Editorial Review: Ever the Night Road by Michael Breen
Ever the Night Road by Michael Breen is a richly imagined coming-of-age fantasy that will intrigue readers who enjoy complex world-building and deep character motivation.
Our heroine is Dagny Losh, a seventeen-year-old orphan who, as a nine-year-old runaway from her mother’s brutal partner, narrowly escaped the tragic collapse of her slum home in Rakesmount. She is haunted by the memory of her lost, younger sister—Grete—who she had promised to return for once she had found a safe haven.
That haven was generously provided by her dead brother’s best friend, Alex, who is a wealthy adventurer in a world full of myth, lost treasure, and wild opportunity for those daring enough to brave mystical creatures or nature’s more mundane dangers.
Despite the second half of her life being full of wealth and privilege living in the City of Water and Glass, Dagny is a lost soul, dissatisfied and yearning for purpose or redemption or adventure. Needing to prove herself or save others, she falls in with a band of similarly restless youths and stumbles into ever more challenging adventures. And her first love affair.
Discovering Grete survived the collapse of their home; she sets out on a quest to find the sister she promised to protect. The quest is fraught with frustration and danger; her sister is not the sweet girl that Dagny remembers. Grete is hardened by a life in the most vicious of slum towns and on the run from the brutal gang boss and his even nastier henchmen.
Winding into the tale is a complex subtext of a mix of history, myth, and legend of Dagny’s world. A world that has been shattered and rebuilt, a world that is a mix of lost mechanical marvels and more esoteric powers.
Ever the Night Road is an onion read that is full of layers to peel back. It has the nuances of a masterful game of chess—or Breen’s far more complex game of Talvarind which has a chess-like feel but allows players to field different game sets rather than a simple match of black v. white where all pieces have one standard option for movement.
It’s a complexity that deserves more than one read—or a re-read before diving into Breen’s next book. Many of the world-building elements are tantalizing glimpses into what may or may not be reality as the world is explored in further books. This may go a long way to explaining the world through which Dagny walks, ultimately alone—but with purpose.
Breen is a confident writer with a vivid imagination and the skill to share his far-from-everyday reality. Ever the Night Road is a well-paced read for those who like to savor exquisite details and be drawn deeply into the motivation of the protagonist. It is suitable for a YA audience; violence is contextual, and the sexuality of the young lovers is neither graphic nor exploitative.
Do check out the author’s website for some lovely imagery of the world he has imagined and get a sense for the City of Water and Glass at https://www.michaelbreenbooks.com/the-world. After enjoying Ever the Night Road, I am keen to explore the prequel, Jud. The idea of a chaotic, ruler-less city where walls and roads randomly change, or buildings suddenly appear after hundreds of years, allows for endless intriguing possibilities.