For some reason, stories about Death (or death, depending) always intrigue me. Okay, yes, some of this is because I quite like the darker side of fiction. But a good portion of that is also just curiosity about how people think about death, whatever comes beyond, and what value they place on life. So when I get to read a fantasy book about a character who meets death, I find it absolutely fascinating. Night Latch by Anela Deen (SPFBO entrant for 2020), is definitely in that category, and has the added benefit of being really well written and thought out.
1. Thoughts on the plot
This book is actually quite interesting for the fantasy genre (even in urban fantasy) because the stakes are, generally, low. This book follows Sam, a locksmith who can open any lock. He meets death when she needs his help to open a door. From there, he discovers the world of magic, of the metaphysical, and his own place in that world.
I found the plot to be very interesting, because it mixed Sam’s normal life with his newfound place in a hidden world. There were mundane things he had to deal with, as well as some not so mundane. This mix of large and small problems made the plot very interesting and entertaining to read, with very good pacing and a gentle build in drama.
2. Thoughts on the main character
As far as main characters go in fantasy novels, Sam is quite ordinary. He is a locksmith who lives above the garage of his mother’s house, where his family is. He wants little more than a quiet, comfortable life. And when he finds that fantastical things are being thrown in his direction, he does his best to help however he can. He requires some help in this, and inevitably tries to do the right thing as best he can.
Generally speaking, when we find an “ordinary” character in a fantasy piece, it’s really a hero who has been hiding (or raised in hiding) until the day they are called upon to become extraordinary. Sam is really just an ordinary person. And because of this, his flaws and good traits really resonate more than I initially expected. I find that I really like Sam, for being a person who feels familiar and yet still has a touch of magic in his life. Definitely one of my favourite characters that I’ve read in a while.
3. Favourite part
I think the situation with Maggie was probably my favourite part. I can’t really say much more than that without spoiling the novel, but I like the fact that this book doesn’t gloss over the hard things, or force a happy ending to make the reader happy. (Though this isn’t the end of the book.)
My only critique for this piece is that the ending felt like it had been cut off. Okay, I know that this book is only the first of two, and things were about to get suitably more dramatic if they continued, but it felt a little too abrupt to tie up this first book nicely. However, this doesn’t really detract from the rest of the book in my opinion, it just makes me want to read book two right away.
On the whole, I would say that Night Latch is a fantastically well-written piece. The language flows well. The plot is highly entertaining. I really like all of the characters (but especially Sam) and I really, really want to know what’s going to happen next. I would have to say that this is definitely on my list of best books for 2020. It’s really quite excellent.