Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Review of Nightingale by David Farland


I was fortunate to get an advanced copy of the hardcover of Nightingale, written by New York Times bestselling author David Farland. I was very impressed Farland's first YA fantasy novel, and it has a great opening chapter, and definitely hooked me right way. After the prologue--which features a young woman named Sommer--the story centers around a 16-year-old outcast boy, Bron Jones. He has never fit in, and is stuck living in a terrible foster home with grotesquely fat woman who uses him as slave labor to take care of her house and her brood of children.

Bron seems to have nothing going for him, except he is an incredibly handsome young man, but he can't make friends because of his ragged clothing and the stigma of being a "foster kid." He's quite cold and distant, which seems to be from the treatment he received in the foster care system, which moved him around a lot and never let anyone really bond with him. The truth is more complex, and is buried very deeply and Bron is fascinating character.

Everything changes when Bron ends up with a new foster mother, a music teacher named Olivia Hernandez, and we find out that Bron is not who he thought he was. This is the main issue in the book: "who," or more precisely, "what" is Bron? We find out that his birth mother, Sommer, who is featured in the prologue, gave him up when he was an infant, and he is not like everyone else . . . (minor spoiler) because he is not human. He is one of the masaak, a species similar to humans, but more evolved. Bron has strange and terrible powers that are discovered by his new foster mother, who is like him, one of the masaak, but has far different abilities than he does. She is a "memory merchant" or a "Muse" and Bron turns out to be something extremely rare, which is why his father's hunters are after him, and why his presence endangers everyone around him--and puts one person in the hospital by mistake.

At first, when Bron moves in with his new foster mother, Olivia, he thinks that he's going to be just a regular kid in a high school for the performing arts, a real place in southern Utah called Tuacahn High School where he can learn to be a guitarist--one of his few dreams in life. He meets a girl, actually he meets two gorgeous girls, who vie for his affection, but when he is spotted by masaak hunters, (known as the Draghoul) his life is at stake, and the big mystery about who he really is becomes extremely important for his survival. His foster mother helps him as much as she can, and wants to save him from becoming a pawn of the Draghoul, and their adventure leads them down a dangerous road, where dating and the drama of high school seems fairly unimportant.

This book is definitely aimed at today's teens, primarily boys, but I think girls will enjoy this book as well. There are numerous references to current movies, music, and media that today's teens will be intimately familiar with. Somewhere in the first third of the book I started to feel like this novel was not the flavor of fiction that I liked best--as I'm no longer a teenager with raging hormones--but once the mystery of Bron started getting solved, and information was coming out about the masaak, and their powers, I was extremely interested again. The writing was solid the whole way though, but the drama of high school, first love, going to a new school, bullies, and the somewhat immature nature of teenagers clashed with where my sensibilities are at this stage of my life. I think also, I didn't want to remember how awful aspects of high school actually were. Poor Bron doesn't realize what his powers are doing to some of the people around him, and he causes havoc that he doesn't intend, making the high school experience even worse.

Even though I felt this book was aimed at the teen demographic, I was fascinated with the true nature of the masaak, and their role in shaping the world with their amazing powers. They go way back in history, and were instrumental in so many things, and learning the details of that was my favorite part. Toward the end of the novel, you get to learn a lot about the powers the masaak possess, and Bron comes into his own--though this is just the beginning.

Nightingale is Bron's origin story, and creates a dark shadow world, where factions of super-humans war for the future of the planet. Bron's lineage has given him rare powers and the choices he makes might alter the course of history. The awesome ending was a huge payoff, and this series is just getting started. I blasted through Nightingale in two days, and whenever I wasn't reading it, I wanted to be reading it. I can't wait for the next book, Dream Assassin.

Highly recommended for teens and fans of Twilight and The Hunger Games
View Nightingale on Amazon.com

Paul Genesse
Author of the Iron Dragon Series and Editor of The Crimson Pact Series

No comments: