- Published: 3 May 2022
- ISBN: 9781529102383
- Imprint: Del Rey
- Format: Trade Paperback
- Pages: 400
- RRP: $32.99
Book of Night
The Number One Sunday Times Bestseller
Charlie’s ugly Crocs stuck to the mats on the floor behind the bar, making a sticky, squelching sound. Sweat slicked the skin under her arms, at the hollow of her throat, and between her thighs. This was her second shift today; the afternoon guy quit abruptly to follow his boyfriend to Los Angeles and she was stuck with his hours until Odette hired a replacement.
But as tired as Charlie was, she needed the cash. And she figured she better keep busy. Keeping busy meant keeping out of trouble.
There’d always been something wrong with Charlie Hall. Crooked, from the day she was born. Never met a bad decision she wasn’t willing to double down on. Had fingers made for picking pockets, a tongue for lying, and a shriveled cherry pit for a heart.
If her shadow had been one of those magic ones, she was pretty sure even that thing would have run away.
But that didn’t mean she couldn’t try to be different. And she was trying. Sure, it had been hard to keep her worst impulses in check these past ten months, but it was better than being a lit match in a town she’d already doused in gasoline.
She had a job— with a timesheet, even— and a stolid brick of a boyfriend who paid his share of the rent. Her gunshot wound was healing nicely. Little successes, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t proud of them.
It was on that thought that Charlie looked up to see a test of her resolve walk through the double doors of Rapture Bar & Lounge.
Doreen Kowalski’s face looked hot and blotchy with crying— she’d obviously tried to fix her makeup, but had wiped her mascara so hard that it winged out to one side. Back in high school, she wouldn’t have given Charlie the time of day, and she probably didn’t want to tonight either.
There are countless differences between the lives of people with money and people without. One is this: without the means to pay experts, it’s necessary to evolve a complex ecosystem of useful amateurs. When Charlie’s dad got what the doctor told him was a skin cancer, he drank a fifth of Maker’s Mark and asked a butcher friend to cut a divot out of his shoulder, because there was no way he could afford a surgeon. When Charlie’s friend’s cousin got married, they asked Mrs. Silva from three blocks over to make their wedding cake, because she loved to bake and had fancy pastry piping doodads. And if the buttercream was a little grainy or one of the layers was a bit overbaked, well, it was still sweet and just as tall as a cake in a magazine, and it cost only the price of supplies.
In the world of shadow magic, Charlie was a successful thief, but to the locals,she would always be a useful amateur, willing to palm a wedding ring or retrieve a dognapped pit bull.
Charlie Hall. Drawn to a bad idea like a moth to a wool sweater. Every hustle an opportunity to let her worst impulses out to play.
“I need to talk to you,” Doreen said loudly, reaching for Charlie as she passed.
It’d been a slow night at the lounge, but Odette, the ancient, semiretired dominatrix who owned the place, was sitting at a table out front, gossiping with her cronies. She’d notice if Charlie chatted to one person for too long,and Charlie couldn’t afford to lose this gig. Bartending at Rapture was a luckybreak, given her track record.
It’d been arranged by Balthazar, who ran a shadow parlor out of the basement, speakeasy- style, and had good reasons to keep an eye on her— not the least of which was that he wanted her to come back to work for him.
And as Charlie looked over at Doreen and that familiar excitement stirred in her, she felt the precariousness of her commitment to the straight and narrow. Like a strategy for success that’s only the word “profit” with a lot of exclamation points.
“Can I get you a drink?” she asked Doreen.
Doreen shook her head. “You have to help me find Adam. He disappeared,again, and I— ”
“Can’t talk now,” Charlie interrupted. “Order something to keep my boss off my back. Club soda and bitters. Cranberry and lime. Whatever. It’s on me.”
Doreen’s wet, red-rimmed eyes suggested that she’d have a hard time waiting.Or that she’d had a few drinks before she arrived. Maybe both.
“Hey,” one of the regulars called, and Charlie turned away to take his order. Made a cosmopolitan that spilled ruby red out of the shaker. Topped it with a tiny pellet of dry ice that sent smoke wafting up, as though from a potion.
She checked on another table, a guy who was nursing a beer, trembling fingers applying a third nicotine patch to his inner arm. He wanted to keep his tab open.
Charlie poured a shot of Four Roses for a tweedy guy in dirty glasses who looked like he’d been sleeping in his clothes and told her he didn’t like his bourbon too sweet. Then she crossed to the other end of the bar, pausing to make a whiskey- and- ginger for Balthazar himself when he waved her over.
“Got a job for you,” he said under his breath. With his flashing eyes, light brown skin, and curls long enough to be pulled back into a disreputable ponytail, he lorded over his shadow parlor, making the town’s corrupt dreams come true.
“Nope,” Charlie said, moving on.
“C’mon. Knight Singh got murdered in his bed, and the room was trashed. Someone made off with his personal folio of magical discoveries,” Balthazar called after her, unconvinced. “This is what you were best at.”
“Nope!” she called back as cheerfully as she could manage.
Fuck Knight Singh.
He had been the first gloamist ever to contract Charlie’s services, back when she was just a kid. As far as she was concerned, he could rot in his grave, but that still didn’t mean she was going to rob it.
Charlie was out of the game. She’d been too good at it, and the collateral damage had been too high. Now she was just a regular person.
A drunken trio of witchy- looking twentysomethings were celebrating a weeknight birthday, black lipstick smeared over their mouths. They ordered shots of cheap, neon green absinthe and winced them down. One must have recently gotten her shadow altered, because she kept moving so the light would catch it and project her new self onto the wall. It had horns and wings, like asuccubus.
It was beautiful.
“My mother haaaates it,” the girl was telling her friends, voice slightly slurred.She gave a hop and hovered in the air for a moment as her shadow wings fluttered,and a few patrons glanced over admiringly.
“Mom says that when I try to get a real job, I am going to regret having something I can’t hide. I told her it was my commitment to never selling out.”
The first time Charlie had ever seen an altered shadow, it had made her think of a fairy tale she’d read as a child in the school library: The Witch and the Unlucky Brother.
She still recalled the story’s opening lines: Once upon a time, a boy was born with a hungry shadow. He was as lucky as lucky could be, while all the ill luck was bestowed on his twin, who was born with no shadow at all.
But, of course, this girl’s shadow wasn’t lucky. It looked cool and gave her a bit of minor magic. She could maybe get three inches off the ground, for a couple of seconds at a time. A pair of stacked heels would have taken her higher.
It didn’t make the girl a gloamist, either.
Manipulated shadows were the specialty of alterationists, the most public facing of the four disciplines. Alterationists could cosmetically shape shadows, use them to trigger emotions so strong they could be addictive, and even cutout pieces of a person’s subconscious. There were risks, of course. Sometimes people lost a lot more of themselves than they bargained for.
I know I can do this, I know I can. Whatever anyone else says. It’s just a matter of perseverance.
All souls are special. Son or daughter, Grimm or not, Life touches her spirit to every one of her creations.
Back in his den with the cocoa he settles into the beanbag chair bequeathed to him by a departing student the year before.
And I could only have seen her there on the stone bridge, a dancer wreathed in ghostly blue, because that was the way they would have taken her back when I was young, back when the Virginia earth was still red as brick and red with life
It began with the allocating of luck, our bodies pinballs inside a machine. It was the year of overlapping adolescences, when the girls started to faint and grow tall.
Only dead people are allowed to have statues, but I have been given one while still alive. Already I am petrified.
It was religious yearning granted hope, it was the holy grail of science. Our ambitions ran high and low – for a creation myth made real, for a monstrous act of self-love.