Urban Fae: Night and Nothing series by Katharine Howard

If you have read Holly Black’s Modern Faerie Tales series, you will be acquainted with her brand of vicious fae that call the city streets their own. The fae in Katherine Harbour’s Night and Nothing series are cast from the same mold but more on that later. First, an introduction. I have read the first two in this series (the third one is forthcoming, I believe, due to be released this year or is newly released). Anyway:

Both were released by Harper Voyager and should be available in any good bookstore or library. The synopsis of the first one:

They call us things with teeth. These words from Lily Rose Sullivan the night of her death haunts her seventeen-year-old sister, Finn, who has moved with her widowed father to his hometown of Fair Hollow, New York. After befriending a boy named Christie Hart and his best friend, Sylvie Whitethorn, Finn is invited to a lakeside party where she encounters the alluring Jack Fata, a member of the town’s mysterious Fata family. Despite Jack’s air of danger and his clever words, Finn learns they have things in common.

One day, while unpacking, Finn finds her sister’s journal, scrawled with descriptions of creatures that bear a sinister resemblance to Jack’s family. Finn dismisses these stories as fiction, but Jack’s family has a secret—the Fatas are the children of nothing and night, nomadic beings who have been preying on humanity for centuries—and Jack fears that his friendship with Finn has drawn the attention of the most dangerous members of his family—Reiko Fata and vicious Caliban, otherwise known as the white snake and the crooked dog.

Plagued with nightmares about her sister, Finn attempts to discover what happened to Lily Rose and begins to suspect that the Fatas are somehow tied to Lily Rose’s untimely death. Drawn to Jack, determined to solve the mystery of her sister’s suicide, Finn must navigate a dangerous world where nothing is as it seems.

So I am not going to lie. The first book was not my favourite. I have a low tolerance for mush and romance as I have said countless times by now. However, I could not dismiss this book on its rather predictable love story simply because the strength of the author’s research and the skill with which she weaves this research into the narrative is superlative. I have a keen interest in the fae and I am always searching for freshness in their portrayals in fiction.

Thorn Jack presents…um…Jack who is for all intents and purposes a changeling whose heart was taken by Reiko who is a level of bad it is a pleasure to see. The only way he can regain his heart and hence his mortality is by falling in love but how do you fall in love when you don’t have the metaphorical heart to do so? Enter Finn who is not a Mary Sue but does have the makings of one, sort of. I liked her better in the second book where she grows a spine and becomes a character worth rooting for. In this first one, she is very much the clueless YA heroine who does things for love both for her dead sister and that dude who she just cannot help but want to smooch.

But hey, at least there aren’t any love triangles. Oh apparently this is a retelling of Tam Lin which I have read…but I like this one better because Harbour’s iteration of the fae is more to my liking.

Finn’s mother passed away when they were young so Finn, her sister, and her dad made up a family until her sister, for reasons Finn doesn’t understand, commits suicide. Finn and her father, still reeling from the incident, relocate to Fair Hollow when Finn’s dad inherits his mother’s house. Fair Hollow is…a dark place. Surrounded by woods and old mansions that were foreclosed and now stand emptily, the town has a level of creepiness that makes it the perfect place to be on Halloween. And we aren’t even talking about the Fatas yet. Night and Nothing tells a very Gothic tale with many large houses in processes of decay, many creatures, both human and fae, in the process of unraveling. If you remove the love story (which is difficult to do but bear with me) you are left with a landscape of verdant trees and old houses peopled by beings right out of myth and legends and magic that bites.

The Fatas or as we call them, the Fae, are young, beautiful, but not entirely without heart (unless they are Jack but he was human first). It has been a while since I read the first book so I cannot remember the different kinds of fae referred to by Harbour but her cast of fae creatures is the stuff of dreams or okay, nightmares. They glitter so but that’s all glamour and yet even when you know that the glitter is glamour you cannot help but be enchanted by them.

The second book involves a trip to the Ghostlands (or Faerie as we call it) and I was probably the most enchanted by the alien landscape. Harbour  is excellent at worldbuilding and a strange fey land with teleporting carnivals, abandoned houses with sentient dolls, a truly ghostly villain and lots and lots of monsters springs up under her skilled hands. The portals to Ghostland as well as the almost tangible air of menace that coats the Ghostlands had me swooning. The Briar Queen, in my humble opinion, is a much stronger book than the first one because now that the love story has moved past its first phase, Harbour, interestingly enough, shows what happens after the so-called ever after. Also, there is a rescue mission and sisters and just monsters.

I really should take notes while reading. I’m sorry I didn’t but I read these books a while ago and wanted to talk about them because they fall so perfectly under the purview of this month’s theme. Anyway, if you fancy sharp-teethed fae creatures and do not mind mushy romance, give the series a try.