The Book of Shade by K. C. Finn
How to put this …… I loved, loved, loved this book and has shown me my dream job… if only it was real. It’s reminiscent of my favourite book The Night Circus but with a more thought out plot and I can’t wait to read more of the series.
When Lily Coltrane goes to university in a small English town – as far from her mother as possible – she joins The Illustrious Minds Literary Society and her life changes. With membership of the society comes a ticket to the mysterious Theatre Imaginique owned by the elusive Lemarick Novel. Only once a month it holds a performance filled with magic and nightmares. Novel recognises something in Lily that she never knew and could hold the key to finding out about her family.
I loved Lily. She was everything you could want in a protagonist. Smart, sassy, excited about magic and older than in most books I read. Generally most of the heroines are high schooled age but we meet Lily on her first day at university. Nice change. She studies Modern History which you don’t get often – on TV and books, of course you do in real life- and is, at first, very practical when it comes to relationships. She doesn’t start anything unless she means it and – with Michael anyway- sets boundaries on what their relationship was. Her father left when she was a baby and – as someone who doesn’t talk to her dad – I appreciated how she doesn’t really try to find him or think about him much, its not one of her concerns. I do think she’s a bit oblivious at times, there are clear signs that one of the performers isn’t human and I don’t think she had worked it out yet by the end of the story, pretty sure its explicitly stated in next one though.
The other main character is Novel and he is fascinating in his own right. I would love to know why he has the family dynamics he says (can you see me trying to avoid spoilers here?). They don’t make sense as we’ve heard them so far and just makes me more curious about him. He’s loyal, mysterious, inquisitive, too serious for his own good but with a flair for theatrics. He owns the Theatre Imaginique and is a regular performer there. In his spare time he does experiments as well. Novel was so interesting to read, and I do love a man in Victorian clothes.
There was some great side characters as well – and villain but I don’t want to spoil anything. Lily’s best friend Jazzy is a shy English student, and since I am half Indian, its nice actually reading an Indian character – surprisingly doesn’t happen often in my books. Professor Victoria Havers actually reminded me of one of my English professors, Avril. They’re both petite, auburn haired women who are fascinated with the gruesome. Avril had lots of fun teaching my class about the witch trials and Havers starts her lesson with a picture of a dead body. My kind of teachers. I’m not going to talk about any others except Baptiste Du Nord and that’s just because my mind just goes elsewhere when I hear his name. Every single time I read his name, even at the end, I kept thinking Marquis De Sade – kudus points to anyone who recognises the name without looking it up. There is no reason for my mind going there, I don’t think there’s any similarities in personality or sound of his name, but his name makes my mind go there.
There is nothing I can really fault in this book, it was all brilliant…
Ok. Maybe there was one thing but that’s just because its fresh in my mind. The whole university aspect feels a bit like an American College you see on TV than an English University. I’ve at least looked around a lot of London universities as well as Hertforshire and Kent and it’s not usual to share a bedroom in campus accommodation. It does happen, normally for couples though, but it s really rare for strangers to have to share a room on campus, or even off it. Also there isn’t – I don’t think- any mention of Lily having any other professor but Havers. I know I had about 5 in my first term alone but Lily only talks about one. Also just to be annoying, people usually move into campus accommodation the week – or weekend- before freshers week, freshers fair is rarely on the first day and you do not have lessons in freshers week. Rant is done now. Sorry, I graduated in July so my uni experiences are fresh in my mind.
Other than that, nothing to fault. This story grabbed me from the first sentence: – “All she knew was earth. Earth crumbling in to make the black dream blacker…” This was a great opening that had me hooked. I liked how for each month there was a flyer for the upcoming Imaginique performance, complete with a picture. Humour is added in just right the time to reduce tension and I loved the theatrics.
The world-building was good as well. From what I understand, most supernatural creatures are real – it only directly mentions vampires, werewolves and shades- but shades are the main ones. They’re like magical people made of starlight who have control over the elements. There are some magic specific jobs, my dream job of a booksmith being one of them, and its very specific on how the ageing process works with shades. They have their own culture and beliefs and I just want to read more.
There’s some little plot twists, some I was sort of expecting, others I thought would happen to different characters and one that I just did not see coming at all. Some of those annoying troupes like instant love is thankfully missing and there could be a love triangle but it honestly doesn’t seem like one. Finn was great at showing the age of some of the characters with how they acted and spoke. Even using some outdated words like “Egad” which I admit I looked up though I could have guessed with how its used.
Overall this book it just brilliant. It was beautifully written, great characters, made me yearn for a job I can never have and made desperate to read more. This had a much better plot than my favourite book and there is … mostly … nothing I can fault. I would absolutely recommend this book especially to those who like The Night Circus or theatrics.