Today I bring you my book review of THESE VIOLENT NIGHTS by Rebecca Crunden. THESE VIOLENT NIGHTS placed 11th in the final round of the 2022 Book Bloggers Novel of the Year Award (BBNYA).
BBNYA is a yearly competition where book bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors, ending with 15 finalists and one overall winner. If you are an author and wish to learn more about the BBNYA competition, you can visit the official website or Twitter @bbnya_official. BBNYA is brought to you in association with the @Foliosociety (if you love beautiful books, you NEED to check out their website!) and the book blogger support group @The_WriteReads.
Once upon a time, inhabitants of another world tore a hole through the universe and came to Earth. They called themselves Suriias, and rivalled humans in knowledge and skill with one great exception: they had magic.
War followed. Humanity lost. And three hundred years later, humans are on the brink of extinction.
Orphans Thorn and Thistle live in hiding. They are the last of their families, the last of their friends. They scrape by, stealing to survive and living on the streets or hiding in sheds. But even under the brutal regime of the Suriias, there are places where humans can mingle in secret with magical sympathisers, and one night Thistle gets an unexpected offer of marriage from a Suriia with high standing and friends in all the right places. For Thistle, it’s a chance at safety and comfort; for Thorn, it’s a chance to find the ones who killed her parents.
And so the pair move into the capital city of Courtenz. An urban monstrosity of magic and might, false friends and flying cars, drones and death tolls, the new city promises a fresh start – and new love – for both.
But if there’s one thing Thorn knows for certain, it’s that dreams can swiftly turn into nightmares.
Thank you to The Write Reads and the author for providing me with an e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Separately, prior to this tour, I purchased my own copy and read it for this review.
Wow. Where do I even start with THESE VIOLENT NIGHTS? First, this book has such a unique take on traditional mythical creatures. Or, at least, what I interpret as parallels. The Suriias are a race of humanoid people who have magic and are more technologically advanced than humans. There are different cultures of Suriia, defined by how they regenerate their power. I might be off base here, but these different cultures reminded me of vampires, werewolves, ghouls, and succubus. Their arrival on Earth eventually, over centuries, gives way to the oppression and genocide of humans.
Cue Thorn and Thistle, best friends turned sisters as they fight for survival. But Thistle receives an offer she can’t refuse and persuades Thorn to come with her. This means living with two Suriias, Nithin and Kol, a race of people Thorn swore never to trust and certainly not to befriend. Nithin is sbura, a Suriia whose power regenerates via sexual energy. Kol is frai, the most powerful of of the Surriias (admittedly, I’m stumped at what the frai parallel with respect to traditional fantasy creatures). Despite their insistence that they don’t support the enslavement and genocide of humans, Thorn remains unconvinced and on edge.
But Kol tries to gently and calmly show Thorn over time that she can trust him. Thorn is stubborn, though, and constantly grapples with her pledge to never trust their kind and to avenge her parents’ death. In Thorn the theme of bias is prominent. Through no fault of her own, it’s easy to understand her hatred for the Suriia. Suriia killed her parents, tortured her, and still systematically track and kill her race/species. Her trauma gave way to closed mindedness as a survival mechanism, reducing the Suriia to a monolith of opinions in her mind. Crunden does a wonderful job showing the reader Thorn’s emotional turmoil as she fights to keep her long-known prejudice despite evidence that not all Suriia believe in the subjugation of humans. (I wish I could delve into a particularly poignant and ironic plot twist that ties into this theme, but my lips are sealed.)
This weaves into the theme of trust and how hard it can be to do so after experiencing years of fear and violence. To keep one’s biases and trust close is to survive in this world. And Thorn is reluctant to give up her safety net of self-protectionism. I thought the pacing of Thorn’s and Kol’s interactions was written very well. Some may feel it’s too slow for their preferences, but I thought it was realistic. Crunden takes her time letting them explore each other’s worlds, which also introduces Kol to just how despicably the majority of Suriia treat humans. It’s one thing to hear and know about mistreatment, and another to witness it.
Another fascinating aspect of THESE VIOLENT NIGHTS is the concept of what happens after death. Do we die and cease to exist? Do our souls become something else, go somewhere else? Though this concept is more of a secondary theme, I enjoyed its unique inclusion nonetheless.
This story has a rich cast of characters, each with their own layered history. What one lacks in a biological family is found in one’s chosen family. If I talked about every character this review would be too long! But suffice it to say that Crunden painstakingly takes her characters on a journey that undoubtedly results in positive growth. The mesh of magic/fantasy and science fiction was fun and as the story progressed it fell more squarely in the former. My only small quibbles are subjective, as always. I would have liked to learn more about the world from which the Suriia came and how their magic works there. I also would have liked to know more about Lucien’s backstory, a character introduced midway. And there were a few tense scenes that I felt resolved too easily for Thorn.
Overall, though, I really enjoyed this book. It’s perfect for those who favor dystopian fantasy but enjoy a dabble of science fiction. I particularly loved following Thorn as she fought to stay true to herself while also wanting to give her new Suriia friends a chance. THESE VIOLENT NIGHTS is a story about surviving, defeating oppression, and overcoming biases born from fear and trauma. Whether intentional or not, there are certainly parallels to our own world and its history (and current events). So, I think every reader will be able to take away an important message or empathize with the characters.
Content warnings: genocide, racism, xenophobia, blood, death, sex (off page), mention of torture, fight scenes
Reading format: Kindle e-book
About the Author
Rebecca Crunden is an indie author of fantasy and science fiction who lives in Ireland.