• Jack Wells

Book Review - Nightfall by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski

Updated: May 9, 2018

Moody and atmospheric fiction that delivers cool ambiance...but little in the way of dread and horror.

Well, what a predicament. Nightfall was nothing like I thought it would be, and while I'm generally ok with being pleasantly surprised, I truly wanted more from this book. I was expecting horror, creeping dread, and something truly frightening for our protagonists to face off against. What I got was...well...only snippets and glimpses of those things.

That's not to say that Nightfall is a bad book. It isn't. The premise is truly unique, and the first third of the book is genuinely engaging, albeit a little emotionless. We are introduced to all three main characters pretty quickly, and as night begins to fall, they become surrogates for the reader as their world dissolves into turmoil. We don't know what's going on, because they don't know what's going on. In fact, there's really no summary or exposition to set the tone...we just meet the characters and follow them through the events as they unfold. And even if all three of them read similarly, the initial mystery is distracting enough to carry the tale. The bizarre rituals, strange markings, and ominous warnings are all interesting (and potentially terrifying), and I found myself eagerly awaiting the reveals: the WHY'S to the mysterious WHAT'S. When our characters first encounter the danger on the island, the menace, and their fear of it, is palpable. It’s very addicting stuff, and I burned through the first third of the book in one sitting.

Unfortunately, the initial mysteries are the only things that try to hook the audience. And while I am ok with a little ambiguity, just about NONE of the mysteries get answered by the end of the tale. Or if they do, it’s basically with a “just because”. And that was honestly not good enough for me. The stage was set for some really interesting and dark revelations, and they just didn’t come. Everything else was just kind of…meh. As I stated earlier, the characters don’t read much differently, except for maybe Kana, and that’s to be expected. Things just kind of happen, and our characters just kind of react to them. The threats on the island are menacing at first, but then are far less so as they are revealed further. Who or what are they? Dunno. Why the EXACT rules that the inhabitants of Bliss must follow? Dunno…just cuz. (On a side note, if the people of Bliss aren’t on the island during the dark, and the…”Others” don’t come around during the day, what are the Others really going to do about it if the rules are broken?). Why try to kill our main characters at first, and then be content to torment and trap them later? Dunno.

There are a couple of reveals that may surprise some readers, but they were telegraphed so early on that I wasn’t caught off guard. They were worthy reveals, and added weight to the story, but they weren’t handled as well as they could have been. In fact, that’s probably my biggest gripe. There were so many cool concepts and mysteries in place, and they really weren’t as impactful as they could have been. Maybe that’s why I seem so down on this book…so much potential, and so little of it used.

Despite all my negatives, I still managed to enjoy the book. Maybe I went into it with too high of expectations based off the initial reviews. If so, that’s my bad, and no fault of the authors. The world was unique, the story started strong, and the writing was acceptable. I am hoping that the authors learn from this, and can up the ante for their next collaboration.

3 out of 5 entertaining but misdirected stars!

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