REVIEW: Night’s Reign by Daan Katz

Night’s Reign is the elegantly written dark fantasy by Dutch author Daan Katz dealing with themes of trauma, disability, and mental health.

Night's ReignThe novel hinges on the relationship between its two lead protagonists. Niels Bosch is an autistic priest with a mysterious and disturbing past. His newly arrived cantor, Beldenka Nadinov, is a physically disabled woman who uses a wheelchair. Although both Niels and Bel harbor plenty of pain from the past, the shy priest is reluctant to share personal details with his spirited cantor.

Meanwhile, Bel focuses on overcoming society’s view of her as a cripple and a so-called “Reject.” She is unrelentingly positive in the face of prejudice and discrimination, displaying a strength that far surpasses anyone’s expectations.

Night’s Reign has excellent representation of physical disability, neurodivergence, and mental health issues. A large fraction of the novel involves exploring the characters’ backstories as they try to overcome trauma from the past and gain the self-confidence needed to face conflict in an uncertain and threatening future. I especially love how the characters support each other as they confront the ghosts of their past. There is also some romance, which is incorporated in a realistic and tasteful fashion.

Night’s Reign employs the classic fantasy trope of a reluctant Chosen One. Fortunately, Daan Katz uses this trope to good effect, in a complex world full of science, theology, and magic.

The world in Night’s Reign is technologically advanced, with knowledge of microbiology and epidemiology, as well as high-speed, magnetically powered ground vehicles call karrs (apparently a variation of the Dutch word for “car”). There are also airplanes known as draken (Dutch for “dragons”). However, I’m honestly not sure how I feel about having a high fantasy world with DNA testing.

This technologically advanced culture is coupled with a bevy of fantastical fauna, including dragons of various sizes and gigantic wolves and apes. My favorite creatures are the dragonets, which are like miniature dragon pets with telepathic powers. There is also magic aplenty, including Dragon Magic and medallions that contain a trace of the Divine.

Daan Katz’s prose is elegant and eminently readable. The entire novel is well-polished and has a literary feel. In a nice touch, the author includes short poems at the beginning of each chapter that preview some of the content to come.

Night’s Reign is highly recommended for its outstanding character work, as well as the compassionate and realistic way that Daan Katz handles disability and mental health issues in a dark world that feels not too foreign from our own.

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John Mauro

John Mauro

John Mauro lives in a world of glass amongst the hills of central Pennsylvania. When not indulging in his passion for literature or enjoying time with family, John is training the next generation of materials scientists at Penn State University, where he teaches glass science and materials kinetics. John also loves cooking international cuisine and kayaking the beautiful Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.