Review: Brother Night by Victor Kelleher

book review of victor kelleher's Brother Night

Genre: Fantasy
My rating: 3.5/5
Age: 9-13 years (MG)
Type: Book review

I would have never chosen or found this book, if not at the request of a lovely friend who read it when she was a child, remembered it fondly, and wished me to read the book that impacted her during her formative years.

Disclaimer: I generally don’t read middle-grade fiction. It doesn’t quite suit my taste; I yearn for more depth, which I often find wonting in fiction for younger crowds. Of course, I’ll make an exception for Gardiner’s Stone Fox. If, for some reason, you missed this book in the fourth or fifth grade, I highly recommend. Perhaps I’ll write a review, but then plenty of reviews and synopses already exist online.

But back to Brother Night.

My writer’s impression in the first few chapters was hmmm, so many unnecessary words and phrases. For all my readers who are writers, you might know what I’m talking about. Adverbs placed in tags even though the emotion–the how–is simple to deduce from the moment in the story. But this is characteristic of middle-grade fiction. It doesn’t affect my rating; it only made it more difficult for me to immerse myself in the story from the start.

Which leads us to the story.

The story teaches a valuable lesson to young readers (or readers of any age, despite the simplicity). The overarching theme is appearances are deceptive.

**Spoilers ahead**

Rabon, the main character (and an exceedingly unlikeable chap, I might add), believes himself to be the son of the Sun Lord, the admired protector of the realm. And who is the Sun Lord protecting the realm from? The Night Lord, naturally.

Through bits and pieces, we learn along with Rabon (although you might guess quite a bit sooner than he does) that he has a twin–somehow a brother who is the child of the Night Lord. His brother is ugly–horrifying in appearance.

As the story progresses, though, and Rabon seeks to avenge the death of his adoptive father while Lal, the brother, seeks to bring their mother’s remains to a place of rest, we begin to notice how character has nothing to do with appearance. If anything, the beauty of their souls seems opposite their appearance; Rabon is pretty abhorrent over half the time, whilst Lal is self-sacrificial, loving. A protector. He is good.

And so the story goes.

We meet the Night Lord, our understanding of the possible discrepancy between appearance and goodness is reinforced, and ultimately we (hopefully) become better humans.

The story is sound. The lesson is a good for children.

The characters could have been written better. Rabon is just a bit too awful. Lal a bit too good.

In the same way, the Sun Lord is a bit too awful. The Night Lord too good. Complexity of character would have made this story just a wee bit better.

Overall, I’d recommend it for the age group specified above. There is some fighting, but the gore isn’t heavy-handed or gratuitous in any way. Very little is described when characters die (some characters do die, though). There is no foul language. There is no sensuality or sexuality.

There is some magic / folklore. It’s fantasy, after all.

Brother Night is written in an older fashion; more description than newer fantasies such as Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus. It’s a much faster read than any of the Harry Potter books. It also takes a few chapters to really get moving. Read: if your child can read The Hobbit, they can certainly read Brother Night.

Happy reading, y’all.

Like this review? Check out some of my others under my Book Reviews page.

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