We had to make an emergency stop at Waterstones the other weekend, because the other half had left his book at home, as you do. No? Just us? Anyhoo, whilst I was browsing – BTW I could happily spend hours in there just looking at all the pretty books – I saw Nightfall in the YA section and had to buy it. I was intrigued by the tagline on the front cover:
“After 14 years of day comes 14 years of night. Don’t get left behind. “
How creepy is that? This is the blurb from the back cover:
“On Marin’s island, sunrise doesn’t come every twenty-four hours it comes every twenty-eight “years.” Now the sun is just a sliver of light on the horizon. The weather is turning cold and the shadows are growing long. Because sunset triggers the tide to roll out hundreds of miles, the islanders are frantically preparing to sail south, where they will wait out the long Night.
Marin and her twin brother, Kana, help their anxious parents ready the house for departure. Locks must be taken off doors. Furniture must be arranged. Tables must be set. The rituals are puzzling bizarre, even but none of the adults in town will discuss “why” it has to be done this way. Just as the ships are about to sail, a teenage boy goes missing the twins friend Line.
Marin and Kana are the only ones who know the truth about where Line s gone, and the only way to rescue him is by doing it themselves. But Night is falling. Their island is changing. And it may already be too late.”
The three main characters Marin, Kana and Line are about 14 years old; I would say the target audience for this book is probably teenagers around that age 12-15, but it isn’t written in a condescending way, it doesn’t dumb anything down or pull any punches. It didn’t feel like a kids book.
The book is set in a world where there is no electricity, so darkness setting in is a big deal. The authors did a really good job of making you think about how scary night would be outside the modern world; you can sense the primal fear when these people contemplate being left on the island when night falls.
Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself. So Marin and her twin Kana live with their parents on an island called Bliss. On Bliss the “day” lasts 28 years; the sun rises and is in the sky for 14 years, then it sets and there are 14 years of darkness. All the islanders leave just before the sun sets, for the desert lands and return at dawn, 14 years later.
They have an arrangement with a group of Furriers, who collect the islanders on their boats and take them to the desert lands whilst on their trade route.
The timing of the departure must be exact, as when darkness falls the tides also go out for hundreds of miles; anyone who doesn’t board the Furriers boat will be left behind. When the sunsets the Island starts to change, the temperature drops and everything is covered in ice.
As Kana and Marin are only 14 this is their first experience of leaving the island. Marin is curious about the island and the leaving rituals, and really doesn’t want to go to the desert lands. Her mother is from the desert lands and her people have a tradition where girls of Marin’s age go into seclusion for a year to a place called the Cloisters where they also learn the art of tribal tattoos. Marin has started to develop feelings for her brother’s friend, Line, and doesn’t want to leave. Her relationship with her mother is quite difficult, and she often seems to disapprove of her mother and her cultural heritage.
Kana was born blind, but as the sun has started to set has discovered that he can see in the darkness. As the islanders prepare to leave, he feels as though he is just starting to live. For most of his life he has been helpless, reliant on his twin to guide and protect him, but now he can go out on his own and explore the island.
Marin and Kana prepare to leave with their parents, which involves storing the furniture and carpets, packing the items they will be taking with them, and taking the locks off of the doors. In the week of the departure an envelope arrives at each house, with a floor plan detailing how it must be left, and strange items that must be placed in exact locations. Marin keeps asking why the islanders must do this, particularly when one of the tasks involves setting the table with huge metal plates. Her father refuses to engage with her on this issue, and tells her it is just what they have always done. The last step is to sprinkle lime juice throughout the house.
As they are preparing to board the Furriers ships, Kana and Marin realise that their friend Line is missing. The rest of the island are too busy trying to get their own families and belongings onto the boats to look for an orphaned teenager.
Marin and Kana believe they know where Line is; they have 4 Hours to find him and get back to the ships before they leave. If the boats leave before they get back Marin and Kana will be stranded for 14 years, in darkness and ice, but they have to try to find their friend.
I really enjoyed this novel, it was creepy, gripping and an interesting concept. Don’t be put off by the fact that it is a book for younger teenagers.
Nightfall is RRP £6.99 from Hot Key Books.
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