The most popular books in 2023 – A Day of Fallen Night (The Roots of Chaos) by Samantha Shannon
Thank you, thank you so much to the publisher for sending me a copy of one of my most anticipated reads of 2023. ADOFN was one of the best book I’ve read this year 2023.
This sweeping, breathtaking prequel to the Priory of the Orange Tree completely blew me away.
Like Priory, ADOFN is a slow-building political novel set against the backdrop of a fantasy dragon war. Set 500 years before Priory takes place, it tells a fantastic story in its own right.
A Day of Fallen Night continues Priory’s themes of religion and the role of religion in defining history. If anything, Shannon uses this story to develop those themes even further, exploring the ways that religion influences the lives of every character in her world. Her characters all embody faith in different ways. Glorian Berethnet, the sole heir to her throne and the fifteen-year-old figurehead of her religion; Tunuva Melim, who has dedicated fifty years of her life to the Priory and to her goddess; and Dumai of Ipyeda, whose journey and relationship with the slumbering gods of the East will go on to define history.
These three women are the heart of the book. They are what made A Day of Fallen Night genuinely excellent; not one POV was less compelling. Each of them had a unique story arc that was woven together by the fabric of Shannon’s universe. I’m reluctant to say more, for fear of spoilers, but the ways that their stories intersected and referenced one another absolutely thrilled me. Even the short scenes that were from other points of view provided the story with some of its best moments.
The historian in me was absolutely thrilled by the attention to detail in this book. Five centuries is one hell of a long time, and the idea that a world can be so similar for five hundred years is in itself a stretch. Shannon acknowledges this in a great way – through tiny spelling changes, mostly of proper nouns. Changing spellings is so typical of ancient texts, and as you study the same thing over centuries it will be spelled in ten thousand different ways by anyone writing about it. In A Day of Fallen Night, the city that we know as Ascalon is referred to as Ascalun; Carscaro is Karkaro, and so on. It’s small, it’s subtle, but it’s so realistic that it made me extremely happy.
At its core, A Day of Fallen Night is a story about mothers and daughters, and that visceral, unbreakable connection. It’s a theme that resonates throughout the story’s disparate narratives, in multiple tiny ways, in storylines that will break your heart. It’s intergenerational, multiple POV, and stunning in a way that is still intimate, emotional and accessible. Samantha Shannon has truly outdone herself with her second book in the Roots of Chaos series. I can’t wait to read what is yet to come.
Sidenote: I also loved the casual queerness that exists in this world. It’s not a statement, it’s not central to the plot, but queer people are core parts of the story and an inextricable part of the world itself. Secondly: the fact that the Berethnet queens are all over six feet tall is my favourite tidbit from this book. Amazing.
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