On Nightingale by David Farland

Nightingale

*Mild Spoilers (Visit Spoiler Ratings and Guidelines for ThinkyRead’s spoiler policy).

On Wednesday, April 10th, I just happened to open up my Feedly (which, admittedly, I don’t do often). Mary Robinette Kowal’s most recent post was titled “Book Bomb to Help Dave Wolverton’s son.” Hm… intriguing, What in the world is a Book Bomb?

Apparently David Wolverton’s son had recently been in a long boarding accident, broke most of the bones in his body. Being a full-time writer often means having not-so-great health insurance. Or, as in this case, none at all. So a bunch of Daven’s writer friends got together and decided to spike Dave’s most recent book’s popularity on Amazon. Higher rank, more sales, less debt. Plus, he got 7% from whatever people purchased from Amazon if they used his affiliate link! And, hey, the book was only $7.99.

So I bought it.

First Impressions

Nightingale is a YA Fantasy, which is really hit-or-miss for me. I love YA (despite the endless droves of angsty teen heroes), it’s the Tolkien-esc other-worldy stuff I find hard to digest if not done well. I was actually a bit tuned off by the prologue. It was too… Eragon for me. (Oh my god! I just compared David Farland to Eragon!? Please forgive me, Dave! I didn’t mean it! I didn’t mean it!) I felt lost and confused being thrown into a fantastical world with shiny blue lights and sizerals. But I also knew that was the whole point of the prologue and chapter one would probably bring some type of clarity.

If you can get past the weird genetic mutation and confusing names, this book is definitely worth a read. I like to read pretty fast and it just takes too long to sound out Chenzhenko, much less remember how to pronounce it every time.

Good vs. Evil: Olivia

This was obviously a good vs. evil story. Ael, good. Draghoul, bad. Got it. Though one side was obviously presented as “good” and the other as “evil” the distinction felt more like the “hunters” and the “hunted.” Let me explain: When Bron’s memory is read by one of the Draghoul acolytes the narrator describes it like this:

“It was like being raped, he knew, at some primitive level. He’d never felt so sullied, never imagined that he could feel so violated.”

And rightly so! How would you feel if someone shuffled through your private thoughts without permission? Isn’t our mind our most personal space? Our most remote safe haven? Even our bodies we’ll share with a trusted individual, but no one ever reveals everything in their mind.

But Olivia, the pinnacle of goodness, mind-rapes Bron the first chance she gets! She admits having done it to her husband too. (At least, she admits to changing his memory. We don’t know if she read through his thoughts. I’m just assuming it comes with the gig.) Not only does she search through Bron’s private thoughts and emotions, she takes away some of the painful ones. She installs new memories. She’s essentially playing god with Bron’s head.

Olivia’s actions begs the question: Where exactly is the line between right and wrong?

There’s no way in hell would I want to be married to someone who had no problems wiping my memory anytime I learned something about her that I didn’t like. Olivia said she’d tried to tell Mike about her strange abilities before. He didn’t take it well. Does that mean if he knew about her, he would leave her? If he would, wouldn’t it be right to let him leave? If she wiped his memory, he would want to stay with her. She would have to either stay with him or break both of their hearts by leaving. But if she didn’t wipe his memory and he did for some reason leave her, he would become a danger not only to her, but to himself. He would be a walking target.

What to do? Keep a secret forever? We all know how keeping secrets tends to end up, especially when it comes to married couples. This is a story thread I will enjoy following when the next book in the series comes out.

Dave did a wonderful job providing his characters with a dense moral maze to navigate, and I enjoyed watching them stumble and fall. (That statement came out more sadistically than I meant it.) I don’t mind when characters make poor choices. In fact, I love it. That can drive a story. What I don’t like is when characters make poor choices and never face the consequences.

Considering this is the first in a four book series, I’m willing to wait until the end before I make a final judgement on David Farland’s characters and their decisions. Olivia is in some deep trouble, but this first book was far too focused on Bron and his dillema to touch on Olivia that much. I hope her willingness to mess around in people’s heads without permission will come back to bite her in the end.

Bron

Bron is introduced as the “poor orphan under the stairs” which immediately gives us a reason empathize. He’s had a tough life. He’s never been loved. He’s never been wanted. His own mother had his existence wiped from her memory for crying out loud! Definitely a tragic situation indeed.

But that give him some really fun challenges!

The most emotional scene in the book was when Bron was in the hospital with Galadriel. This is when Bron’s fatal flaw reared it’s angry head, stretching out to affect more than just him for once. Brought on by years of neglect and abuse, Bron doesn’t love. He won’t let himself.

This was the most beautiful conflict in the book and I sat on the edge of my seat when Olivia touched his mind and bringing him an alternate ending to the Sad Cat Tale.

Though the book, as Bron learns more about himself and his past, we see him undergo a change. In the beginning, when Olivia aims a gun at Riley’s face, Bron is horrified. He can’t even believe she has a gun. But in the end of the book, Bron himself does far worse and more vicious things.

Again I ask, where is the line? Is cruelty less bad when directed toward someone who is already “evil?”

What really makes Bron and Olivia’s actions so hard to digest is the fact that, were I in their position, I know would make the exact same choices. Bron and Olivia are the perfect mirror of how we humans actually behave. We hardly practice what we preach.

The Draghoul vs. The Ael

I’ve been pointing out through this article the choices that were made by Bron and Olivia that I would define as immoral choices. But those choices must be put in light of the enemy.

The Draghoul are evil. Flat out evil. Most of them, however, are not evil of their own intent. They’ve had their brains scooped out and pumped full of the Shadow Lord’s thoughts.

The Shadow Lord, like any self-respecting villain, is planning to take over the world. That’s bad. What’s interesting, the methods he’s using to take over are almost the same methods the Ael are to stop him. Using his minions, spying, stealing, slinking in the shadows and biding his time until he’s ready to attack.

*Begin Spoiler Warning*
After Bron is arrested and taken to the Sheriff Station, the Draghoul break in and murder almost every officer in the building. They mind-rape many of the characters, including Bron, and try to take Bron and Olivia hostage.

Father Leery saves the day by immobilizing the enemy and… making them poppets? Exactly the tactic of the enemy they are trying to defeat. Of course, the Ael wouldn’t dream of doing this to a member of their own kind. These enemies are highly dangerous, after all! In order for them to keep a low profile, it really comes down to poppet or death. There is no Ael justice system. No Draghoul prison. Which further illuminates the loose moral boundaries of these two people groups.
*End Spoiler Warning*

Conclusion

I liked Nightingale. It was fun and it made me think. There was a good mix of fantasy to real life, although I was a little disappointed when Act 3 seemed to take place almost entirely in a Louisiana swamp. Again, I’m not a huge fantasy person, so I missed the familiar trials and tribulations of cozy little St. George.

The book had a great ending, though. Most of my questions were answered while new ones were raised. I’ll definitely remain on the lookout now for the release of David Farland’s next book in this series, Dream Assassin.

Enjoyed this post? Support the blog by picking up a copy of Nightingale by David Farland from Amazon.com. I thank you. Your brain, which is increase in size with every word you read, will thank you too.

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