Robin Hood in a Mystical Pandemic-type World

Book cover of "Defy the Night" by Brigid Kemmerer

Defy the Night is a recent teen novel written by Brigid Kemmerer that takes place in a fantastical world, which frighteningly sounds much like ours. Kandala is a place that is ravaged by a mysterious disease that is killing people throughout the land. There is an elixir, but the rich have it and hoard it, while the poor steal it and would die for it. King Harriston and his brother Prince Corrick struggle to maintain justice in a land that is besieged by political and social upheaval.

Tessa Cade, our plucky heroine, is an apothecary assistant who is passionate about using her elixir-making talents to help those who can’t access it. Think Robin Hood, but for medicine. She works closely with her friend Wes to steal the ingredients to make the elixir, and then they steal away into the night to deliver it to the poor. That all stops when the unthinkable happens to Wes, and Tessa somehow finds herself in the palace. It’s there she begins to untangle the web of lies from the truth as she tries to save Kandala.

Defy the Night was a really fun book that kept me hooked from page one. It’s got all the makings of a good teen fantasy novel: romance, political upheaval, a cast of fun and diverse characters, and a relatable heroin.

What I liked about Tessa was how easy she was to relate to; she wasn’t all-powerful or magical. Instead, she used her knowledge of medicine and apothecary to save people and influence others. She made a difference using her brain and her smarts. Most teen heroines in novels nowadays are powerful with a hidden arsenal of magical, awe-inspiring skills just bubbling underneath the surface, so reading about a girl who used her brain to figure things out was refreshing.

The world that Kemmerer creates in Kandala reflects our own. Kemmerer mentions in the acknowledgements that she wrote the book during the pandemic, and it’s easy to see that throughout the story. Kandala, like our own world, is plagued by a mysterious disease that affects the very fabric of society, as well as the way people behave and how they relate to one another. Like the COVID-19 vaccines when they were first introduced, the magical elixir in Kandala is elusive and the rich have access to an abundance of it, while the poor struggle. It was harrowing to see our reality reflected in a fantastical world and realize it wasn’t so different at all.

If you’re a fan of Robin Hood-type stories with characters stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, you’re sure to enjoy Defy the Night. The romance isn’t just fluff, but instead has meaning behind it. There are lots of twists and turns, some within the first few chapters of the book, that will be sure to have you flipping pages till the gripping ending.

Defy the Night is followed by Defend the Dawn which will be out in September of this year. Keep your eyes peeled on our website for the sequel!