I received a copy of this book as part of the TBRindr programme.
216 pages| Publisher: One More Page| Fantasy/dark fantasy
3.5/5 (rounded to 4 on Goodreads & Amazon)
The digest: In just over 200 pages Patrick creates an immersive yet lightweight narrative with a keen focus on localised worldbuilding. Through folklore and mysticism we learn about a world not too unlike our own in times gone by where tribal gods and their servants are very much a real part of life.
They Mostly Come Out At Night is the first of four (at the moment) books in the Yarnsworld series, stories which mostly revolve around different groups of characters which share the same storyworld. I’ve been interested in the series for a few years now but never got around to reading it until the author contacted me.
From the book’s Goodreads page:
“He locked himself away from the dark, but in the Magpie King’s forest nowhere is safe…
Lonan is an outcast, accused of letting the monsters that stalk the night into the homes of his fellow villagers. Now, he will not rest until he wins back the heart of his childhood love and reclaims the life that was stolen from him. However, locked safely in his cellar at night, in his dreams Lonan finds himself looking through the eyes of a young prince…
Adahy has a destiny, and it terrifies him. How can he hope to live up to the legend of the Magpie King, to become the supernatural protector of the forest and defender of his people? But when the forest is invaded by an inhuman force, Adahy must rise to this challenge or let the Wolves destroy his people.
Watching these events unfold in his sleep, Lonan must do what he can to protect his village from this new threat. He is the only person who can keep his loved ones from being stolen away after dark, and to do so he will have to earn back their trust or watch the monsters kill everyone that he holds dear.”
I mostly enjoyed the novel, so I’ll start with my main complaints before looking at what impressed me.
There were only a few issues with this novel. Firstly, the protagonist’s attitude towards (and subsequently his dialogue with) a girl he once had a thing for– which all felt over dramatic and overconfident. If you read (or have read) this novel, then I think you can clearly see how Patrick struggled to successfully convey Lonan’s feelings in this regard. Lonan sounds like somebody with a relationship and interpersonal issue when it comes to this one other character, but with others he is a perfectly reasonable chap. I mostly liked this protagonist when he was adventuring, but with each new thought he had about this woman I felt a little bit more disconnected from him. This, to me, was the most obvious below-average part of They Mostly Come Out At Night as it drew me out of the narrative
My second issue is the lack of overall development for many of the background characters. Of course, in 216 pages I don’t expect a fully-fledged history of each named character, but I just could not connect with many of Lonan’s fellow villagers which I thought was a shame. Dare I say it, even though I thought A Court of Thorns and Roses was awful, the development of that protagonist’s family there was better done than that of Lonan. In addition to the overall general lack of characterisation, the author introduces the idea of ‘knacks’ early on and then seems to forget why they matter. These are effectively talents (but not quite – something the book never makes too clear) and seem to be quite important at the start of the book but by the end, I was left asking why they were ever included. It’s not that this was a bad mechanic, it was just severely underdeveloped and underused. The author may have been better off by just making one of the characters an excellent healer, another a good speaker etc rather than introduce these ‘knacks’.
With the main negatives out of the way, let’s move onto the enjoyable aspects of the novel.
Firstly, we have the incredible combination(s) of mythos/folklore/magic embedded in this storyworld as both worldbuilding and plot device. Patrick blends a mixture of more traditional European stories, not unlike those found in books from The Brothers Grimm, with a more location-based tribal system like that of Native Americans. In this respect, the plot mainly focuses on the Corvae (one of the peoples) and their monarch, the Magpie King, with his superhuman strength, speed, and senses. Other tribes/people have different leader named after different animals – lions, serpents, mice, wolves etc. We don’t learn too much about most of these other peoples which is a shame as there is a lot of potential there, but what we are presented with is more than enough for a short book. There is scope for further exploration of this tribal system and I hope that Patrick develops this in other Yarnsworld books. I cannot stress how impressed I was by this rather unique take on story-telling – there was an even focus on both the current action and the history of this part of the Yarnsworld which led to a satisfying ‘complete package’ as it were. I am excited to see what the next books add to the table.
I thought that this social system was well-executed and was used to clearly separate between the Low and High Corvae (the ‘normal’ villagers and the nobles). That is, the Low Corvae (everyday villagers) just get on with their lives without much regard or focus on other tribes, in theory under the protection of the Magpie King, whilst the High Corvae are much more focused on the king himself and the smoothness of his operations. The two classes tell a range of stories mostly revolving around a fellow named Artemis, with the villeins focusing on more personal/small-scale stories of how he stole women’s hearts (and then their purses), with the more noble citizens of Corvae focusing on Artemis’ decidedly villainous exploits which put people’s lives in danger.
Tales such as these were both told by the characters of the main plot, but we were also presented with written versions between chapters. This technique of stopping the main action for a few minutes with a short folktale had tripartite purpose: i) building the tension and suspense for our protagonist(s) and ii) providing us with a better sense of the communities of the Yarnsworld peoples. The third, and perhaps most compelling reasoning for these mini-stories was to weave together a cohesive narrative. Throughout the novel we spend time with not only Lonan (who is shunned by his village for something he did not do) but also Adahy, the Magpie King’s only son and next in line to the throne. The interspersed stories help not only to flesh out the background theory of the Corvae but also link together these two main plotlines in an incredibly satisfying way. And it was excellently done. Make sure you pay attention to each and every one of them if you want to get the most out of They Mostly Come Out At Night.
The development of the main characters is neither good nor bad. We learn a little about the history of four or five people and then obviously what they do over the course of the 216-page narrative, as well as their hopes for the future in a few select cases. There are, however, not going to be awards for the characters – whilst I feel that I could give you a decent summary of a few of them from memory, I am not convinced I will remember them in a few months’ time. As I said above, I struggled to really identify with Lonan which is disappointing, but this was Patrick’s debut novel so he can’t get everything right first time! Adahy (the son of the Magpie King) was easier to relate to if you viewed him as two distinct persons before and after a certain key even early on in the novel – there is a sudden shift in his attitudes which was mostly unexplained.
The technical aspects of the novel were mostly positive, too. The pacing was satisfying in its acceleration towards the end of the novel, Patrick’s writing style is clear and concise (not spectacular but it gets the job done), and there is a good amount of action along the way. My main complaint in this area is that during the first readthrough, I struggled to understand what exactly was going on in the opening few chapters. Perhaps giving more background knowledge, or even just explaining what is going on a bit better, would make the start of the novel more accessible.
3.5/5. In conclusion, The sense of worldbuilding and the overall tone of the story being a folktale is what really impressed me about this book and is the reason I’m rounding it up to a 4 on Goodreads and Amazon. The character development wasn’t great and there were a few other niggles which is why I can’t give it a ‘solid’ 4 everywhere, but the ratings for later books in the series seem to increase every time I check them, so I reckon Patrick may have fixed these. The story doesn’t provide too much in the way of explanation, but if you are a fan of mythology and stories of magical beings then you (probably) won’t be disappointed with this one.