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Reviews of Nightbirds by Kate Armstrong

Nightbirds

by Kate J. Armstrong

Nightbirds by Kate  J.  Armstrong X
Nightbirds by Kate  J.  Armstrong
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2023, 480 pages

    Paperback:
    Jun 4, 2024, 480 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jennifer Hon Khalaf
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About this Book

Book Summary

In a dazzling new fantasy world full of whispered secrets and political intrigue, the magic of women is outlawed but four girls with unusual powers have the chance to change it all.

The Nightbirds are Simta's best-kept secret: Girls with a unique and powerful magic they can gift with just a kiss. Some would kill to possess them; the church would kill them outright. But protected by the Great Houses, the Nightbirds are well-guarded treasures.

As this Season's Nightbirds, Matilde, Æsa, and Sayer will spend their nights bestowing their gifts to well-paying clients. Once their season is through, they're each expected to marry a Great House lord and become mothers to the next generation of Nightbirds before their powers fade away. But as they find themselves at the heart of a political scheme that threatens not only their secrets, but their very lives, their future suddenly becomes uncertain.

When they discover that there are other girls like them and that their magic is far more than they were told, they see the 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.

CHAPTER 1
Jewel, Star, and Sea

Matilde is a thousand layers of secrets. Some sit against her skin, there for anyone who knows how to read them. Others are tucked into a rarefied language only a few girls can speak. Still others have wings, and they are hidden inside her.

She smiles to herself behind her mask.

As Matilde descends the stairs into the ballroom, heads swivel. This is precisely why she made her family wait for over an hour before leaving for Leta's Season-opening ball. Grand entrances, she finds, are the only kind worth making. Especially during the summer season, when Simta floods with people from all over the Eudean Republic, come to make matches, deals, and fortunes in the City of Tides.

The room is full of finely dressed people, talking and swaying to a tasteful string quartet. It's clear that many of them have been to Simta's best trickster tailors, who have outdone themselves enchanting their outfits for the evening. The seed pearls at one girl's neckline unfurl ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Armstrong paints a vivid fantasy universe that is sumptuous and abundant in its scope. Delightful details, such as the fictional flora and fauna, set the scene for a community both otherworldly and familiar. The novel evokes current real-life issues regarding the political and religious forces that seek to control women's rights, as Armstrong sets out clear comparisons of the suzerain (ruler) and the religious sect, En Caska Dae, to modern Trumpism. Rather than a simplistic black-and-white examination of these issues, the author conveys the complexities that arise when individual greed for power, money or revenge collides with evangelism and mob mentality. While the book triumphs in its portrayal of the inherent power and magic of young women, and seeks to examine entrenched patriarchal systems and presumptions, traditional storylines still seek to curry favor with mainstream popularity...continued

Full Review (483 words)

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(Reviewed by Jennifer Hon Khalaf).

Media Reviews

People
In this sumptuous fantasy, the magic wielded by girls is outlawed, but the "Nightbirds" share it secretly—through kissing. A lush adventure.

Booklist (starred review)
Armstrong's intricate debut novel ... is packed with memorable characters ... [and a] riveting plot.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Lush settings, careful worldbuilding, and taut exposition [make for] an electrifying, high-stakes series opener grounded in feminist themes.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
In this dazzling, fiercely feminist novel ... debut author Armstrong uses lush, seamlessly incorporated worldbuilding, kaleidoscopic third-person-present narration told via realistically rendered characters, and fraught queer and straight romantic subplots to explore issues of classism and misogyny. With a pace that never flags and a harrowing, high-stakes plot, this distinguished read boasts texture, heft, and heart.

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
This richly developed world with Prohibition-era flair and a fast-paced, character-driven narrative make for a strong showing from debut author Armstrong, and the layered plot offers readers plenty of action, intrigues, romance, and betrayal... Give this book to readers who enjoy Leigh Bardugo or Maggie Tokuda-Hall's The Mermaid, the Witch, & the Sea

Author Blurb Amie Kaufman, New York Times bestselling author of Illuminae and Aurora Rising
A luscious, sumptuously woven, and totally addictive fantasy. It's like Gatsby with magic and sky-high stakes, layer upon layer of incredible worldbuilding peeling back as we slowly uncover the spider's web of stories and secrets our characters are hoarding. From the gritty docks to the glitzy ballrooms to the magical speakeasy through the back of a wardrobe, I'd kill to have written this myself.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Cover Art for Young Adult Fantasy Novels

Covers of young adult fantasy novels mentioned in article, all portraying a colorful illustration of a single character with the title in stylized font below The cover of the young adult fantasy novel Nightbirds by Kate J. Armstrong reliably hints at the promise and magic of the story that lies within while also seeking to differentiate itself in a saturated market. Not only is the artwork attractively rendered, but it shows the emotion and supernatural abilities of the character Matilde with symbolism attached to the particular bird associated with her in the novel: the goldfinch. This portrayal of Matilde brings the reader's attention to her beauty and lips — the main characters' kisses are the means by which they convey their magic to others. At the same time, her eyes are drawn in a way that evokes the sadness and yearning she feels as she comes of age and fights to establish her ...

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Read-Alikes

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