3 out of 4 stars
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Andrew Bathgate tells the compelling tale of war between the barbaric Northern Tribes and the more prosperous South on the Ceniac Islands. The narrative is told from the third-person perspective while focusing on characters from both sides of the conflict. Fire wizards add a magical element to this story, while the lack of technology gives it a historical feel.
Sam, having survived his thirteenth winter, is officially classified as a man. Preparing the South’s forces, the Duke demands one male from every family to join the war. His father’s wooden leg disqualifies him, and to everyone’s horror, the responsibility now falls on Sam. Taking pity on the boy, the Duke employs him as a scout and later a messenger. Yet, fate has bigger plans in store for this young man. Stakes are raised as Unmind heads to the South with the united Northern Tribes, with no mercy to spare the unprepared citizens. To make matters worse, Unmind draws strength from the wizard Bestich. Since the disappearance of the Golden Wizard, the South has nothing to counter Unmind’s destructive power.
This is the best summary I could come up with without revealing too many spoilers. Part of my enjoyment of the story was allowing the author to slowly reveal the different layers of the plot as the story developed. It felt as if Bathgate wrote every scene with a significant purpose in mind. The further I delved into the story, the more invested I became, ultimately finding it difficult to put the novel down. The component that initially hooked me was the dynamic between Red and Sam. Red, an intimidating warrior, promises to look out for Sam, joining him as a scout while also teaching him the basics of combat. Their friendship was one of my favorites aspects of the book, and I wish I could have seen more of them working together.
The author did a great job with his battle scenes, providing me with some nail-biting action. In the first major battle, Sam delivers messages to different locations on the battlefield as the North and South engage in combat. I enjoyed experiencing the action from his perspective as he struggled to remember the messages while also trying to reach his destinations safely. Likewise, Princess Rose and her soldiers aid the refugees fleeing through the central pass with the blood-thirsty North short on their heels, treating readers to more action-packed scenes.
Those who appreciate philosophical elements in their reading will enjoy exploring the nature of humanity within this narrative. The author’s reflections were fascinating, ultimately discussing the good and evil driving both sides of the war. Overall, I found the plot captivating, with well-written characters and thought-provoking interactions that never failed to entertain me. The ending was not entirely to my liking, but it ties up the necessary loose ends while setting up the possibility for future installments, which I look forward to reading. My least favorite aspect was the many errors present in the text, indicating that the novel can do with another round of editing. Therefore, I can only award They Came By Night 3 out of 4 stars.
Younger and sensitive readers alike should approach this book with caution as some of the violence is quite graphic. It does contain profanity, with some made-up swear words unique to this world. Sexual content is also present, although the author skims over these moments without graphic detail. Readers will enjoy uncovering the mysteries of this world as they move from one captivating scene to the next. I highly recommend this novel to readers who appreciate action-packed battle sequences with unique magic elements.
They Came By Night
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