Review: Sworn to the Night by Craig Schaefer

“Marie Reinhart is an NYPD detective on the trail of a serial killer. When she sleeps, though, she dreams of other lives; she dreams of being a knight, in strange wars and strange worlds. On the other side of the city, Nessa Roth is a college professor trapped in a loveless marriage, an unwilling prop in a political dynasty. She’s also a fledgling witch, weaving poppets and tiny spells behind closed doors.

When Marie’s case draws her into Nessa’s path, sparks fly. What comes next is more than a furtive whirlwind affair; it’s the first pebbles of an avalanche. Nessa and Marie are the victims of a curse that has pursued them across countless lifetimes; a doom designed to trap them in a twisted living fairy tale, with their romance fated to end in misery and death.

They aren’t going out without a fight. As they race to uncover the truth, forces are in motion across the country. In Las Vegas, a professional thief is sent on a deadly heist. In a Detroit back alley, witches gather under the guidance of a mysterious woman in red. Just outside New York, an abandoned zoo becomes the hunting-ground for servants of a savage and alien king. The occult underground is taking sides and forming lines of battle. Time is running out, and Nessa and Marie have one chance to save themselves, break the curse, and demand justice.

This time, they’re writing their own ending.”

Sworn to the Night is the first book in The Wisdom’s Grave Trilogy by Craig Schaefer. For those who don’t know, Schaefer has written another three book series (two urban fantasy and one epic fantasy series, the latter of which is complete at four books), and Sworn to the Night connects to all of them. This trilogy will act as a nexus of sorts where all these series converge, with characters and plot lines crossing over to weave a complex web, though everything is introduced and signposted for both the new and familiar reader (making this a serviceable entry point into Schaefer’s “multiverse”).

So, with that out of the way, how is the book?

The plot follows two central protagonists, Marie and Nessa. Marie is an NYPD detective and Nessa a burgeoning witch trapped in a loveless marriage, and their fates are inextricably linked. The plot races by, pausing just long enough to deliver gut-punches of emotion and horror in equal measure. It’s a dark story featuring torture, ritual murder, domestic abuse and cannibalism to name just a few things, underpinning the notion that the world is a chaotic, unfeeling place, but this never mires the story because it serves to highlight the struggles of the characters beautifully.

Marie and Nessa are just two of a host of well-written, interesting characters populating this novel. The world and plot act as a canvas upon which these characters succeed and fail; betray and sacrifice; live and die. Special mention should be given to the relationship between Marie and Nessa, too. Theirs is a cosmic romance, and that’s something I’m always apprehensive about when approaching a novel – I don’t usually enjoy romance at the very fore of a story. However, their relationship is central to the plot, and despite being overtly preordained it still comes across as organic, stemming from each character’s personality to establish a romantic relationship where the power balance is uneven and yet both partners hold equal importance. Damn impressive.

The worldbuilding is just as rich and nuanced as Schaefer’s other series, and Sworn to the Night provides fresh angles on the magic and cosmology of this multiverse which are equal parts fascinating and humbling (the latter, from a writerly point of view). There are plenty of thrills, and the stakes just keep climbing – make no mistake, this novel is pure entertainment. And it sets up what is sure to be an incredible ride through books two and three. To be honest, it’s what I’ve come to expect from Schaefer’s work.

Whether you’re new to Schaefer’s writing or a seasoned fan, I can’t recommend this novel highly enough. Sworn to the Night encapsulates why Schaefer is one of my favourite authors writing today – five stars hands down.

An incredible read.

You can learn more about Craig Schaefer here, and Sworn to the Night is available from Amazon.co.uk here. I read the UK Kindle edition.

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