Sarah A. Hoyt and Sofie Skapski’s A TOUCH OF NIGHT is a re-do of Jane Austen’s seminal novel PRIDE AND PREJUDICE — except this time, it’s with Weres — humans who change into animals. Which complicates the events of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE rather well, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
In A TOUCH OF NIGHT, Austen’s protagonists Jane and Elizabeth Bennet, along with their eventual love-interests Fitzwilliam Darcy and Charles Bingley, now have additional problems to worry about. That’s because some of them are Weres, even though none of them are the harmful variety, and English society can’t leave well enough alone. Now, there’s the Royal Were-Hunters, which the Bennets, Darcy and Bingley must now worry about, because the RWH doesn’t care who or what you are, nor whether or not you’ve done any harm. They will just shoot you stone, cold dead if they find you, with no appeal.
The additional complications brought about by some of Austen’s protagonists being Weres reminds me a little bit of the gleeful mayhem of Seth Grahame-Smith’s Austen pastiche PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES: THE CLASSIC REGENCY ROMANCE, NOW WITH ULTRAVIOLENT ZOMBIE MAYHEM because it’s doing some of the same things (fortunately in a much better way). Where the Grahame-Smith version added violence to Austen’s classic novel, A TOUCH OF NIGHT adds more romance along with the additional complications of fantasy — that is, how can you be human and want a human love when you turn into another creature some of the month? And how can you trust anyone with your secret when, once you do, you’re putting them as well as yourself at risk due to the RWH?
Note that if you loved PRIDE AND PREJUDICE in the original version, and you also love fantasy, you will really enjoy A TOUCH OF NIGHT because Austen’s version of England is treated with respect — it’s as if this additional story was always there, and for whatever reason Austen just didn’t feel up to telling it, so Hoyt and Skapski have decided to add it right back. It fits just that seamlessly.
Because the essential story of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is unaltered, we know that despite the additional complications that Bingley and Jane will eventually make a match of it. and we know that Darcy and Elizabeth will also do so . . . but getting there is only half the fun because we have more to discover about Mr. Bennet (the patriarch of the Bennet family) than we’d ever expected. We find that Mr. Darcy is even more heroic than we’d thought, and Mr. Collins even stranger . . . we appreciate all of the characters of Austen’s classic novel even more with the additional material added from Hoyt and Skapski.
A TOUCH OF NIGHT deepens and broadens the Austen mythos and more to the point, doesn’t distract from it as can some pastiches of great works. This is a fine fantasy effort that rings true on the romance and human levels, and I enjoyed it immensely.
Best of all, there’s another Jane Austen-inspired fantasy novel coming from Sarah A. Hoyt called A FLAW IN HER MAGIC from the Naked Reader later this year (an adaptation of the classic MANSFIELD PARK), which I know I will be looking forward to — avidly.
Grade: A. For anyone who loves Regency romances, Jane Austen, or fantasy — trust me, if you give A TOUCH OF NIGHT a try, you will not put it down.
— reviewed by Barb