We Rule the Night by Claire Eliza Bartlett: A Friendship Novel Against a War-time Fantasy Backdrop

4 stars

Revna is caught using illegal magic, but instead of being imprisoned, she is taken to a special women’s military flight unit to undertake deadly missions against her country’s enemy in the cover of the night.

Meanwhile, Linné is disguised as a man on the front lines, but when she’s discovered, she has two options: leave the military and go back to her privileged life, or join the women’s military unit. She chooses the latter.

However, Revna and Linné clash as they have to fly together, but they’ll need to figure out how to fly well, or else they will destroy each other.

Content Warning: harassment (both on basis of sex and disability), may trigger PTSD

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We Rule the Night completely caught me off guard with its immersive world and narrative of fierce women.

I wasn’t sure how I’d react to the wartime fantasy setting, but I love how Bartlett used it to point out the flaws both in this world and our real world. This is a very understated book though, despite the action and adventure occurring. I honestly don’t think a lot of people will like it (the most common complaint will probably be “too slow”), but I really really enjoyed.

This is one of those fantasies that are a bit more of a slowburn—like Rachel Hartman’s Tess of the Road. And I love that, although it’s not for everyone. However, it’s . . .

Fantastic for fans of military/wartime fantasies—but centering around women!

I think people who liked the concept of Joanna Hathaway’s Dark of the West will definitely like this (plane-like things! military! wartime!). Or if you thought Dark of the West was cool but didn’t feature enough women and female friendships (aka me) and want more of female interaction. Either of these would be indicative that you should definitely pick up We Rule the Night.

Because not only is it a wartime fantasy with alliances and hierarchies and people fighting on live-metal machines (more on that later), but it also has that sort of more measured tone that a lot of fantasies take on.

It’s severe, and I think people who like older-feeling fantasies will like this. It’s still got action elements to it, but it’s also got training and a lot of struggling to work together. It’s messy, in a good way.

Huge bonus points for female friendships and the complexity of that!

One of my favorite parts of We Rule the Night would probably be how the story examined Linné and Revna‘s hatred/friendship.

Linné is prickly and hard to get along with and she definitely does not want to be in this female-only group of women fighting in the war, especially given her history of dressing up as a boy and serving in the military. However, this is the only way she can fight in the war, and she’ll have to stick with it if she wants to contribute.

Revna, on the other hand, is just there to help her family and do what’s best for them.

Both girls are part of the squadron, and both have to stay. But despite being paired to fly a living-metal plane together—one girl to fuel it with her spark, and the other to navigate the Weave—they struggle working together.

I thought it was really nice to see this gradual friendship as the focus of the novel. There’s no romance (I mean, I wasn’t going to oppose a queer romance but it’s not a romance book) and it’s all about Linné and Revna’s relationship, which I really enjoyed.

I do want to note that Linné is one of the sources of where some of the disability-associated harassment comes from initially (Revna has living metal prosthetics below the knee on one leg, and ankle and below on the other), but she definitely isn’t doing that in the end of the book and learns better. However,if you think this might be triggering/not good to read for you, it’s probably a good idea to skip out on We Rule the Night.

I personally can’t speak on how Bartlett portrayed Revna’s disability, and I would love to see an #OwnVoices review from an amputee using prosthetics, if someone has a review! There wasn’t anything glaringly harmful to me and the message did not seem problematic, but I also know that I have a lot of blind spots, and I can’t definitively say whether or not this was good rep.

Interesting, metal magic and an industrial world with its own set of stigmas.

The living-metal magic that I referenced a few times was really really cool! People have a sort of magic in them and there’s different types of magic, like using a spark (hot or cold) and the Weave. In their country, the Weave is banned for the way it can get tangled, however the military has allowed the girls’ squadron to use it for the purpose of flying their living-metal planes.

The planes aren’t normal planes, they’ve got also living metal animal-shaped machinery and other mechanical stuff. Very industrial feeling.

It’s very interesting, and Bartlett introduces it in a way that’s not info-dumpy, and more integrated, which I enjoyed. Plus, reading about this specific country’s issues with the Weave versus the country their fighting (who embrace it) added another interesting element to the story.

The purpose of the war was a bit foggy to me.

This is one of my biggest complaints, although I’m not sure how relevant it actually is.

I don’t know what they’re fighting for. I know Linné and Revna’s country is at war with another, but I either missed when reading or it didn’t really say clearly what the war was caused by and why they were still fighting and if they were trying to negotiate peace. Some of the larger politics were a little bit blurry.

The ending was kind of abrupt, and I felt like parts were unresolved.

Also, it wraps up a bit quickly, and it feels like We Rule the Night has sequel potential, although it doesn’t really end on a cliffhanger.

I just felt like a lot of the storyline besides the friendship (the war, certain side characters and families) was generally unresolved? I’m not sure if I’d recommend it to people who want every last detail resolved, because you don’t really get that.

I would totally love if this book had a sequel, though *cough COUGH*.

However—

I can’t really say if either of the last two points are really necessary. Because ultimately, this is a book about female friendship and how it defies the patriarchy, and it’s not really focusing on a giant fantasy world’s politics. I think We Rule the Night is more of a friendship story among a fantasy backdrop, which a lot of people might not get based off of first glance.

It’s about Linné and Revna. Not about the world or the war, it’s about them against the backdrop of the war.

Overall, We Rule the Night is a book I really enjoyed, even though I don’t think it’s for everyone.

I would definitely recommend people who like

  • Female-friendship oriented stories, even in fantasy settings
  • People who like slower fantasies, à la Tess of the Road
  • People who like military/wartime fantasies, à la Dark of the West
  • People who want a feminist story about characters who persevere

ALSO—you can win a copy of We Rule the Night or any #novel19s book that comes out on April 2nd or before through the giveaway in my Writer Wednesday post here! Good luck!

Thank you so much to The NOVL for sending me an advance reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review!

Tell me about some of your favorite slow-burn fantasies!

6 thoughts on “We Rule the Night by Claire Eliza Bartlett: A Friendship Novel Against a War-time Fantasy Backdrop

  1. Awesome review! I have an arc that’s just been sitting on my desk and honestly I felt pretty meh about reading this but your review has totally convinced me to give it a try!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I totally 100% agree with your review. I just finished the book today and the build up of the friendship between Linné and Revna was very well done. Linné especially comes a long way in regard to their relationship from beginning to end. The story was a bit slow at times and I would have liked a little more background to some of the other girls (like Katya) but overall worth the read, especially for the female empowerment and relatability to the world we live in today where women are still not always seen as equals to men.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. awww, yeah! I really enjoyed the friendship and Linne has such a distinct journey. I totally agree about seeing more of the girls and stuff, but I’m glad you enjoyed it in the end!!!

      Liked by 1 person

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