Underdeveloped Plot and Characters
Reviewed in the United States on 22 September 2019
I really like books about characters being whisked to other worlds to learn magic, and I love birds, but those factors could not excuse my experience of reading "The Nightjar". Another reviewer here on Amazon said that they thought the author was "ambitious", but that's a nice way of saying "there were too many ideas in this book and not enough time devoted to them." If I had to sum up the issue with this book, it's just that - the book covers too much ground without giving the plot, characters or world time to develop and grow.
This book also has to make its main characters hold on to what TVTropes calls the Idiot Ball - forcing the characters to act rashly, impulsively or stupidly in order to progress the plot. This happens a lot during the book and it's very frustrating to read. The main character is supposed to be a smart young woman, but she acts anything but, constantly fumbling in situations that require tact and throwing herself into dangerous scenarios cause, I dunno, a nice boy told her to follow him.
The romance in this book is also... barely worth calling a romance. I don't care for romances, but if you have one in your story, you better write it well. As it is, this book gives me no reason to believe that main character Alice and love interest Crowley like each other at all. Maybe they lust after one another, but they have no romantic chemistry - they are standoffish, indifferent, sometimes cruel and in general not kind to one another. There's no foundation for a romantic relationship to stand on.
And... then there's something perhaps incidental to the romance that is definitely worth talking about. So caution for this segment - Spoilers and CW: Incest. Yeah, here we go.
So, before the story proper begins, we are given a prologue flashback to a time when a man sees his little baby - a baby girl with brown hair and brown eyes - do plant magic. He says "get that baby away from me!" Then we start the story, and we learn that Alice the protagonist has brown hair, brown eyes, and is adopted. It seems almost obvious that Alice is the baby from the prologue. Clearly, the author wanted you to believe this too.
As the book goes on, we learn more about the man - he's a bad guy - and about the incident that caused the man to send the baby away. The more we learn about it, and the more that Alice learns about her plant powers, the more likely it seems that Alice is the baby. Really, as a reader you have no reason to believe otherwise, especially since "baby from the prologue is secretly the MC" is a trope.
Then... we find out that Crowley, the love interest, is the bad guy's son. And Alice still has the hots for him.
What follows is one of the most uncomfortable chapters of a book I've ever read without it being intentionally uncomfortable. Alice and Crowley start making out and getting intimate, almost to undressing one another. And I sat there and said to myself.... "Wait, but isn't this incest?" Because remember, the reader is strongly lead to believe that Alice is the bad guy's daughter, which would make Crowley her brother.... which IS incest. I thought, "well one of them must NOT be related to the bad guy, cause I know the author DIDN'T want us to think this was anything but a regular romantic relationship between strangers..." but it comes across as incest. Which... yeah. Not what I was expecting to read in this book.
As it turns out, Alice is NOT the baby from the prologue, and that the prologue was likely just a red herring, but that's one heck of a red herring to throw at your readers.
Final thoughts - skip this book. That's all really!
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