One of the debut Aussie YA novels I’ve most been looking forward to in 2023 is KAte J Armstrong’s Nightbirds (I featured it in this post about some of the upcoming LoveOzYA books I’m excited about). I was thrilled when the team at Allen & Unwin sent me an early copy to consider for review and have been looking forward to sharing my thoughts about it here. Read on below to find out more.
What is Kate J Armstrong’s Nightbirds about?
Magic may be illegal in Simta, but you can find it if you know which whispers to heed. None as tantalising as the ones about the Nightbirds, Simta’s best kept secret. These privileged girls have the ability to gift their magic to others with a kiss – something the church would have them killed for. But protected by the Great Houses, their identities safe behind masks, the Nightbirds are well-guarded treasures.
Matilde, Æsa, and Sayer spend their nights bestowing their unique brands of magic to well-paying clients. But this Season’s Nightbirds find themselves at the heart of a political scheme that threatens their secrets and their safety. When they discover that their magic is far more than they were ever told, they see the carefully crafted Nightbird system for what it is: a gilded cage.
Now they must make a choice – to remain kept birds or take control, remaking the city that dared to clip their wings.
My review of Nightbirds by Kate J Armstrong
Nightbirds is gorgeous. Everything, from the beautiful cover to the richly developed world and magic system to the believable friendships, it’s all so well done. This is a big book, at over 450 pages, and I found it was just one of those novels that are perfect to sink into and really spend some time there. I savoured reading this one across more than a week, and to be honest if the sequel was out I would have picked it up immediately because I wasn’t ready to leave.
One of the things I found great about Nightbirds being on the chonkier side was that there was really time to get to know the world and the characters in the build up to the big action. I loved getting some insights into their back stories and I felt like this really contributed to being attached to them through the story. The pacing worked really well for me – I found there was enough going on to draw me in and keep me intrigued at all times, but at the same time I didn’t feel that exhaustion of having heavy action and conflicts thrown at me page after page. While I wouldn’t necessarily describe the plot as “twisty”, I also didn’t find it predictable and there were some great surprises along the way.
As well as the fabulous magic system, and cast of great characters, I really appreciated the political elements of the story – the tension between the church and the government and the wealthy people of the word – themes of class and gender in particular were well drawn out. I also loved the 1920s vibes.
I think this is definitely one for fantasy lovers to pick up – I’ll be hanging out for the sequel!
Nightbirds on Goodreads.
Find Kate J Armstrong online here.
Kate shared a lot of ‘behind the scenes’ info about this book and its publication in the podcast she cohosts with Amie Kaufman, Pub Dates. There is a link on her website here if you’d like to check it out.
Looking for more LoveOzYA reviews and recommendations? Click here.