I received this book for free from Greenwillow in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.A Drop of Night by Stefan Bachmann
Published by Greenwillow Books on March 15, 2016
Genres: Action, Historical, Mystery
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Five gifted teenagers are selected out of hundreds of other candidates to fly to France and help with the excavation of a vast, underground palace buried a hundred feet below the suburbs of Paris. Built in the 1780's to hide an aristocratic family and a mad duke during the French Revolution, the palace was sealed after the aristocrats fled there. No one has set foot in it for over two centuries.
Or so they thought.
But nothing is as it seems, and the teenagers—bitter, iron-hearted Anouk, gentle Will, bubbly Lilly, and crazy Jules— soon find themselves embroiled in a game far more sinister, and dangerous, than they could possibly have imagined. An evil spanning centuries is waiting for them in the depths. . .
You cannot escape the palace.
You cannot guess its secrets.
A Drop of Night actually proved to be a pretty interesting book.
If you like a bit of everything in speculative fiction, then this book might just strike your fancy. It definitely has some drama, history, mystery, and a whole lot of science fiction and thriller, and I daresay that the book was able to mesh them well. Even though there were so many elements altogether, it never felt muddled or out of place or all over the place. And to be honest with you, for a book of this kind, that’s rare.
Do take note – it’s not perfect. But it did try and it tried really well.
What are you to do when you receive a letter – out of nowhere – inviting you to help a team explore a newly-discovered underground castle in France? A castle made centuries ago that would surely be a treasure trove of wonders, mysteries, and secrets? Of course, you wouldn’t accept it without looking who is behind the excavation – and so you research and you find out that it’s sponsored by one of the most influential families in the world, the Sapanis. So without telling your parents because of your strained relationship with them, you go off with four other teenage strangers, to literally meet the adventure of your lives.
Except, of course, you didn’t expect it to actually be a very, very, very shady affair.
As a science-fiction thriller mixed with a bit of historical, this was pretty good. We’re introduced to the Butterfly Castle that is filled with traps and mazes and gothic interior architecture that sounds just as mesmerizing in paper as you would imagine it in real life. Literally fighting for their lives, they try to evade not just the traps and the superhuman trackers, but also a third party in the midst that seem to have motives of his own. You don’t find me usually on my toes, but this one effectively made me almost rip the pages out in my wanting to know what happens next. What are they going to find in the next room? Will they find enemy or foe? Why is there a picture of them in a particular room? Why is the castle full of traps at all, and why are they there in the first place?! Why did these people use an excavation as a lure to get them into this place?!
You’re probably wondering – did these teenagers really accept this invitation and the events that led them this far without questioning anything? Unfortunately, I’ve read a fair amount of YA thrillers where teenagers have done just that, so it was such a pleasant surprise to see Anouk, the heroine in this story, being a very self-aware main character. From start to finish, her mind was continuously working, thinking, trying to figure out about the whys and the hows. She started feeling suspicions when they don’t even stop by immigration to get to their plane. She started thinking later why they would want five random teenagers in such a big excavation site when they don’t even have experience in that field at all? And where are the scientists, the journalists surely filming this, and everyone else?
Anouk is the number one reason why I enjoyed reading this book- it’s not just the ordinary thriller where the writing is flat and monotonous and unexciting. Anouk’s dark humor and sarcastic and cynic way of viewing things is heavily seen in the writing, and it gives you a different way of approaching thrillers where it is usually from a third person point of view. Seriously, just her side comments sometimes makes me laugh, and the way she talks about the dangers makes you feel it in your very bones, too.
However, the book is not perfect.
While I did say that this book is not at all muddled, some may feel disappointed at the sudden redirection the book takes in the latter part of the book. If you’re hoping to read a book about teenagers trapped in an underground castle-maze with creepy people monitoring them, then later only to be redirected to some sort of science fiction madness… yeah, it did strike me as odd, too. The atmosphere in the first part is definitely different compared to the second, especially with all the Frankenstein elements going on. There are even talks of existential and philosophical crises, ala Persona style (if you’re aware of that game, that is… because usually, the villain in that game talks about how the world must end because the majority of the people are already bad and/or there is way too much malevolence in the world).
To some, this may seem “out-of-nowhere”. To some, this may be “all over the place”. But even though I was surprised, Anouk’s narration was consistent althroughout and that made all the difference to me.
3.5 Hot Espressos