The Nightjar by Deborah Hewitt

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A young woman, Alice is having a bad day, but it’s just about to get so much worse. Alice receives an unusual box, an elderly woman dies in her arms, her work presentation to the managing board is a complete disaster and her best friend is hit by a car and lies in a coma.

A strange man starts to follow Alice, and says he is going to protect her. She begins to see birds… birds everywhere, the strangest thing is, is that no one else can see these feathered beasts. Alice is an Aviarist! She is apparently being hunted, for what and by whom she really does not know, and with no choice, no alternative to her predicament she has to trust this man – Crowley.

He takes her through to the ‘other side‘ of London, to a parallel city – The Rookery, where she is told she can save her friend Jen, by finding her a Nightjar before he soul leaves her body and it dies. Alice for the time being is apparently safe, she’s given a room to stay, a job, and a tutor to hone her very special and emerging skills as an Aviarist. Things though, are not as they seem and Alice goes on a rollercoaster journey to get to the Sulk Moors to find death himself. She is desperate to free her friend with the Nightjar before it’s too late.

This is an unusual original book, with some graphic violence throughout which was difficult to read in parts, however I did feel it was relevant to the plot. The writing is excellent and the author Deborah Hewitt captures your imagination very quickly as you are drawn to Alice and the deftly crafted world that Hewitt has mastered.

The characters are clearly written and Hewitt creates emotive complex individuals that you are drawn to immediately. This offers another dimension and depth to all the cast of characters but in particular Crowley, Marianne and of course Alice. Alice is brave, feisty and yet vulnerable, taken to a strange world not knowing who to trust – and we are with her every step of the way.

Hewitt has a natural ability to lead the reader into the plot in a subtle and deft way, so you are drawn into the narrative, wanting to find out more and I found it hard to put down initially. This is a long book, standing at 459 pages and I did lose interest and motivation in the middle, just wanting Alice and Crowley to get on with it, however once the chase was back on it was punchy and exciting – not for the faint hearted as some parts are very gruesome.

It is remarkable that this is Hewitt’s debut novel, it is innovative, original and has a refreshing twist on the usual fantasy books, and I enjoyed it immensely. I thought I had guessed the ending, but I was totally wrong and instead it has an unexpected and clever conclusion.

This is a brilliant book and I would recommend this to anyone who likes a fantasy novel with a difference.

The Nightjar is published by Pan Macmillan and is available here.

Deborah Hewitt

Deborah lives in the UK, somewhere south of Glasgow and north of London. She’s the proud owner of two brilliant boys and one very elderly dog. When she’s not writing, she can be found watching her boys play football in a muddy field, or teaching in her classroom. Occasionally she cooks. Her family wishes she wouldn’t. The Nightjar is her first book.

Reviewed by Amanda Brightman

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