Fantasy Novel Review: They Mostly Come Out at Night by Benedict Patrick

The title is great, the cover is gorgeous, and Benedict Patrick’s novelette “And They Were Never Heard From Again” was one of the best stories I read all of last year. So dipping back into Yarnsworld for the first full-length novel was a no-brainer.

They Mostly Come Out at Night is a dark fairy tale, with a pair of storylines about dangerous creatures in the night interspersed with in-universe folk tales with varying degrees of plot relevance. Lonan is an outcast who wants to regain respect in a village that blames him for his father’s death, and Adahy is the heir to the Magpie King’s throne and seeks to protect the villagers in his domain. But neither see events go quite as they plan, as the dangers in the night continue to increase.

They Mostly Come Out at Night doesn’t take much investment, with simple prose and a length that fits the rare gap between novella and ~250-page novel, with my copy coming in at 193 pages. And the unusual format, the entertaining plot, and the quality of the in-universe folktales show flashes of Patrick’s creativity and make me really intrigued by the Yarnsworld concept. Sadly, the rest of the pieces are not quite there for Patrick’s debut. The characters tend toward the one-dimensional, with Lonan consumed with anger at the man who married his childhood sweetheart and the village that never gave him a fair chance, and Adahy not having much motivation more complicated than living up to his father’s example. The dialogue, which tends toward the formal side, may work well with more nuanced characters, but in this context, it just seems stilted. And the immersive atmosphere that impressed me so much in “And They Were Never Heard From Again” was entirely absent. Same creepy forest, but without any of the magic.

The book gets better as it goes on, and there are enough flashes of quality that I generally enjoyed the read. But I can’t recommend this as an entry point into Yarnsworld. The 2018 novelette takes place in the same universe but doesn’t require any knowledge from this book. And the quality of the writing has improved to such an extent that I find that a vastly superior entry point. Patrick also has four other novels in various corners of the Yarnsworld universe, and other reviews suggest that the next four also show significant improvement from this one. I plan to take a look at Where the Waters Turn Black and see for myself.

Overall rating: 12 of Tar Vol’s 20. Three stars on Goodreads.

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