Novel review: Nightingale by David Farland, Part One

Hardcover of "Nightingale" by David Farland.
Hardcover of “Nightingale” by David Farland.
Nightingale by David Farland is the first big release by Farland’s new East India Press. This young adult contemporary fantasy was released as a hard cover, a limited edition hard cover, an eBook, and an enhanced eBook with audio, video & animations. This review is split into two parts: Part One is the review for the novel; Part Two covers the enhanced eBook aspects.

During the conflict between Neanderthal and Homo sapiens, a third race developed alongside them: the masaaks. This third race was gifted with highly advanced brains which gave them magical abilities. Memory merchants who could store, then share, memories with others. Also, Muses who could not only share memories, but also talents, gifting muscle memory to the recipients.

The masaaks had specialized ridges on their fingers for transferring or reading memory by touch, though “Leeches” could connect without touch. The masaaks tried to broker peace and benefit all of mankind with their abilities, but eventually they were feared, hunted, and driven into hiding. Over the centuries, the masaaks split into two groups: the Ael who wanted to help mankind and the Draghouls who wanted to rule it. The Draghouls practiced eugenics, breeding always for more powerful masaak, including the very rare Dream Assassins who could steal hope, will, and drive from their victims.

Into this conflict Bron was born. Abandoned as a child, he grew up in the foster care system, unloved and incapable of loving even though he was “heartbreakingly” handsome and gifted. One day he was moved from Salt Lake City all the way down to St. George to be with Olivia, a masaak who recognized Bron for what he was. Unfortunately, a patrol of Draghouls recognized Bron as well.

Soon, Bron had more on his mind than fitting in at his new high school and fending off the advances of two beautiful girls. He had to learn about who he was quickly, how to control his rare Dream Assassin powers, and survive being wiped into a mindless poppet for the Shadow Master’s dark Draghoul plans.

The story moves along at a very brisk pace, but not so fast as to skim over important character development and world building. Farland balances both elements well while writing a story that was thrilling and fun. The secrets of Bron’s past unfold chapter by chapter and keep the reader engaged, while building up to a climax that both satisfies and leaves room for a sequel.

Nightingale is a grittier YA than others I’ve read. There is no sex, but adult themes are discussed frankly. In addition, the violence is more intense than typical YA. There is brutality and death. Bron’s world is not a safe one, but it is a fascinating one to step inside. Most alarming is Bron’s flirtation with evil. His back story sets him up to be a sociopath incapable of love, but perfect for abusing his powers.

With a doting foster mother, two alpha-female crushes, school rivals, a shadow organization hellbent on controlling him, and homework, will Bron find the balance he needs to give hope instead of steal it? I am looking forward to finding out in the next book.

Release Date: March 14, 2012 (USA)
ISBNs: 1614757879 (9781614757870)
Publisher: East India Press

MySF Rating: Four point zero stars
Family Friendliness: 10% (definitely for older teens and up)


Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (drug dealer mentioned, forcible doping to knock out some characters)
Language: 1 (occasional minor expletives)
Nudity: 1 (implied)
Sexuality: 2 (various mentions of sexual feelings, frank descriptions of adult situations, no direct depictions)
Violence: 3 (knife and gun fights, gangs, death by alligator and quicksand, car accident, not really graphic)

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