Review: ‘Scar Night’ by Alan Campbell

Suddenly, I’m finishing up a lot of books at the same time. A few more to come, too.

When the last batch of books came, I picked up Scar Night first. After everything I’d heard about it, it beckoned quite intriguingly.

It certainly did not disappoint. It took a while to finish because it is what I call ‘thick’ reading: Not heavy/dull, but so rich with concept, imagination and imagery that it can be a little overwhelming if I’m too tired. Scar Night is very thick.

The book is 547 pages long. The plot itself is fairly simple and straight-forward, a fairly classic descent into Hell, battle the Big Bad, resolve some childhood trauma. Usually, a plot like this is too flat, but the characterization completely redeems it.

The story starts out in the city of Deepgate, a city suspended over an abyss. Only chains hold the city together, and the city itself is starting to fall into disrepair. Entire sections simply crumble and fall away. From the first chapter, this city is mapped out in beautiful, gruesome detail. It is not a lovely city. It is maybe majestic, awe-inspiring, but the sense of decay bleeds through every word.

Dill, a teenaged angel who collects snails, can’t fly, and is afraid of the dark, is the only remnant of the Archons, the mighty angels who once rebelled against Heaven. Carnival, her skin a web of self-inflicted scars, is an outcast, an angel who leeches the soul of a victim every Scar Night. Rachel is the human caught between them, protecting Dill, hunting and being hunted by Carnival. Devon, master of the Poison Kitchens, in desperate search for angelwine. Nettle just wants his daughter’s soul back, and revenge against the man who took it.

Each has their own battle, internal wars which Campbell does a good job of exploring. Towards the end of the book, the battles switch from internal and political, to external and physical as the God of Chains threatens to bring his dead to rule the world.

This story drips with description and visualization. Deepgate has all the depth of London or New York, the good and the bad. Campbell did his research, and sets a magnificent dark fantasy into play.

But the ending is a little weak. A full half of the book is slow, building the world and showing the characters’ struggles. At times, it bogs down. More often, it is entrancing. Towards the end, the plot rushes and doesn’t always slow down to make sense of itself. The interaction between Ulcis and Carnival left several questions that need answers. The motivations of several characters are unclear. It isn’t the sort that can really be addressed in a later book either, the sort of questions that lead to a disconnection from the characters. This is a good book that would be great, if it could only find its heart.

Overall, this is a book I would highly recommend. If nothing else, it is a spectacular case of world-building. The story is unique, Dill and Carnival are massively different and unique takes on the cliche angel. The story is good, and I look forward to the next one.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: