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Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer



Brigid Kemmerer has already established herself as a successful writer for young adults within the fantasy fairy tale genre with the popular Cursebreaker series, the paranormal Elementals series, and the more contemporary novel Letters to the Lost. So young adults who come to this book expecting romance and adventure will not be disappointed.


There is much afoot in the medieval kingdom of Kandala. King Harristan is a young man whose royal parents were violently assassinated. Helping him to maintain order is his younger brother Prince Corrick who ruthlessly squashes any hint of a challenge to his brother's authority. Added to this political turmoil, the kingdom is also being ravaged by an epidemic of a mysterious and often deadly illness. It seems that moonflower petals work as a preventative and curative medicine but the supply of the flowers becomes fraught with tension as only some districts are able to grow them, only the elite can afford to buy them, and the poor folk miss out.


Tessa is an apothecary's daughter, mixing herbal remedies and engaged in the dangerous task of stealing moonflower petals from the wealthy to make potions to heal and protect the common people of the kingdom. Her masked associate in this task is Wes and although she does not know anything more than that he is motivated to help the poor as she is, it is clear there is a strong attraction between them as they go about their dangerous nighttime missions. Tessa's parents were killed for doing what she is doing now and when Wes is captured, she recklessly inveigles herself into the castle but is discovered and captured. Tessa is brought into the royal circle, comes to know the king and his brother as people and finds her loyalty divided as she becomes caught up in the complex world of courtly intrigue, whispers of conspiracy and jostling for power.


This tale may be styled as a fantasy but magical forces are not at play. Set in a medieval world, making a play on the Robin Hood tale of robbing the rich to help the poor and with all the trappings of a fairytale romance, nevertheless this story is a very human drama. The king is hanging on to power amidst the plotting and scheming of district leaders, and a handsome, charming and kindly prince also must be brutal and cruel to support his brother to survive as the king. Meanwhile our heroine, good-hearted and brave but impulsive Tessa is torn by feelings of love and loyalty while encountering violence and rebellion. These are not black and white characters in the fairytale sense. The story is driven by the actions of individuals who show both vice and virtue, weakness and strength, and whose motivations, honesty and loyalty are not clear cut. Even though I am well over the target audience's age, I found myself absorbed in the fast-paced, unpredictable and dramatic story and found myself sizing up the characters and like Tessa, wondering who to trust!


Be warned that this tale does not end on the last page. Questions and uncertainties remain and those invested in this tumultuous tale must wait for the sequel Defend the Dawn to see how the situation plays out.


Reviewer: Clare Lyon

Bloomsbury

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