Nightfall comes with a unique, if bizarre, premise. On the Island of Bliss fourteen years of daylight are followed by fourteen years of night. For the daylight years, humans live on Bliss happily going about their business. But as night starts to fall they prepare to depart, knowing they will not return for fourteen years. These preparations following a series of bizarre ancient rules regarding how they should leave the houses that their ancestors originally found fully furnished. Just as the sun disappears and the tide goes out to the horizon, the local fur traders come by boat to take the populace away to the desert lands where there is a constant cycle of three days light to three days dark.
Marin is a teenager, born as her parents returned to Bliss fourteen years before she has never seen the total darkness. Her twin brother Kana has always had trouble with his vision, trouble that seems to be alleviated by the approaching dark. And their friend Line is struggling to bring up his seven year old brother Francis following his parent’s death. When the trio are left behind on Bliss, their relationship to each other and their survival skills are put to the test as, with the darkness comes the terrifying unknown.
While the setup for Nightfall is idiosyncratic, it works. Halpern and Kujawinski play on a primal fear of the dark and the need to survive in an environment that is becoming increasingly inhospitable. The three main characters make up a fairly standard YA trio full of barely suppressed emotions, dark secrets, personal doubt and, in one case, unexplained physical changes. But they are well drawn and each emerge strongly. And the dark and cold, populated by hidden dangers is the perfect environment to drop them into to create an engaging and tense Young Adult fantasy/horror story.
This review first appeared in Aurealis #92, Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine, www.aurealis.com.au.