Monday, July 10, 2017

Escaped the Night by Jennifer Blyth

28534157This review was written by: B
Received: Author
Publication Date of Book: Dec. 2011
Pages: 338 (Hardcover Jan. 2016 Edition)
Stars: 4.5/5

Official Summary:
Shanntal is like any other teenager, except for the mysterious nightmares that seem to foretell a shadowy future.  One night while playing with a Ouija board during a sleepover, Shanntal and her friend unwittingly summon Daray, a vampire who says they will soon be together.  Visibly shaken, Shanntal has no idea that the cryptic message seemingly intended for her is just the beginning.  When Shanntal returns home the next day, she discovers her family has been killed by mysterious bites.  After moving in with her aunt and uncle, Shanntal eventually meets Jayce, an immortal who unveils a new realm and Shanntal's destiny.  As she falls in love and befriends fairies, shape shifters, and others, she is hunted by an evil being as her past rises up and triggers her memory, reminding her that she is the one who can walk in both worlds.  While Shanntal becomes torn between her love for Jayce and her loyalty to Daray, the two worlds hang on the precipice of change.  Only one is the key to ensuring peace -- if she is strong enough to survive.

Escaped the Night is a tale of good versus evil as a teenager comes of age, learns her destiny, and battles to keep harmony in a paranormal world where only true love endures.

My Thoughts:

When I made mistakes, I tended to do them big.  Go big or don't bother was what my father always said. Stand up for what you believe in, because anything worthwhile always merited a good fight.
~Shanntal (Escaped the Night)

Escaped the Night was an amazing whirlwind of a debut overflowing with action, self discovery, true love, and so much more!  Never before have I seen a work with so many fantastical creatures under a single roof or friendships that transcend so remarkably off the page!  Plus, a smoking hot, dreamy love interest with a protective, yet sweet, side didn't hurt the story in the least bit!!!

When we first meet Shanntal, she seems like your average girl making her way through life.  Sure, she may not always agree with her parents and occasionally fights with her sisters, but she has a family that she appreciates and loves nonetheless and a best friend like no other.  Shanntal's just a normal teenager experiencing normal teenage things . . . except for her nightmares that are frightening and realistic enough to give anyone the shivers.  

Distraught and alone, I rushed through the forest.  I heard the sound of my feet stomping while gasps leaked out between labored breaths.  My heart pounded wildly, yet I stopped abruptly.  I couldn't believe this was happening . . . I was being hunted.

When her family is later gruesomely murdered after Shanntal spends an evening at a friend's house experimenting with a worrisome Ouija board that relays to her a troubling message, she has no choice but to pack up her bags, try to make a new family with her aunt and uncle, and move on miles away from home.  Grieving and coming to terms with her loved ones' untimely demise took some time, and while it may seem as though Shanntal was temporarily destroyed emotionally, she is not to be mistaken as weak.  Honestly, she is one of the strongest, most admirable female protagonists that I have come across in my reading this year!  As a result, she attempts to get back to a normal routine by taking a chance to explore the new town she's recently landed in.  It is there that she meets the tempting, heart-stopping Jayce, an irresistible immortal who falls deeply in love with Shanntal.  He is the one who opens her eyes to a world she didn't even know existed . . . at least she doesn't remember it previously existing.  He then reveals an ancient battle between the creatures of the light (fairies, unicorns, the four elements, shape shifters, etc.) and the creatures of the dark (vampires, werewolves, doomahorns, etc.) and how she belongs to both worlds.  It is then up to her to challenge centuries worth of distrust among species in an attempt to bring two polar opposite worlds together for the greater good of all, no matter who tries to oppose her . . . that is, if she's strong enough to face her past and her future!

Jennifer Blyth incorporated countless beautiful themes and messages into this exciting paranormal/fantasy novel, including struggles that all readers will undoubtedly be able to relate to.  Also, Blyth got right to the point establishing her story line, not wasting any time on frivolous details that would have added nothing to the story, which I was more than grateful for!  I'm sure that many readers, myself included, have come across those books that spend pages upon pages on introductions and relationships between particular characters or explore meticulous descriptions of something as simple as vegetation.  (On a side note, these are not necessarily bad qualities, in fact they are at times more than helpful.  However, they can be an unnecessary distraction for a reader or pull them out of a story at the most inopportune of times.)  Within the first twenty pages, Escaped the Night was in full swing and never slowed down, even for a second!  I was on a constant ride that I had no desire to get off of!  

