The One About Choosing Between Duty & Love: Defy The Night by Brigid Kemmerer | Book Review

Hi, everyone! Today is another book review blog post— this time a YA Fantasy novel!

This book first came up on my radar when one of my friends told me that this was the book that they were currently reading at the time. After reading this book, it seemed like this was all they could talk about, constantly throwing remarks about how I had yet to read it and raving about how amazing this book was. This book was one of their top picks of 2021.

Fast forward a few months, I have been eyeing this book ever since it arrived in one of the FairyLoot boxes. Since then, it’s been sitting on my bookshelves, waiting for me to pick it up and read it. That day came yesterday when I finally ended the anticipation and decided to end the waiting.

Did it live up to my friend’s praises? Did I love it as much?

Stay tuned to find out!

(Spoilers down below!)

Defy the Night (Defy The Night #1)

by Brigid Kemmerer 

Edition: Hardback, 448 pages

Publication Date: September 14th 2021 by Bloomsbury YA

ISBN: 1547604670 (ISBN13: 9781547604678)

Series: Defy the Night #1

Goodreads synopsis:

A fantasy series about a kingdom divided by corruption, the prince desperately holding it together, and the girl who will risk everything to bring it crashing down.

The kingdom of Kandala is on the brink of disaster. Rifts between sectors have only worsened since a sickness began ravaging the land, and within the Royal Palace, the king holds a tenuous peace with a ruthless hand.

King Harristan was thrust into power after his parents’ shocking assassination, leaving the younger Prince Corrick to take on the brutal role of the King’s Justice. The brothers have learned to react mercilessly to any sign of rebellion–it’s the only way to maintain order when the sickness can strike anywhere, and the only known cure, an elixir made from delicate Moonflower petals, is severely limited.

Out in the Wilds, apothecary apprentice Tessa Cade is tired of seeing her neighbors die, their suffering ignored by the unyielding royals. Every night, she and her best friend Wes risk their lives to steal Moonflower petals and distribute the elixir to those who need it most–but it’s still not enough.

As rumors spread that the cure no longer works and sparks of rebellion begin to flare, a particularly cruel act from the King’s Justice makes Tessa desperate enough to try the impossible: sneaking into the palace. But what she finds upon her arrival makes her wonder if it’s even possible to fix Kandala without destroying it first. 

This book— wow. Where do I start?

Let’s start with a general synopsis of this book. Defy The Night by Brigid Kemmerer is the beginning of a new series. The book is set in the kingdom of Kandala, a land governed by a King and the ruler of all the other sectors. A sickness has spread far and wide and only an elixir made up of Moonflower petals can cure those who fall victim to the sickness. As such, Moonflower petals are a heavily protected resource, and only those who can afford the ingredient can benefit from it. The book mainly follows Tessa, who along with her best friend Wes, has taken it upon themselves to risk their lives to steal Moonflower petals and distribute them to those who cannot get their hands on the elixir’s main ingredient. Very soon, the people’s need for the elixir grows stronger and whispers of a rebellion begin to spread. Tessa begins to wonder whether she has a chance to save others before the sickness washes Kandala away completely.

First of all, this book blew all my expectations out of the water. I was not expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did— I think I had predicted this book to be a 3-4 star read. A few reasons why I hesitated about reading fantasy books is because I either get overwhelmed about the magic elements, the big cast of characters, or all the unique names/terms I have to keep track of. Not only does that make reading fantasy books take me longer than usual to finish, but it makes writing a book review slightly daunting. That being said, this book erased all of those fears. The plot was pretty straightforward, there is a sickness spreading and the cure is limited to the wealthy/those in power, but it had layers to it that were slowly being unravelled throughout the book that not only kept the story interesting, but also tied all the elements of the book nicely.

One of the main elements highlighted in this book is the conflict between the classes— the poor and the rich. This is seen when those who could barely afford regular doses of the elixir are suffering and dying, versus those who are wealthy enough to afford the elixir end up hoarding it in abundance (they take it 3 times a day, which we later find out is not even necessary). The conflict only heightens when the sector who sources the Moonflower petals (a key ingredient for the elixir), plan to raise the prices of the ingredient. There is an element of political intrigue as the King and the King’s Justice’s struggle to find a balance to satisfy not only the people but also those who source the Moonflower petals. I thought it was really intriguing to not only witness how those in power try to find a balance, but also I myself was thinking about any possible solutions I would suggest to resolve all the problems. I think the overall message is that there is no one solution to all the conflicts.

The romance. Wow— this is probably going to be one of my favourite romances in YA fantasy ever. First lets talk about the elephant in the room— Wes being Corrick. Funnily enough, the idea that Wes and Corrick were the same person had initially crossed my mind early on in the book when I realised that we might be getting a potential love-triangle (which is one of my least favoruite tropes!). I thought it would be funny if they were the same person seeing as Tessa and Wes both wore masks, and Wes was very adamant about not letting her see his face underneath it; however, I did not realise that was an actual possibility. So imagine my surprise when the plot twist happens— I literally gasped aloud and had to take a second out of reading to let the realisation sink in!

One of the best plot twists in YA Fantasy, in my opinion, and incredibly executed too!

I do kind of wish Tessa and Corrick’s romance was more of a slow-burn and the build up of their romance was more prolonged. To be honest, I wouldn’t have minded it if they didn’t get together officially until the next book, but that’s just me being a slow-burn, prolonged grovelling, enemies-to-lovers enthusiast. I would say this book focus a little bit more on the plot and the political aspects of it before the romance, which I appreciate. I wouldn’t recommend reading this book just for the romance because the politics plays such a big part of understanding the story. That being said, the romance is still worth reading and one of my all-time favourite YA fantasy relationships.

Tessa is one of my favourite female characters. She is the epitome of a strong, badass female character in YA Fantasy. She may not have any magical powers or know 20 different fighting skills but she’s willing to fight tooth and nail for what she believes is right. At this point she doesn’t even have a “fight or flight” response— just a fight response. The author did not need to constantly tell us that she’s a badass character, Tessa’s decisions and responses to the situations she was put in was more than enough to prove it. Tessa is also really kind and genuinely cares for others. I also loved that Tessa had her more vulnerable moments, which made me love her even more because it showed that she was human. If relatability is something you look for in a character, than Tessa is one you will be sure to love.

Corrick, my love, is a morally grey character that I ended up appreciating a little later than usual. I still found it hard to believe why he betrayed Tessa in the beginning but it all made sense in the end. He is a brother and a King’s Justice before anything else. He has a duty to serve the King and the people before his own wants, which I respected. What can I say, I just love complicated, morally-grey fictional men in books.

The writing was pretty much flawless. It was immersive, imaginative, and it felt like I was right in the middle of it all watching the story unfold. There were a couple violent, and gruesome scenes but they weren’t too graphic. I thought the hierarchy of those in power was well established, and the way the Kingdom operates was clearly set up and not at all confusing. I was highlighting and taking note of my favourite scene and quotes as I was reading, and I ended up tabbing so much more than usual.

This book had me gripped from the very first chapter, and I will now be recommending this book to everyone I come across. I will definitely check out the author’s previous works while I wait for the second book.

I’ll be waiting here patiently for the next book (can September come quickly please!)

5 stars

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Do you read YA Fantasy? Any recommendations?

Let me know in the comments below!

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