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ARC Review: Nightbirds by Kate J. Armstrong

Publication Date: February 28, 2023


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 ability to change it all.

The Nightbirds are Simta’s best kept secret. Teenage girls from the Great Houses with magic coursing through their veins, the Nightbirds have the unique ability to gift their magic to others with a kiss. Magic—especially the magic of women—is outlawed and the city’s religious sects would see them burned if discovered. But protected by the Great Houses, the Nightbirds are safe well-guarded treasures.

As this Season’s Nightbirds, Matilde, Aesa, and Sayer spend their nights bestowing their unique brands of magic to well-paying clients. Once their Season is through, they’re each meant to marry a Great House lord and become mothers to the next generation of Nightbirds before their powers fade away. But Matilde, Aesa, and Sayer have other plans. They know their lives as Nightbirds aren’t just temporary, but a complete lie and yearn for something more.

When they discover that there are other girls like them and that their magic is more than they were ever told, they see the carefully crafted Nightbird system for what it is: a way to keep them in their place, first as daughters and then as wives. Now they must make a choice—to stay in their gilded cage or to remake the city that put them there in the first place.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was a lot twistier and heavier than I was expecting. It’s full of secrets and lies and betrayals and political machinations, and centers on four incredibly strong young women. I found myself just along for the ride as I was breathlessly hurtled through the twists and turns of the plot, never knowing who to trust or where danger might spring from next.

The magic is darker than I expected but also quite beautiful. There are moments of light throughout the novel but it is a heavy read and a very dense one. The writing is gorgeous and I highlighted several passages that I found beautifully written and very profound.

Sometimes you find a story that is a cracking good story but also gets at an underlying truth. This is one of those stories.

Also the sheer feminist rage I felt whilst reading this was something else. These four women are incredibly strong and resilient and so, so angry at being torn down and persecuted and caged by the men in their lives.

The book leaves off on not-quite-a-cliffhanger, but certainly nothing is settled. The four women are finding themselves and their inner strength but there is still a long way to go before they, and the other magical girls of Simta, can be safe.

I absolutely cannot wait for the next book.

*Thanks to Bookishfirst and Penguin Teen for providing an early copy for review.

Favorite Quotes

Matilde slips on her Goldfinch mask. It’s like a second skin: her truest face and best lie.

Nightbirds by Kate J. Armstrong

Sit tight, be quiet, stay secret: It’s all they seem to hear lately. Fold your wings and close your pretty eyes.

Nightbirds by Kate J. Armstrong

Fenlin tips back her mask, revealing a sharp jaw, a green eyepatch, and a devastating mouth. A kissable one, if you like a dash of lethal with your trysts.

Nightbirds by Kate J. Armstrong

It isn’t posed as a question, but an answer, writing over any she might give. He sounds like Enis when he said they were meant for each other, like the man in Leta’s ballroom when he commanded her to dance. All different men, but their words served the same purpose. To tell her who she is, what she is for. To drown her voice.

Nightbirds by Kate J. Armstrong

Her grandda always said she had a sheldar singing through her. Just listen for her tune and have the courage to answer. Perhaps courage is a thing you choose, like friendship. It’s choosing to have faith in the voice within.

Nightbirds by Kate J. Armstrong

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