The Perfect Blend of Magic and Reality: A Review of We Rule the Night by Claire Eliza Bartlett
Words By Emily Brill-Holland
Published on April 2, 2019 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
The Union is losing the war. Their enemy, the Elda, has been manipulating the Weave for years. The Elda are relentless with their bombing and gas attacks, and the Union is now a machine for keeping the war effort going. Boys and men die on the front line while women work in factory towns, using spark magic to create living metal for crafting war machines.
Revna’s father is a convicted traitor, jailed for life after taking scraps of living metal home to make prosthetic legs for Revna.
Linné’s father is the fourth most powerful man in the nation, a general who has no idea his daughter has been posing as a boy in the military for the past three years.
When both are caught in compromising positions—Linné being found out as a girl, Revna for using the illegal Weave magic to rescue herself and a Skarov officer during a bombing—the Union cuts a deal.
They need to win the war but they’re running out of male resources. The 146th Night Raiders (inspired by the USSR WWII female bomber pilots known as the Night Witches) are a desperate experiment: an all-female flight regiment, stealing over the frontlines at night and bombing what they can.
If Linné joins, she can keep fighting. If Revna joins, her family will be spared the consequences of her crimes and reinstated as citizens. The pair hate each other, but are forced to work together—Linné as navigator and Revna as pilot.
The world is exactly the right blend of magic and realism; 90% is so real that you can taste the fear and mud and fire, the sexism and the judgement, the risks, the setbacks—all of the obstacles the 146th have to face. Skilfully and frugally intertwined with this harsh reality is magic: Skarov, terrifying and rumored to be magically enhanced; the Weave that wraps around the world and the Spark—both forms of raw magic are required to power a war plane, constructed of living metal that takes on the emotions that are fed into it.
We Rule the Night is a phenomenal book that explores prejudice, feminism, loyalty, and true determination. It is about inner fires and fire raining from the sky, about discovering who you are, what you believe is right, and how far you are willing to go for what you believe in.
Bartlett’s writing is an unusual blend of showing and telling—a room will be thoroughly described, but an important character won’t be. She’ll tell you how a character is feeling before following up with a description of that character’s action, which I found a little jarring. This also meant that when I finished the book, I had a sense of the story, characters, and action, but no true grasp of the details. Characters are sketched out and then colored in slowly, but there are thirty-two in the cohort and when several lose their lives in the end, I struggled to remember who was who. Similarly, the world is hinted at, but Bartlett provides only just enough detail, leaving me hoping for a sequel in which we will get to know more about the States that make up the Union, learn more about who the Elda are, and witness the Skarov in their full power.
This is a book that I advise reading closely, but I want to stress that the story and the characters are worth it. I want to see Revna and Linné’s relationship develop, for the girls to come into their power and take on the world. They rule the night now, but I’m ready for them to rule the world together.