We Rule the Night by Claire Eliza Bartlett

We Rule the Night by Claire Eliza BartlettWe Rule the Night by Claire Eliza Bartlett
Narrator: Chloe Cannon
Published on 2 April 2019
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Source: my local library
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RRP: $16.99
4 Stars

Two girls use forbidden magic to fly and fight--for their country and for themselves--in this riveting debut that's part Shadow and Bone, part Code Name Verity.Seventeen-year-old Revna is a factory worker, manufacturing war machines for the Union of the North. When she's caught using illegal magic, she fears being branded a traitor and imprisoned. Meanwhile, on the front lines, Linne defied her father, a Union general, and disguised herself as a boy to join the army. They're both offered a reprieve from punishment if they use their magic in a special women's military flight unit and undertake terrifying, deadly missions under cover of darkness. Revna and Linne can hardly stand to be in the same cockpit, but if they can't fly together, and if they can't find a way to fly well, the enemy's superior firepower will destroy them--if they don't destroy each other first.We Rule the Night is a powerful story about sacrifice, complicated friendships, and survival despite impossible odds.

This review contains unmarked spoilers for the end of the book.

I really enjoyed most of this book, right up until the ending.

For the most part, I really enjoyed this book. I really enjoyed the characterisation of our two leads, Revna and Linae: both of them absolutely furious at the world for the hypocrisy of telling them ‘you can not do this because you’re a girl” when they both clearly know that they can, and coming at it from completely different angles. I thought their characterisations, actions, and character voices were really interesting and different, and I loved so much seeing them struggle with their initial hatred to move into really respecting and even liking each other due to the trials they overcame together.

I really liked the worldbuilding: a kind of alternate, magic-infused Soviet Union set in a war somewhat similar to World War 2, where women are just being allowed to start to fight and the drafting age has been lowered to 13 to fund bodies for this ongoing war – over what, we’re never certain, because that’s not the point. I felt completely immersed in this, and I swear I was experiencing flying along with the pilots, their fear of being killed, the snow falling down their collars.

I loved the flow of the writing style, the words chosen, the dialogue, the seamless action and introspection. I loved the diversity of the characters and their relationships to each other. As a fan of strong platonic friendships, I was especially glad to see that both of Revna’s strongest friendships in this did not turn into romance.

And there is definitely not enough war film and literature about women. Honestly it’s one of the reasons I don’t watch war movies. Wonder Woman was the first war-era film I ever wanted to watch.

It was all very enjoyable.

Except…

I don’t necessarily feel that YA books ‘should’ or ‘have to’ be happy, or have happy endings, especially if it’s not even a romance, which this is not.

However I do kind of feel like as a YA book there was the chance for this to end on somewhat of a more satisfying note and impart a better ending message to young readers.

I spent hours on this book, and it spent weeks in my head, watching characters I loved for different reasons overcome internal and external hurdles, prove over and over again how much of a hero they were, they got… zilch.

Imagine if in Star Wars, instead of Luke shooting down the Death Star, it was Leia. And everyone said, ‘No one that young or that female has ever been that strong with the Force, so we don’t believe it really happened. The Death Star never existed.’ And absolutely no one knew that she was a total badass hero. And she had to be OK with that, because to not be OK with it was to be a traitor to the Alliance.

Because the way that I interpret this ending is this: no matter how wonderful girls are, no matter how hard they fight, how brave they are, how many sacrifices they make, or even if they’re more capable than a boy, they will never ever be treated equally to boys. So what’s the use in trying?

And look, I don’t want to turn around and say, “Hey, you HAVE to have a happy ending” because I grew up reading Animorphs, which was also about war, and how terrible war is, and how war never really leaves those involved. So it would be pretty hypocritical to expect something different from a book that presumably went through many rounds of edits with many people more qualified than myself, and kept that ending. Or maybe it even had a more satisfying ending to begin with, and it was changed to be more ‘edgy’, I don’t know.

And I definitely feel that the ending was the way it was because this wasn’t a hero’s journey/reward type narrative, it was a feminist character study and friendship novel between two vastly different girls who were forced to work together.

However it also felt like the perfect ending for a sequel. I don’t say that lightly, because I despise books that don’t wrap everything up in the first novel (is end on a cliffhanger) just to sell a sequel: however I don’t feel that this book did. The focus was on the friendship and that particular storyline was wrapped up. The overarching story that could extend into sequels was the war, which was not resolved. Leaving it unresolved demonstrates that this is a novel about friendship, not war, which I appreciate, because that’s very fuckin’ feminist.

I listened to this book via audio and the narrator was very good.

Nemo
Nemo

About Nemo

A lover of kittens and all things sparkly, Nemo has a degree in English Literature and specialises in reviewing contemporary, paranormal, mystery/thriller, historical, sci-fi and fantasy Young Adult fiction. She is especially drawn to novels about princesses, strong female friendships, magical powers, and assassins.

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