Narrator: Natalie Naudus
Series: Night Spinner #1
Published by Blackstone Publishing
Published on 11 February 2020
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
Source: my local library
Add to Goodreads
A must-read for fans of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse, transforming The Hunchback of Notre Dame into a powerful tundra-inspired epic.
Before the massacre at Nariin, Enebish was one of the greatest warriors in the Sky King’s Imperial Army: a rare and dangerous Night Spinner, blessed with the ability to control the threads of darkness. Now, she is known as Enebish the Destroyer―a monster and murderer, banished to a monastery for losing control of her power and annihilating a merchant caravan.
Guilt stricken and scarred, Enebish tries to be grateful for her sanctuary, until her adoptive sister, Imperial Army commander Ghoa, returns from the war front with a tantalizing offer. If Enebish can capture the notorious criminal, Temujin, whose band of rebels has been seizing army supply wagons, not only will her crimes be pardoned, she will be reinstated as a warrior.
Enebish eagerly accepts. But as she hunts Temujin across the tundra, she discovers the tides of war have shifted, and the supplies he’s stealing are the only thing keeping thousands of shepherds from starving. Torn between duty and conscience, Enebish must decide whether to put her trust in the charismatic rebel or her beloved sister. No matter who she chooses, an even greater enemy is advancing, ready to bring the empire to its knees.
I will admit that I was a bit apprehensive about this book at first. I thought the blurb sounded really good as a fantasy novel in itself, but then when I saw it was a Hunchback of Notre Dame retelling I hesitated a bit. It’s not that I don’t like the story: I do, at least, I like the Disney version, which is starkly different to the Victor Hugo original tale. I think it was the idea of using another book, an entire novel, as a basis for retelling.
I have a weird kind of reaction to retellings. Retelling fairytales is fine, they’re basically communal property by now, stories told around campfires,. But Hunchback is still in print – and I am aware stories like Pride and Prejudice are retold all the time, and some of those retellings can be incredibly original and basically their own story without relying on being a retelling of someone else’s book. I think I just have a knee-jerk reaction with the idea of the retelling author using someone else’s characters, plots, storylines, and beats. Fairytales are so basic they’re archetypes: entire novels like Hunchback are the result of someone’s blood sweat and tears, and much more intricate, and it made me nervous: How close would this retelling be to the source material, especially given it is in a completely different genre?
So I was nervous, and I didn’t really know what I was getting into. Luckily this book was available on audio to borrow from my library, so all I would waste would be my time if I didn’t enjoy it.
I shouldn’t have worried.
Within the first few chapters, I knew I was in the hands of a skilled storyteller, who had infused this book with a butt-ton of originality and flair. In fact, if you hadn’t told me it was a Hunchback retelling, or ‘inspired by’, I never would have guessed. The characters are beautifully rendered, the magic system is interesting, the conflict is real, and it was all delivered so nicely by the audiobook narrator.
I didn’t even take many notes because I was just enjoying it so damn much.
The lead character has a magic power so powerful she is also highly feared. She has an elder adopted sister who is trying to use her to find the rebel leader. She also has an adopted brother where there is a bit of romance, which is kind of icky but whatevs. They’re not actually related. Also, there is no love triangle, so don’t listen to anyone who says there is. She’s utterly charmed by the rebel leader (because he’s damn charming!), however there is no romance between them whatsoever. Even the initial attraction cools off as their relationship develops into a comfortable friendship, which I really liked.
Love triangles need to involve more than just physical attraction, and just because a female character has a male love interest and another male friend, it doesn’t automatically make it a love triangle. I feel very passionately about this. Hermione is not in a love triangle with Ron and Harry.
I could see the first twist coming from a mile off, but I did not see the second twist at the end of the book, and I really enjoyed it. I think it was really well done, and on par with Lynette Noni’s Prison Healer series.
I’m really looking forward to diving into book 2 and seeing what Eni gets up to.