Having enjoyed A Magic of Twilight (Canada, USA, Europe) last year, I was looking forward to reading the second installment in The Nessantico Cycle, A Magic of Nightfall. Based on the first volume, I was expecting a quality read. What I didn't expect was that A Magic of Nightfall is beyond the shadow of a doubt one of the very best fantasy novels released in 2009.
Farrell sucked me into this one from the beginning, and I basically loved everything about this second volume. It's now obvious that a lot of groundwork was laid out in A Magic of Twilight, and it surely pays dividends in A Magic of Nightfall. Concepts having been introduced and explained, the author can concentrate on the intricate plot.
Twenty-five years have passed since the events chronicled in the opening chapter of this series. Audric, frail and ill and apparently succumbing to madness, rules Nessantico under the tutelage of Regent Sergei ca'Rudka and the Council of Ca'. But there are power players eager to get rid of them so the Sun Throne can be theirs. The Holdings, the continent-spanning empire, was broken when Firenzcia and neighboring countries formed the Coalition of Firenzcia. The Concénzia Faith itself has been sundered, with one Archigos ruling in Nessantico and the other in Brezno, each one calling the other branch heretics. As the conflict between the Holdings and the Coalition grows, thus requiring more and more military resources, the campaign across the sea in the Westlands loses ground and is ultimately forced to retreat before the magical power and the onslaught of the savage Tehuantin. When a terrible assassination takes place, chaos escalates and events are set into motion. And Nessantico will be brought on the brink of destruction.
It was a delight to return to a world akin to the Italian city-states of the Renaissance. Still, beyond Nessantico, Brezno, and their neighbors, one of the most fascinating aspects of this novel was the portions occurring in the Westlands. Indeed, every scene involving Niente, the Nahual of the Tehuantin, offered glimpses of their land and their culture, once again demonstrating that this is a work of fiction which resounds with depth.
À la George R. R. Martin in A Song of Ice and Fire, each section of the book is divided into POV chapters. It makes for relatively short chapters, which in turn keeps the rhythm moving at a brisk pace. As was the case with A Magic of Twilight, I was concerned that having about a dozen POV characters would be too much. But it works perfectly and allows you to see events unfold from various sets of eyes.
The characterization was top notch, with every POV character well-drawn and genuine. Having said that, the White Stone was hands down my favorite of the bunch, with Allesandra, Karl, and Varina not far behind. Also à la Martin, S. L. Farrell shows that he has no qualms about killing off main characters. Expect a higher body count than you are usually used to. . .
The struggle between science, sorcery, and religion remains an important theme, one that Farrell handles quite well. In addition, the author's eye for details creates a vivid setting which brings the story alive.
A Magic of Nightfall is a multilayered tale of politics, intrigue, religion, magic, love, and treachery. One that should not be missed. Definitely one of the fantasy books to read in 2009. With superior worldbuilding, a convoluted plot, and complex characters, A Magic of Nightfall is a wonderful read.
The final verdict: 8.25/10