymied by the king’s promise to change things. That’s where the second book begins, and this book takes Tessa and Corrick onto a boat to travel to a neighboring country where Moonflowers grow. The captain of the ship claims that his father was a spy from Kandala years before and that when his father was killed, he took the ship back to Kandala to help both countries. Kandala needs Moonflower petals and the neighboring country, Ostriary, needs the steel that is manufactured in Kandala.
As in Kemmerer’s other books, the characters are splendidly multi-dimensional. In fact, Prince Corrick is the perfect example of someone who appears to be cruel and brutal, and actually has perpetrated cruel and brutal acts against the citizens of Kandala; but we become aware of the reasons behind such seemingly horrific brutalities. Tessa, who at the start of the series calls for revolution because of the inequalities rampant in the kingdom, comes to understand the realities of politics.
But no matter, we see the inconsistencies in how people of different status are treated, and in the second book, we see Corrick become much more reflective about his past and his actions. We also see Tessa, who in the first book was the voice of reason, become too easily swayed by others and seem at times to dither about right and wrong. The action in the second book leads up to a complete (and semi-frustrating!) cliffhanger that takes place on the ship at sea with Tessa and Corrick, and back at the palace with Harristan.
So while I love this series, I have come to terms with the fact that I’ll have to wait another year to find out how it all ends. I do highly recommend this series for anyone who loves adventure, relatable characters, and a plot that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go: twists and turns, reveals, and a fantasy-like aura even though there’s no magic involved except the writing. It’s a young adult series that, like many YA books, will also be appreciated by adult audiences. Enjoy.
Pease note: This review is based on the final hardcover books provided by Bloomsbury, the publisher, for review purposes.