We Rule the Night by Claire Eliza Bartlett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I think this book has a terrific concept--in the Author's Note, she explains that her female pilots are based on the Soviet Night Witches of World War II--but the execution does not live up to the promise. Mainly because the worldbuilding is thin and sketchy, and the ending is quite unsatisfying: the story simply dribbles away into nothingness, with no resolution or feeling of completion. It's not really a cliffhanger as such, but it's weak.
The first chapter begins in media res, introducing us to the first of the two main characters, Revna, trying to cope with an attack on the weapons factory where she works. Revna's initial characterization is neatly laid out--she is an amputee with prosthetics of "living metal," and she is also a magic wielder who has all her life hidden her ability to work with the Weave, the threads of magic that crisscross her world--and there's a nice action sequence where she rescues herself. (The characterization in general in this book fares far better than the plot and worldbuilding.) Chapter Two introduces us to our second protagonist, Linne, who has spent three years in the army disguised as a boy and has now been found out. Her commanding officer is trying to figure out what to do with her. Both girls are drafted into the newly formed women's aviator regiment, tasked with learning to operate poorly repaired and obsolete planes and conduct bombing runs over the war's front lines.
Unfortunately, for all the war's importance to this story, I never got a good sense of who the enemy was or why they declared war in the first place. Granted, this story isn't focused on politics--its thrust is the relationship between Revna and Linne and the growing camaraderie of the female aviators and engineers--but a little more background and context would have helped greatly. As it is, we have a somewhat confusing plot that picks up a little in the back half of the book, but is simply not clear enough to have the emotional impact it needs to. And the bad ending doesn't help.
This book feels like it needed another draft and a more ruthless editor. I liked it in spots, but I can't really recommend it.
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