A Day of Fallen Night by Samantha Shannon is the perfect example of a high fantasy epic. With its dragons, magic, and fully developed world, few stories contain all the critical elements of high fantasy while being immensely readable and enjoyable. For fantasy lovers, A Day of Fallen Night is also the perfect way to start the year.
Unlike other stories that grabbed my attention, I did not speed read or skim any of its 880 pages either. For other authors, publishing a novel of that length would indicate a lack of efficient editing, resulting in plenty of descriptions perfect for skimming. This is not the case with A Day of Fallen Night. Each sentence is almost a tiny poem, carefully crafted to evoke all senses. Every word has a purpose, leaving nothing to skim. To skim would mean missing out on the beautiful language, but it also would mean missing a pertinent detail.
One of the things I love about Ms. Shannon’s novels, which is very evident while reading A Day of Fallen Night, is how real her fictional worlds are. There is no aspect of any of the worlds within the story that does not have an entire developmental history, complete with religion, governance, and mythology. She even knows the evolution of the lands. The work it must take to establish all this in advance of writing the first word must be tremendous, but it pays off in a story that is rich in fine detail. Her worlds are so clear that you forget that they are fictional.
Not only are her worlds alive with detail, but Ms. Shannon’s characters are also equally lifelike. Each character has an entire genealogical history, going back generations. One suspects she knows what will happen to each family in the future; her preparation is that complete. As with her world, all of this knowledge makes her characters come alive in ways that rarely happen in novels.
Ms. Shannon treats the fantasy elements of A Day of Fallen Night with just as much care as she does with every other aspect of her novel. From dragons to wyverns to magic, each element has its own set of clear rules that she carefully follows. Moreover, she doesn’t insert the magical component because it would be cool. Each piece has a purpose in the story, furthering her tale without overdoing it.
Ms. Shannon is such an excellent writer that I knew her second book in The Roots of Chaos series would be good. I was not prepared to be so fully immersed in the story that I lost track of time and sleep and found myself obsessing about it when I wasn’t reading it. Every time I stopped reading, I had to mentally shake myself to reorient myself into the real world because Inys, Seiiki, Lasia, and all the rest were so real. There is no doubt that when 2023 draws to a close, A Day of Fallen Night will be among the best novels of the year, if not the best. I could not have asked for a better book to start the year.