Another notable quality to Blyth's writing is how she establishes friendships throughout the novel that I couldn't help but notice were undeniably powerful and honest.  

Friends are the family we choose for ourselves.

I rarely experience such chemistry and intricate understanding between family, friends, or romantic interests as was demonstrated in this novel.  Shanntal never took those around her for granted and only wanted what was best for everyone, even if it meant sacrificing her own safety for their own at times.  In the novel, Shanntal is assigned protectors who are to come to her aid in times of desperate need and put their lives on the line and die for her if necessary.  While some in this position may resent their duty, the two brothers charged with this paramount task thought of her as not just their charge but rather as an invaluable friend.  The three had a deeper bond than what could ever be described with words.  A single look at their eyes told each other everything.  I cherished these affections and intimate devotions the author was able to bleed into the story.  

Shanntal herself is an inspirational protagonist worthy of a story written entirely around her!  Despite her colossal loss, she rose up and became stronger than her heartache.  Also, her daring spirit allowed her to put on a brave face, despite the fact that death and adversity were constantly staring her down.  She was truly a strong female lead with a long list of admirable qualities under her belt.  Two of them included her upbeat personality and a profound affection for her friends.  As I have previously mentioned, she had a strong hunger to protect those she loved, meaning that she would rather run off on her own if she thought it was for the best, even when she was advised against it.  However, she eventually learned that it was better to rely on her friends instead of dying for them.  Unlike untold characters before her since the dawn of literature, she learned the true meaning of camaraderie: you are stronger as a single entity than single petals scattered on the wind.  I also loved how Shanntal was a normal person despite her abnormal history.  She wasn't perfect and she suffered more than her fair share of struggles and downfalls, but she learned from them.  It might not always be easy to make the right decision.  It may have even taken a few tries, but she always got there because of her reliance on intuition and the wonderful people she surrounded herself with.  This was a fundamental part of what made Shanntal so human, and I loved that she wasn't made out to be this more than perfect savior who had absolutely no flaws.  Instead, the reader in me was able to connect with her because of her flaws.

The swoon worthy Jayce was my second favorite character!  The love and devotion he showed to both his duty towards the elements and to Shanntal with his affections were fabulous.  Shanntal and Jayce are literally goals!

"I love you, Shanntal," he said. - Jayce
"I love you more," I said back. - Shanntal
"Impossible." - Jayce
"Then I've done the impossible." - Shanntal
~Escaped the Night

The portrayal of Shanntal's battle of good versus evil was extremely exciting and perfectly executed!  With this subject as a central plot line, Blyth was able to explore the inner struggle of a girl forced into a position that probes her true nature.  This allowed for yet another wonderful theme to come into play:  Even though our true nature may be good, there will be occasions when we may be tempted to give into our more primal or less desirable sides, becoming less than our ultimate potentials.  However, we can overcome anything and even challenge our true nature if we have the willpower and mindset to do so.  Mistakes or fallbacks don't make or break a person.  They serve as lessons and reasons to keep fighting!

Last but not least, the lore behind true love in this story is stunningly romantic!  Blyth made it so that immortals walk the earth until they find their true love, no matter how long it will take, and when they both die, they become stars in the night sky for all to see, staying together for the rest of eternity!

Escaped the Night is a great book for people who want a paranormal/fantasy novel with a fast pace and characters that shine as bright as the stars themselves!  (Plus, it seems perfect for either YA readers or those younger readers who are just trying out YA for the first time.  For some reason, I feel as though it would be a great stepping-stone moving from MG into this new age group.  I've never found a novel quite like that, and it's unique in  this regard!)  Also, it's got an HEA, wrapping up the story perfectly for all of those readers who hate unanswered questions or cliffhangers!

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