They Mostly Come Out at Night is a case of judging a book based on its cover. I bought this and the next three books in the series literal years ago, because I thought that the cover art was gorgeous. And there they have sat since I pulled them from their packaging. I very randomly decided this week that they had wasting away, unread and thus unloved, for more than long enough. I’m glad I did, because I ate up this little book in two sittings and enjoyed my time with it.
While brief, this is not a light read. They Mostly Come Out at Night is a dark, folklore-inspired fantasy that edges the tiniest bit into horror during certain scenes. Unlike our Disney-fied fairy tales, this is not a story in which they all live happily ever after. There is death here, and more than a little brutality. It’s got teeth. I know this the rest of the series is a loose one, comprised of standalone with very little in common, But I was intrigued enough by the style to continue sometime in the future. Especially considering I already own three more of them.
My favorite element of this little book was the inclusion of original folktales between each chapter of the main narrative. This is where Patrick’s voice and style shone the brightest and steadiest. He beautifully captured the tone of a good fairytale, the blend of whimsy and darkness and the singsong quality to the writing. Honestly, I could have happily read a much longer book of just these original folktales. They felt both fresh and timeless, cheeky and serious, and I was very impressed with the balance in their telling. If the rest of the story had felt this effortlessly confident and smooth, it would have been an easy 5 stars. However, the writing in the other two-thirds or more of the book did not in fact have that same ease. There were moments of it, yes, but they were undercut by spans of the book where I felt that I was being told a synopsis of what happened after the fact, instead of being shown the action as it occurred. And, strangely enough, this issue wasn’t the worst during the dream sequences, but during the main narrative.
We have two perspective characters, in a sense. First we have Lonan, the village outcast who has been blamed for the brutal death of his own father and others, as well as the mauling of the girl he loved. He never developed his Knack, a useful talent that each person in this area develops into an almost supernatural affinity. These Knacks could be anything, from cooking to healing to blacksmithing. Lonan’s father was a blacksmith with a wonderfully robust Knack, and Lonan should have followed in his footsteps. Instead, his life was highjacked by his rival in the village following the night his father was killed, and Lonan ekes out his life on the fringes. That is, until the dreams begin. This brings us to our secondary perspective character: Adahy. He is the son and heir of the great Magpie King, ruler and protector of the realm. Somehow, Lonan and Adahy are linked, and Lonan begins to see some of the truth behind the myths of the Magpie King. With his village suddenly in greater danger than ever before, Lonan must step out of his obscurity to protect them.
I liked Lonan just fine, and found Adahy on the likable side of tolerable. But neither won me over in any kind of meaningful way. Whether this was due to novel length, or writing style, or something else I can’t put my finger on, I couldn’t tell you. I will say that I was far more invested in the aforementioned folktales that were woven in between the chapters. Patrick’s voice in these was charming and witty, and I was always a bit sad when they were over and we had to return to the “real” story. I know this was his debut, so I’m interested to see if his style becomes more seemless in his later novels.
They Mostly Come Out at Night was wonderfully different than my usual read. It transported me into a world that was different and interesting, but which I would never want to visit outside of the book’s pages. Knowing that this was a self-published debut made me even more impressed with the overall quality of the book, from the writing to the editing to the cover art and print-type. If you’re a fan of darker fantasy, folklore, and a dash of horror, then I recommend this one.