Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!
I was a huge fan of K. Eason’s Thorne Chronicles when I first read them, so you can imagine my excitement when I found out that she was starting a companion series set in the same universe! (I didn’t find out until a few weeks ago, but that’s beside the point.) I jumped on the chance to put it on hold at the library, and I finally got to read it recently; however, I found Nightwatch on the Hinterlands to be an entirely different type of story than Rory Thorne, which, in this case, was its downfall.
For my double review of How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse and How the Multiverse Got Its Revenge, click here!
Enjoy this week’s review!
Nightwatch on the Hinterlands – K. Eason
It’s been decades since any of the riev—battle-mechas designed for the war effort—have done any harm to civilians. For years, they’ve been decommissioned or redesigned for labor purposes. So when Lieutenant Iari arrives at the scene of a crime and realizes that a riev may have been the perpetrator, she knows that the mystery will lead down a trail that she never anticipated treading. Along with Gaer, an ambassador-turned-spy, Iari must play a dangerous game amongst her planet’s criminal underbelly, one that may lead to something greater than a simple murder.
TW/CW: murder, blood, descriptions of injury, xenophobia (fictional—cast is almost exclusively aliens)
I was a massive fan of the Thorne Chronicles, but after reading Nightwatch on the Hinterlands, I’m sorely disappointed in the direction that K. Eason decided to go with this series—my most common thought while reading this novel was why include this?
As a starting point: why these characters? I liked Iari well enough in How the Multiverse Got Its Revenge, and she does have the potential to have an interesting story, but I didn’t get enough information in Multiverse to really care about her. I didn’t remember much about Gaer either, and he was a well-written and likable character, at the very least, but there wasn’t much that carried over from the previous books to make me care enough about him. These characters were virtually all that carried over from the Thorne Chronicles into this new series (The Weep), and that was where my disinterest began.
In concept, I like Eason’s decision to set Nightwatch in the seedy, criminal underbelly of the world that was touched on in the Thorne Chronicles. It’s a classic sci-fi setting, and with how rich Eason’s established world already was, it would be easy to make something compelling out of it. However, the Thorne Chronicles were far more centered around the human characters, and the aliens were more of a sideplot, mostly just appearing in Multiverse. Nightwatch, however, was entirely centered around the alien characters; normally, this is something I’d be 100% on board with, but without the context that could’ve been given in either Multiverse or in…y’know, some part of this book, I was left in the dark for any of the conventions of this part of Eason’s established world. I somehow understand that not giving glimpses of the other characters (Rory, Messer Rupert, etc.) would’ve been easy fan service, but other than Iari, if I hadn’t known that this was a companion book, I wouldn’t have seen the connection at all.
And on the subject of context…we needed so much more of it. So much more. Even though 90% of these alien species weren’t even talked about in the Thorne Chronicles, Eason wrote Nightwatch in a way that automatically assumes that readers know every single cultural aspect of every single alien species (of which there are many), as well as the context of the various wars that have gone on before the events of Nightwatch, in a very short timespan. I’m all for science fiction novels that don’t dump every single bit of exposition and worldbuilding into the story in one, unceremonious pile at the beginning, but this felt like the other extreme—wanting to avoid that so much that the reader is left without a single clue of what’s going on. I understand the concern that this writing style grew out of, but there really could’ve been a much more comprehensible happy medium in terms of worldbuilding. Beyond that, it’s clear to see how much time Eason put into creating these alien races and cultures, and that’s something I’ll always admire, but the effect of that got dwarfed by the alienating (no pun intended) fashion that she (did not properly) integrated them.
Like the approach to worldbuilding, Eason’s writing style in this novel is a double-edged sword. It’s a wildly different style from the endearingly irreverent but simultaneously observant voice that she used in the Thorne Chronicles. In contrast, Nightwatch had the distant feel of a hardboiled noir in space, quick and to the point, except for when information was delivered. On the one hand, it’s proof that Eason can be very versatile in terms of voice across her novels. On the other, this didn’t feel quite as genuine as the Thorne Chronicles—it made sense for the story, but the characters less likable, and the plot felt rushed, like constant running in circles from A to B without much context as to why or how. It suited the style of Nightwatch to a point, but it ended up being a detriment to both the pacing and my general enjoyment.
While I was reading, I was debating whether or not I wanted to stick it out for the rest of the series; I really wanted to give K. Eason the benefit of the doubt after how much I adored the Thorne Chronicles, but I don’t think I’ll be continuing The Weep after how unpleasant my experience with Nightwatch was. Obvious points go to the extensive worldbuilding and the clear time and care put into crafting this aspect of the world, but most of the other elements—the writing style, the way we got (or didn’t get) pieces of worldbuilding, and not much to make me care for the characters—brought my enjoyment down immensely. 2 stars.
Nightwatch on the Hinterlands is the first book in the Weep series, succeeded by Nightwatch Over Windscar. This series is a companion to the Thorne Chronicles, which consists of How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse and How the Multiverse Got Its Revenge. K. Eason is also the author of several other novels, including the On the Bones of Gods series (Enemy, Outlaw, and Ally).
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!