Down Comes the Night

Book review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Down Comes the Night Book Poster Image
Slow-burn romance, page-turning suspense in magical fantasy.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers will learn about anatomy and how the body works thanks to Wren's many detailed descriptions.

Positive Messages

Down Comes the Night encourages empathy, teamwork, and perseverance. It promotes looking beyond a group or person's reputation and stereotypes and getting to know someone as an individual. The story also demonstrates the importance of redemption.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Wren is courageous, empathetic, and selfless. She puts herself in harm's way to protect and serve her kingdom and loved ones. Hal seeks redemption for the lives he's taken, is powerful but also kind and defends those close to him. Una is brave and obedient. The cast of characters is somewhat diverse both ethnically (although these are fictional kingdoms, some characters have fair skin and others dark) and across the LGBTQ+ spectrum.


People are injured, usually by sword. Battle scenes are described. Soldiers are missing in action and presumed dead. Characters are poisoned, tortured, and experimented upon.


Flirting, kissing, flashback to a one-time sexual encounter. One other love scene that isn't explicit.


Occasional insult language: "useless," "reckless," "stupid," "idiot,"  or "s--t."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink at parties; a man seems so drunk he begins to sway and get sick.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Allison Saft's Down Comes the Night is a YA fantasy that tells the story of brilliant but impulsive healer Wren Southerland, whose reckless decision forces her to accept a mysterious lord's request to come heal his beloved servant in a neighboring kingdom. The story is full of suspense, political intrigue, and romance between characters with magical abilities. There's violence that includes anatomical descriptions of corpses, how characters are killed (with weapons, fire, poison, etc.) and war/battle scenes. Characters are also captured and threatened. Romance includes a flashback to one night two people spent together and, in the present-time, a slow-burning relationship that leads to kissing, an overnight make-out session, and a love scene that "fades to black." This is an ideal pick for readers who enjoy writers like Leigh Bardugo, Kristin Cashore, and Marie Rutkoski

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What's the story?

DARK COMES THE NIGHT takes place in Danu, a kingdom surrounded by enemies and where magic is an inherited recessive trait. Wren Southerland, a lieutenant in the Queen's Guard, is a healer who can bring people back from even mortal wounds. She's also the Queen of Danu's orphaned niece. Wren is emotional and empathetic, but she's usually kept in check by her commanding officer, best friend, and not-so-secret crush, Una, who's a captain in the Queen's Guard. After Wren accidentally frees a key prisoner, the Queen, who seems to hate Wren, punishes her by ordering Wren first to a convent and then on a dead-end assignment. So when Wren receives a letter from the dandy and reclusive Lord Alistair Lowry of Danu's neutral neighbor Cernos to come heal a beloved servant at his estate Colwick Hall, Wren decides to flee to the gothic mansion. What she finds there isn't any ordinary ill manservant, it's Hal Cavendish, aka the Reaper of Vesria, the deadliest magical soldier from Danu's sworn enemy -- a man so dangerous he can kill with a look. Wren believes Lowry doesn't know who his supposed servant is, but as she begins to heal Hal, she realizes her preconceptions about his being evil are misguided. Wren and Hal begin to slowly trust each other and discover Lowry is not what he seems, and their kingdoms' futures are in their hands.

Is it any good?

Author Allison Saft's deftly plotted and romantic fantasy debut is ideal for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Marie Rutkoskilooking for the next unputdownable story. Wren shows a remarkable amount of character growth in the story, and not just because she finds Hal attractive (he's sick and bedridden when she first encounters him in Lowry's mansion), but because she begins to understand that her empathy isn't a problem or a shameful secret to overcome like Una and the Queen made Wren think but a source of strength. Wren's time at Colwick Hall is full of gothic elements: dark and secret "wings," crumbling, blocked-off areas, staff that doesn't know whether to speak only or stay quiet, and of course, a clever and engimatic owner -- Lowry enjoys his reputation as a vapid hedonist, but he's obviously smarter and more calculating than Wren or Hal know.

The romance is the classic enemies-to-lovers journey, with all the expected soul-searching, longing looks, and "will they or won't they" tension. Wren doesn't know how to reconcile the kind, open-minded, and peaceful Hal at Colwick Hall with the ruthless killer she spotted on the battlefield. She's also confused, because part of her doesn't know how to process her love for Una -- is it based in romance or is it based in a lifelong bond she asks herself. Wren and Hal's deepening relationship, and how they search for clues to solve the mystery of Lowry's motives and the mysterious deaths of servants and soldiers is the strongest part of the book. The way that magic -- and their wielders -- can be used by the State is reminiscent of the Grisha trilogy, in which all Grisha are expected to serve the Second Army. Here, those endowed with Magic are similarly expected to serve their respective crowns. Saft is a talented new voice in fantasy romance, and she knows how to weave a compelling tale.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the world-building in Down Comes the Night and how the political intrigue, national loyalties, and various prejudices affect the characters. 

  • How do you feel about the central romance in the book? Why are enemies-to-lovers stories so compelling? What other literary romances follow this trajectory?

  • What do you think about the violence in the book. Is it necessary to the story? Does fantasy violence have a different impact on readers than realistic violence? 

  • How is the theme of redemption treated in the book? Are some characters beyond redemption, or is it something all characters, no matter their pasts, can aspire to achieve?

Book details

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