Book Review: Nightingale by David Farland

NightingaleMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nightingale is the first in a series of urban fantasy books by David Farland, bestselling author of the Runelord fantasy series and mentor to a whole new generation of bestselling genre writers. Nightingale is about a changeling boy named Bron Jones who has been raised through the social welfare system, bouncing from one family to another, rarely finding a place where he fits or is welcome. But then he meets Olivia Hernandez, a teacher in a performing arts school who is hiding a secret that will prove to be the key to Bron’s own past. Suddenly, Bron learns that the world is a lot bigger than he could ever have imagined and that he is the heir to the most powerful and evil being in the world; a fact that threatens his hope of ever having a normal life.
Its hard to critique the work of a man who has taught some of the biggest names in genre fiction how to write and can count thousands of writers as his students. I read an early draft of this book and found myself blown away by how gripping and near perfection it already was. When I picked up the finished version during the book-bomb effort to raise money for the Wolverton’s son, I had no idea that I would find this book as compelling the second time around too. The plot is as perfectly balanced as a samurai sword, arranged with the control of a great composer and realised like a fine painting.
The characterization is handled so well that I would have happily have continued reading this book, even if nothing fantastical happened, and even if the plot didn’t take a turn down a darker road. As a reader, it would be easy just to give this book five stars, and compared to many of the other books I’ve reviewed, this book is a five star read.
So why didn’t I give it five stars? If anything, its because this book is almost too perfect, too well-crafted, like a finely engineered sports car that seems to have lost the spark of fun and passion that gives it character. Perhaps its because as a writer myself and a student of David Farland, I can see the various influences (Twilight, Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Immortal Instruments), brought together and woven into a single tapestry, or perhaps I miss the clean and simplicity of the early draft I read, or more likely, my expectations of this book were much higher than is fair.
One thing is for certain, this series is definitely one of the best YA series out there, and will no doubt be made into a blockbuster series of films. Buy it, read it and despair of ever matching it.

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