Book Review: Queen of the Night by Leanne Hall

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In 2010 Leanne Hall literally took us into the darkness in her urban fantasy novel This Is Shyness. In the suburb of Shyness the sun never rises, the streets are stalked by Kidds hopped-up on sugar (and their pet monkeys), and a Doctor Gregory haunts the landscape in a Fitzgerald-esque fashion. In her sequel, Queen of the Night, Hall takes us back to Shyness, six months later, and back into the lives of Nia (Wildgirl) and Jethro (Wolfboy).

Both Nia and Jethro are trying to better their lives. Jethro, a young man with some animalistic attributes, is trying to be a good role model for his niece, and for former-Kidd Blake, as well as trying to keep his band-mates (and band) on track. Nia is trying to focus on her schoolwork, and her new job. Definitely not focusing on the fact that Jethro hasn’t called her in the past six months. And then Jethro does call…

Jethro seeks Nia’s support as his friend Paul starts spending more time in the company of people connected to the mysterious Datura Institute. Their investigation leads them to stranger and darker places than Shyness itself has to offer.

The pacing of Queen of the Night is its weak point. It starts slowly, to some extent for the benefit of anyone entering it as a novel in its own right rather than a sequel. There is more page time devoted to Nia’s world – her plan for an independent life and her relationship with her mother – that dilutes the more interesting fantasy elements. The reader’s perseverance, however, is definitely rewarded, with a fast-paced, fantastical climax that ends all too soon.

The fantastical is where Hall’s strength lies. Her world-building is phenomenal and she makes the extraordinary tangible in a way that echoes the likes of Isobelle Carmody and Penni Russon. Queen of the Night builds on This Is Shyness in a way that is natural and beautiful – a seemingly throw-away sentence in This Is Shyness becomes a whole scene in Queen of the Night. The little details and layers of history added to Shyness are an absolute pleasure to read, and I just want more, more, more! While I haven’t heard anything about a third book in the series, I’m both expecting and hoping that there will be one.

Text Publishing

Bonus material: Leanne Hall has compiled a mixtape for Queen of the Night, which you should absolutely check out.

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