Thursday, September 12, 2019

We Rule the Night by Claire Eliza Bartlett

I know I have a reputation for being a "Meanie McMeanerson" when it comes to book reviews, but honestly that's because my most popular reviews are all my negative ones! I wish my positive reviews were more popular because I'd really like to showcase the ones that wowed or surprised me-- case in point, this book. I almost didn't apply for WE RULE THE NIGHT because that breathless summary sound so much like many of the other Basic Girl YA™ books that have been coming out in droves. But I kept coming back to it, again and again, drawn by the cover and the idea of a bunch of girl fighter pilots in a world of forbidden magic. Girl, you know I'm a sucker for some fantasy, and if it's about female friendships and magic, I really can't say no.

THIS BOOK WAS SO FREAKING GOOD THO. Seriously, why doesn't this have more of a buzz? Most of my friends either haven't read this or didn't like it, so I want to know who to address my complaints to for not hyping this up like it's Bottomless Mimosa day at the local brunch joint, avocado toast 50% off. I don't think I've felt this exhilarated about a book since reading THE HUNGER GAMES. The world building, the characters, the stakes were all done so right. It's modeled off a fantasy version of the Soviet Union and the persecution and suppression are REAL.

Rather than going on and on about my squee in paragraph form (although I could totally do that), I'm just going to lay out everything I adored about WE RULE THE NIGHT in handy bullet point format.

✔️ That cover. It's gorgeous. Obviously a cover has no bearing on what's inside the book, but that's what made me pick it up in the first place, so good job, cover artist. You earned that paycheck.

✔️ The world building. As I said, it's set in a Soviet Russia-like fantasy counterpart called the Union of the North, which is at war with another country called Elda. The politics is pretty well done and even though we don't really get much about what the world-at-large is like, the landscapes and culture and intrigue were all really well done (the author apparently lives in Europe and serves as a tour guide, so this actually makes sense). Magic is forbidden, although there are exceptions, as the two female leads find out when they're forcibly enlisted in an experimental all-girls' squadron.

✔️ The girl power theme. Holy Glass Ceiling, Batman! The girls are not respected at all, and people try to undercut and sabotage them at every turn. They have to work 150% harder with 50% less than the men, and even when they succeed, nobody cares. It's soooo frustrating and I was right there with the characters the whole time. It's so relatable and I hate that, but love how it was represented here.

✔️ Female friendships. There's basically no romance, only friendship. The two leads, Revna and Linne, hate each other at first, but the book gradually develops their relationship so they come to an understanding of one another. Linne is a military brat who sneaked into a male academy, Mulan-style, to learn how to fight. When she was caught out, she was sent to the girls' squadron and she feels like this is a punishment. Revna is disabled and has prosthetic legs. She is constantly having to prove herself and have people either doubt her or baby her (and she hates both). When she's caught doing forbidden magic, it's either the squadron or treason, and at least the squadron will feed their family. We also get to meet other girls, and they're all so delightfully, well, girly. Their problems and personalities are done with such care, and with such realism, that they felt fully dimensional. Even the cat fights had reasons behind them, and it was never just hate for the sake of hate.

✔️ Disability rep. This could have been done so badly, but Revna was a great character. She wasn't just her disability although it features prominently because of the physical demands of training and how she constantly has to push against her limits to succeed. I loved that she was the most daring flier and the best magician, and how much that validated her. Her bond with her family and how it affects a tough decision she has to make at the end was also well done. She also isn't the one who breaks first, although there are several trying moments that test her psychologically.

✔️ Dangerous hot shape-shifter spies. The Skarov, man. I'm Team Tannov all the way. He reminds me of Dmitri from VAMPIRE ACADEMY-- smoldering and broody, but also charming. LOVE.

✔️ The ending. LOL JK, I HATE IT. THANKS. Please tell me there's more, because there's no way the book can end like that without a sequel. It was sequel-baiting like crazy. All I see in the author's bibliography right now is something called THE WINTER DUKE, which does not appear to be related to this series at all. Girl, I'm so down but also, and again, seriously, WHERE IS BOOK TWO.

All in all, I really loved this book. I'm actually going to keep it because I think it will be really fun to reread the next time I'm craving a high stakes adventure. The battles, the navigation, the training, the friendship-- IT WAS SO FREAKING GOOD. Trust in me, and read this book. You'll thank me!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!

4.5 to 5 out of 5 stars

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