Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments in this series. You can read my review of these novels by clicking the links below:

The Firedragon | Firedragon Rising

Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil was written by Mary Fan and first published in 2018. It is a fantasy dystopian novel, set it a world where anyone who is unable to use magic is a second-class citizen. The novel is technically the first instalment of the Flynn Nightsider series, although Fan did previous publish two short prequel novellas – The Firedragon (2014) and Firedragon Rising (2015) – which tell Aurelia’s backstory.

Despite being a powerless Norm, Flynn Nightsider lived a pretty happy life. That is, until the night when his mother was cruelly slain in front of him by a monstrous draugr. Since then, he was taken in by the Academy with the other orphaned Norms. Although they are kept safe from the monsters, Flynn knows that he will never amount to anything. Secondstringers like him will never receive the preferential treatment enjoyed by the Enchanters – the students who are able to use magic.

When Flynn and his best friend Brax learn that their Headmaster may be hiding an illicit secret – one that potentially concerns Flynn’s mother – the two know that they need to flaunt every school rule and break into is office. However, things are quick to go wrong. When they accidentally cause a magical explosion, the boys find themselves “black bagged” and hauled away as traitors. It is obvious to everyone that something strange is going on. While the explosion had seriously injured Brax, Flynn had somehow walked away unharmed.

Although the Triumvirate immediately sentence Flynn to death for his crimes, there are other people who have noticed him and taken an interest. The Rising – a secret rebellion against the tyrannical triumvirate – certainly have use for someone who could well be immune to an Enchanter’s spells. However, they are not the only ones. The Defiants – a group of Enchanters lead by the powerful Tydeus Storm – would also stop at nothing to get their hands on him. And the Defiants are known for their mastery of dark magic, so whatever plans they have for him cannot be good…

Where do I begin…

If you’ve read my reviews of The Firedragon and Firedragon Rising, you’ll remember that I was pretty optimistic about this book. While the novellas do have their share of problems, I truly believed that these were the kinds of things that could be ironed out of a longer novel. Unfortunately, I was way off in this estimation. In my opinion, Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil just compounded these issues rather than resolving them.

However, let’s start by looking at the novel’s stronger aspects. I do still believe that Fan’s world-building shows a lot of promise. If I had to describe this novel to a reader, I would call it a cross between Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. It presented a dystopian American city where the people who can use magic (Enchanters) form the elite ruling class, while those who have no powers (Norms) are second-class citizens.

The problem is that this is all we really learn. While we do get fed titbits every now and then to explain why there are no longer things like computers, we don’t learn where the magic users actually came from, or how their powers work. What we do learn about the world is delivered in the form huge, expository blocks of text. This forms my biggest issue with the story.

Fan has a real tendency to tell things to the reader, rather than showing them. Major events frequently occur off page, only to be related to the reader through the narrative after the fact. A good example of this is Aurelia’s side-story. While there are occasional hints that she is up to something, we don’t learn what this is until she disappears towards the end of the novel and abruptly joins a different faction. This sudden change actually made me wonder if my copy was missing a few chapters until the narrative devoted several pages to explaining the reason why – all of this character development that the reader had not been permitted to see. This caused me no end of frustration.

This exposition also really bogs down the story. At 615 pages in length, Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil is incredibly long for a debut young adult novel. Due to the sheer amount of description and repetition in the novel, you could really have edited out at least half of this to better streamline it. The story was slow to find its feet and, although it did have a plot, it seemed to struggle to maintain focus on this.

When Flynn first arrived at the headquarters of the Rising, it was vaguely indicated to him that they had a plan to seize control from the Triumvirate. The only thing that seemed to be stopping them from doing this was the fact that Tydeus Storm had an item that they needed. Yet it took a few hundred more pages before they even attempted to steal this item. The time before this was filled with small, often unconnected meetings and many scenes that showed Flynn training with Aurelia. When things did happen, such as monster attacks and even a random character death, these were often very sudden and therefore lacked any kind of tension.

The expository text also blunted the sting in the story’s tail. While I am not going to spoil this twist for you here, I will just say that it did not take me by surprise at all due to the fact that the narrative drew far too much attention to the character that it concerns. However, at least the novel did end well. It came to a halt at the perfect moment to wrap up this stage of Flynn’s adventure, drawing the plot to a close while clearly planting the seeds for an inevitable sequel.

In terms of characterisation, I was also left feeling rather disappointed. While Flynn’s name is on the cover, he is far from being the most interesting character in the novel. Flynn is a bit of an everyman. He is generally loved by everyone, even before he actually does anything useful, but he lacks in anything that makes him memorable. Seriously, he is such a blank slate that all I can honestly say is that he is likeable. There is no real meat to him beyond this. Despite the fact that the narrative told me that he is rash and unpredictable, I can’t think of an example that proved this to be true.

Aurelia also has not evolved as a character in the time since Firedragon Rising and I found that I still did not like her. She is way too powerful, too confident and too childish for me to root for. Her attitude in this novel is pretty horrific, constantly insulting Flynn and refusing to acknowledge how far he has come. This got really tiresome after a while and made me wish that Flynn would just stand up for himself and stop taking her constant mockery. Aurelia’s voice also still felt far too young. While both protagonists were supposed to be in their late teens, they felt more as though they were twelve-year-old.

Beyond Flynn and Aurelia, the other characters did not make much of an impression. The villains were irredeemably evil, with the overall villain generally just referred to as “the Lord”, and the secondary cast such as Kylie and Tamerlane were not given enough page time. I spent a majority of the novel waiting for them to do something, but this never happened. The focus was always solely on Flynn and Aurelia, and so they never got any time in the spotlight.

So, as you can probably tell, Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil was not the novel for me. I was really keen to read it but the poor pacing, heavy exposition and unmemorable characters made it a slog to read through. Hopefully, this will be something that Fan can resolve in the sequel.

Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. thebooknookae
    Nov 11, 2018 @ 23:20:14

    Interesting review!

    Reply

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