THE NIGHT WORLD: Volume 3 by L.J. Smith
“Four to Stand Between the Light and the Shadow…”
Whereas the first Night World omnibus set up the basic concept for the Night World and the rules in place for its existence, the second began to give the sense that all the stories were interconnected rather than one-off stories. With each installment, more was learned about the history of the sub-world, the concept of soulmates, and (particularly in this final omnibus) the coming of the end of the world. Such was the case for the first nine books in this series, but unfortunately, the final book in the series was never published, leaving readers hanging as to how the story ended.
For example, despite the fact that each book features a new female protagonist, other secondary characters often pop up in cameo appearances, and there is the sense that the world around them is changing as each book goes on. Concepts such as Circle Daybreak and the soulmate principal grow and adapt in meaning, and we get assorted clues that we are headed toward an apocalyptic battle between good and evil.
This is especially clear in this, the final omnibus in the series, in which Smith introduces the idea of the Wild Powers and the apocalypse. It is prophesied that at the turn of the millennium (hmm, since that’s come and gone without a hitch, I think we can assume that the good guys were successful) the world will be plunged into chaos and darkness, and only four individuals known as the Wild Powers have any chance of stopping it. But since the prophesied “chaos and darkness” is of the unspecified sort, many Night World inhabitants believe that this is their chance to take back control of the world and see the Wild Powers as a threat.
Therefore, it is up to Circle Daybreak, an organization committed to securing peace between all the races, to not only identify the Wild Powers, but to keep them save from the Night World, secure their cooperation in the coming battle, and help them harness their inherent ability to call up blue fire. All they have to help them in this task is a prophesy that provides clues as to who these Wild Powers are:
One from the land of kings long forgotten,
One from the hearth which still holds the spark,
One from the Day World where two eyes are watching,
One from the twilight to be one with the dark.
Huntress concerns Jez Redfern, a young vampire who is horrified to discover that her mother was a human, making her an unheard-of human/vampire hybrid. Leaving her close-knit gang of vampires, she turns her back on her past and joins Circle Daybreak, living with her mother’s human family and secretly hunting down renegade Night World citizens in her spare time.
She isn’t quite successful in juggling her double-life (especially not with her suspicious cousin Clare), but that’s hardly her most pressing concern when Circle Daybreak recruits her for a new mission. It would seem that they have information on a Wild Power: someone in the Night World claims to have found one. The reason Jez has been chosen is because the person who is proposing to sell this information to the highest bidder is none other than Morgead Blackthorn, a member of her old gang.
Going undercover into her old territory, and hiding the terrible secret of her lineage as she investigates Morgead’s claim, Jez attempts to uncover the mystery of the potential Wild Power before any of her former-friends catch on to what she’s really up to.
It is in Black Dawn that a suspenseful complex story and the strongest protagonist of the entire series are united in order to make the undisputed best book of the entire series. When Maggie Neely learns that her brother disappeared and is presumed dead whilst mountain climbing, she immediately suspects that his girlfriend’s story is a lie. Trailing Sylvia back to her apartment, she confronts the older girl, only to pass out and wake up in a slave-trader’s cart.
While unconscious, Maggie has been transported to a secret enclave within the Night World: a hidden kingdom in the mountains that is permanently cut-off from the human world save for the kidnapping of slaves to work in the castle that lies at its center. Along with three other slaves (that include a mysterious young blind girl) Maggie manages to escape only to find herself caught up in the fate of the kingdom and the people therein.
Even out of the context of the rest of the series Black Dawn is a great story. Smith manages to juggle several subplots, including Maggie’s search for her brother, her escape from the slave-traders, her relationship with the vampire Prince Delos, the identity of the next Wild Power (the one from “the land of kings long forgotten”), and the political machinations that go on in the Night World. Maggie is without a doubt her strongest, most realistic protagonist who manages to be both tough and compassionate.
In Witchlight Smith finally turns her attention toward shape-shifters, the race that we know the least about. Here, a werepanther called Keller leads a three-person team consisting of herself, a witch and a vampire to retrieve the third Wild Power. As well as this, Iliana Dominick also happens to be the Witch Child: the young woman prophesied to marry the son of the First House of shape-shifters and in doing so unify the shape-shifter and witch families.
Keller’s problems are threefold. Firstly, Iliana is a “lost witch,” raised as a human, who has no knowledge or intention whatsoever in doing what is expected of her. Secondly, Keller is horrified to discover that a dragon (one of the original shape-shifters) has been awakened, and instigating serious trouble among the shifters. Thirdly, she herself has fallen in love with Galen Drache, the man to whom Iliana is to be betrothed to in order to secure peace.
Witchlight was my favorite when I was young, and so it was perhaps inevitable that it would be a little disappointing on revisiting it. There’s so many plot-holes, unlikely scenarios and assorted silliness that credibility is stretched a little too far, even for what is essentially a series that was never meant to be taken too seriously. Why does the team risk war just because Iliana wants to go to a party? Why doesn’t Keller recognize her own crown-prince? What exactly does it mean to be the “Witch Child” and why haven’t we ever heard of it before? And why, why, WHY does an elite swat team, specializing in covert missions and secrecy drive around in a white limousine? Yes, you read that right. A white limousine.
As a general critique, I’ve never been a big fan of “the soulmate principal,” which basically concerns two characters falling in love without taking the time to get to know each other, just because they’re “destined” for one another. This concept in the previous books has always been hit-and-miss, sometimes successful (Ash/Mary-Lynette, Thierry/Hannah) sometimes unconvincing (Thea/Eric, Gillian/David). By this final omnibus, it just feels formulaic. Two characters meet, have a weird outer-body experience with pretty lights in which they find themselves able to read each other’s minds, and then announce themselves in love (whether they like it or not).
But on the whole, this final installment in the series contains three of the best stories in the series, in which threads that have been started in previous books begin to weave together in preparation for the final book. There is plenty here that Smith needs to wrap up, including the final line of the prophesy “one from the twilight to be one with the dark,” the cryptic words of the dragon who claims it was awoken by “a witch who is not a witch,” and the ominous words of the Night World portend which says: “In blue fire, the final darkness is banished. In blood, the final price is paid.”
And as a special bonus, we get a sneak peek at the first chapter of the forthcoming final book in the series. I’ve waited ten years for the end of this series. My inner-teen has been embraced, a space has been cleared on my bookshelf. I’m all primed and ready for Strange Fate.
Night World — (1996-2010) Young adult. These have been re-released in omnibus editions, but you can find used copies of the original versions by clicking through to Amazon. The first omnibus contains Secret Vampire, Daughters of Darkness, Spellbinder. The second omnibus contains Dark Angel, The Chosen, Soulmate. The third contains Huntress, Black Dawn, Witchlight. Publisher: The pain was something Poppy couldn’t ignore. The diagnosis was death. There was no hope — until James appeared in the darkened hospital room. James, her best friend and secret love, the handsomest boy in El Camino High. But this was a James she didn’t know, menacing yet irresistible as he offered Poppy the gift of eternal life. Only he could open the door to the Night World, and spirit her into its lonely, secret universe. One dizzying kiss and she can see into his soul. She finds that he has always loved her. They’re soulmates — but can she follow him into death and beyond? It’s a desperate choice, and Poppy’s time is running out…
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