Private Matthew Petticrew arrives in France as part of the American Expeditionary Forces, an arrival which a war-weary France desperately hopes will help to end the turmoil. Having faced unthinkable things on the front, he is captivated by the sound of a lullaby, sung by a voice so pure he knows he must have imagined it. But rumors sweep through the trenches like wildfire, dubbing the voice “The Angel of Argonne,” a mysterious presence who leaves behind wreaths on unmarked graves and footprints in the war-pocked soil.
Raised wild in the depths of the Forest of Argonne, France, Mireilles finds her world rocked when war comes crashing into the idyllic home she has always known, taking much from her. When Matthew discovers Mireilles, three things are clear: She is alone in the world, she cannot stay, and he and his two unlikely companions might be the only ones who can get her to safety.
I read this book for my own personal pleasure and was not required to write a review. Therefore, all comments and opinions are entirely my own.
Okay, full disclosure, I am a huge fan of Amanda Dykes and her work. I’d only read one of her published novels (Set the Stars Alight) before deciding she was one of my new favorite authors. When I heard her third novel was being written about World War I, one of my favorite time periods, I was stoked. So let’s just say I was already in love with this book before I started reading it.
First of all, this novel is very different than Set the Stars Alight in pacing and tone. Yours is the Night is set apart from her first two novels in that it has a very specific purpose outside of entertainment. It is written in honor of the 100th Anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which will be commemorated in November of this year. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, originally dedicated in 1921, represents any and all soldiers who fought during World War I, never returned home and were most likely not given a proper burial. Therefore, this novel has a very serious undertone that Set the Stars Alight did not have.
I read Yours is the Night in one week (which is saying a lot because I’m a very slow reader in general), but I’ll admit I was hesitant at the beginning of the novel. While Amanda Dykes’ unique writing style and compelling characters were as I expected, the magical, warm and cozy feeling Set the Stars Alight gave me was not repeated. I missed it at first, but slowly, as I got accustomed to this new pacing, that warm feeling was replaced with something else. A feeling of patriotism, duty, empathy and sometimes something even deeper.
Yours is the Night is told from five different perspectives: Matthew the silent, but gifted soldier; Mireilles the troubled, but strong young woman; Jasper the blunt, but caring captain; George the very sacrilegious chaplain; and Henry the truthful reporter. While Matthew and Mira are most certainly the main characters and receive the most attention in the book, I slowly came to care for all five of these characters (even against my own will at times). Dykes did an excellent job giving us a glimpse into all aspects of the war through this set of unique characters and their differing situations and backgrounds.
Gosh, I just love how Dykes weaves a character’s backstory, baggage and trials into their present psychology and relationships. There is something so raw and real about the way she crafts her characters. Matthew and Mira were absolutely the best part of this novel, not only because their relationship was super romantic in the best and sweetest way, but because their friendship turned relationship started by attempting to help each other heal. There was no damsel in distress, really, because they both needed help.
As a World War I nerd, as soon as the Argonne Forest was mentioned, I knew exactly where the story was (most likely) heading, plot-wise. I think any history nerd has an idea of how things developed in France during the last year of the war and I loved seeing Dykes’ interpretation of these events unfold in her characters and their objectives. I’ll admit, though, even with the structure of history, she still kept me guessing. It wasn’t until probably 75-80% of the way through the book that I felt like I knew where the romantic relationship and comrade relationships were most likely going to end up.
Honestly, if I have to mention any flaws, my one complaint is of a little bit of an author cop-out at the end of the novel. Throughout the book there is a lot of allusion, mostly on Captain Jasper Truett’s part, that Matthew will play an integral part in winning the war or in helping his unit achieve victory or, at least, in the battle of the Argonne Forest. I found myself anticipating the role he would play in such an important battle of the war. While the climax was incredibly moving and I understand what Dykes was trying to achieve for her characters in hindsight, at the time I was disappointed in the turn of events because it felt like Matthew never really achieved his full touted potential as a soldier. However, given that this is my only major complaint, I’m not too worked up about it.
Overall, while this book was entirely different than Set the Stars Alight and, therefore, what my expectations for it were, it was still an incredibly written story with compelling characters, a captivating plot and a moving message. One of my favorite themes was the constant contrast between light and dark, hope and despair. In World War I, there was a lot of darkness and despair. Dykes cleverly navigates this dark place with the hope of Jesus without shoving it down our throats. Yet, given the time period and just how many people did at least profess to be Christians, there was a decent amount of religious conversations that each appropriately fit both the characters and the time period. For how somber and sad the book could be, there was so much hope and light, I did not leave the book feeling discouraged at all. Quite the opposite.
In conclusion, I give Yours is the Night 5 out of 5 stars. It is a clean historical romance with no language or explicit scenes. There are two expertly written battle scenes that gives you an idea of the horrors of war without being too graphic. Overall, I think anyone who wants to better understand and appreciate their World War I veterans would benefit from reading this novel.