To give you an idea of how much I hated the heroine, the first time she’s in mortal peril, I was hoping she wouldn’t survive. When she unfortunately does escape the potentially fatal consequences of the (self-inflicted) accident only to be later gravely wounded by a villain, I literally shouted with laughter because I was so over her nonsense and wanted her to die.
Honestly, I can put up with a lot from my reading, but to have a heroine — in this case Wren Southerland, a healer for the Danubian army — start out stupid and just keep doing stupid things while holding on to the bizarre idea that her stubbornness and selfishness come from being emotional instead of being a moron was almost too much for me to handle. I had to put the book away at the 92% mark when the heroine does something so idiotic that I needed to just sit by myself and take deep breaths in order to handle the swelling in my breast of rage, both at the author and at my need to persevere to the end of this deeply ludicrous book.
I mean, any sympathy I might have had with this protagonist was strained very early on in the book. Wren and her hardass commanding officer, Major Una Dryden, are out on patrol when they scare a spy right out of a tree. The spy breaks his arm rather grotesquely and Una makes the questionable, on many levels, decision to shackle him to the tree by his broken wrist. Wren wants to heal the boy, protesting sepsis and the need to interrogate a living subject, but Una tells her not to be so soft-hearted (!) and to guard him while she goes off to scout.
At this point, I was all “only assholes torture prisoners” and I was super glad Wren disobeyed orders and went to magically heal him anyway… except that the only way this complete numpty could think of to do so was to free him altogether from his shackles, NOT restrain him in any manner whatsoever, and then be terribly, horribly surprised when he runs away as soon as she heals him. I was aghast at how this allegedly seasoned military veteran could make such a rookie mistake but thought to myself, well, her heart’s in the right place, and surely the author is only having her start out daft only to redeem herself by learning to make good choices by the end…
But that’s a huge NOPE because Wren doesn’t learn a goddamn thing as she bumbles her way through high treason, betraying her only friend and running away to a creepy house in the neighboring, neutral country, where she finds herself not only healing but falling in love with her nation’s greatest enemy, Henry Cavill, I mean Cavendish, who is allegedly 19 years-old but talks like a hot, middle-aged British actor playing a particularly angsty role. It’s not exactly instalove but she does get all “I’ve been waiting so long for you to say I love you” when they’ve known each other maybe three goddamned weeks at that point! Plus, he’s an entire war criminal! Whose whole shtick is “I know I’ve done terrible things, but I’m sorry for them and will happily pay the price… once I’ve fixed my country and its relationship with yours, however long that takes, I guess.” Anyone with half a brain knows that that is total avoidant bullshit that does not actually take responsibility for his heinous acts but plays into the authoritarian “only I can fix it” mentality that people need to stop having if they actually want to build civil societies! (Ofc, Wren thinks this makes him romantic and noble, because she would.)
The plot itself is riddled with holes, particularly around that ridiculous climactic scene, and tho I did enjoy the merging of the medical with the mystical, as well as the bi representation even if it was in the form of this hopeless ninny, I was just deeply incensed by the nonsense idea that empathy makes you stupid. Wren is self-centered and self-pitying, but none of that is due to her ability to identify with the feelings of others. If anything, her empathy is depicted as a physical pull bordering on pain, thereby making it a selfish choice for her to do something seemingly kind, if seemingly foolish, for others when it’s really her way of remedying her own internal discomfort. Folks, that is not how empathy works in the real world! Empathy means offering what aid you can to those in need, not because you want to assuage your weirdly-placed guilt but because you know these people are suffering and you want to do what you can to alleviate their pain, not your own.
Absolutely infuriating novel. There was some good writing but it was otherwise a complete dumpster fire of dumbassery.
Down Comes The Night by Allison Saft was published March 2, 2021 by Wednesday Books and is available from all good booksellers, including
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