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Complete Reading Guide: A Day of Fallen Night by Samantha Shannon

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a day of fallen night reading guide

A Day of Fallen Night, a prequel to Samantha Shannon’s popular book The Priory of the Orange Tree, was published in 2023. This fantasy novel explores the lives of characters’ ancestors as they navigate the Grief of Ages, set roughly 500 years before the events in The Priory of the Orange Tree.

Written by Shannon, who studied English Language and Literature at St. Anne’s College, Oxford, this book has achieved New York Times Bestseller status, much like Shannon’s first book in The Roots of Chaos series.

A Day of Fallen Night by Samantha Shannon
a day of fallen night book

In this fantasy world, the story delves into feminist themes related to monarchy and autonomy. The narrative includes classic fantasy elements like magic, dragons, and epic battles. What sets this novel apart is its portrayal of a world free from the real-world prejudices of misogyny and homophobia.

Characters in LGBTQIA+ relationships live without judgment or consequence. The realms in the story, especially Inys, feature matriarchal lines of rule, adding depth to the world-building.

In this reading guide, we’re going to peel back the layers of this novel and dive into its characters, themes, and symbolism.

If you find this guide useful, let me know in the comments below! ✨

Summary | Character Analysis | Character List

Themes | Quotes

Book Review | Common Questions

A Day of Fallen Night Summary

Note: Keep in mind that this reading guide contains spoilers, so proceed only after you’ve read the novel.

The following is the complete summary of the A Day of Fallen Night.

Plot Summary:

For 500 years, the world has lived in fear of the Nameless One, a terrifying wyrm. In Inys, to the West, the Berethnet queens, led by Glorian III, are believed to keep the wyrm at bay with their bloodline. Glorian struggles to find her place in this world. She adores her father, King Bardholt of Hróth, but feels distant from her mother, Queen Sabran. Glorian is approaching the age for betrothal, a prospect that terrifies her. Even as chaos envelops the world, she resists the idea of marriage.

In the East, Dumai discovers her true identity as the secret daughter of Emperor Jorodu. She becomes part of his plan to counter the power-hungry Kuposas. Jorodu intends to place Dumai on the throne instead of his younger daughter, Suzumai, and establish a shadow court to rule elsewhere.

Dumai, who hails from Mount Ipyeda, faces challenges from the River Lord and his daughter, Nikeya, who question her legitimacy and attempt to manipulate her. Jorodu introduces Dumai to the dragon Furtia Stormcaller, who sees potential in her.

Tunuva Melim is a member of the Priory of the Orange Tree, a society of warrior women founded to prepare for the Nameless One’s return. When she’s not advising the Prioress, Tunuva takes care of Siyu, the daughter of her partner Esbar. She deeply cares for Siyu and still mourns the mysterious disappearance of her own infant son.

Siyu is adventurous and becomes pregnant with an outsider’s child, a violation of Priory rules. In response, she runs away with a friend. Esbar and Tuva follow, only to find themselves near the Dreadmount, the volcano where the Nameless One emerged. There, they witness the Dreadmount’s eruption and the escape of five wyrms.

Following the Dreadmount’s explosion, faith in the Berethnet’s ability to hold back the Nameless One weakens. Queen Sabran rushes Glorian into a new engagement and departs with King Bardholt for a wedding.

Their ship is attacked by Fyredel, a massive wyrm, leaving only Wulf, Bardholt’s housecarl, alive. Meanwhile, Dumai’s time at court is tense due to her uneasy relationship with Nikeya. They journey to Sepul and discover wyrm eggs and a colossal gold wyrm. Returning to Seiiki, Dumai awakens the dragons using the Queen’s Bell atop Mount Ipyeda. Furtia hints at a prophetic star that will quell the fire.

In the South, Canthe, a mysterious guest, arrives at the Priory. She claims to be the protector of a destroyed magic tree in Inys. Tuva trusts her, but Esbar remains suspicious. After the Dreadmount eruption, the Priory prepares for war, informing allies and finding a wyrm’s egg beneath the orange tree.

Young Glorian becomes queen after her parents’ death. Fyredel threatens her, vowing to return and destroy the city. Glorian reluctantly agrees to marry an elderly Yscali prince. Wulf, sent to protect Glorian, uncovers a plot by Lord Robart, who worships the Witch of Inysca.

Dumai and Furtia seek answers about the rising wyrms, traveling to the Empire of the Twelve Lakes. They meet an alchemist who suggests a balance disruption causing the wyrm surge. Dumai faces the golden wyrm and follows the advice of the alchemist to find an astronomer for answers. In the South, Siyu runs away after learning of her lover’s murder. Tuva and Canthe follow her to Carmentum, witnessing its destruction by a massive wyrm. Canthe reveals she knows Tuva’s lost son is in Inys, adding to the mystery.

Dumai climbs Brhazat mountain and finds a dead astronomer named Tonra holding a mysterious stone. During a storm, she summons a white light with the stone, attracting Furtia and Nikeya. Back at court, they realize the stone might help strengthen dragons to fight the wyrms.

Dumai is connected to Glorian in her dreams, but Canthe tricks Dumai into searching for her in the North, manipulating her to get the stone. As they travel together, Nikeya and Dumai learn to trust and fall in love.

Glorian hides her pregnancy, protecting her people from Fyredel and his dragons in Inys’s caves. Fyredel attacks cities, but Glorian’s leadership saves many lives. Wulf is sent North for reinforcements and meets Dumai, Nikeya, and Furtia, fighting remnants of Hróthi forces. Tuva and Canthe appear, tracking Wulf from Inys. Tuva fights Furtia while Canthe tries to steal Dumai’s stone. Furtia and Dumai escape, and Tuva reunites with Wulf, who remembers his childhood love for her.

Wulf returns to Inys, learning about his past, but leaves to protect Glorian and their daughter. Canthe enchants Tuva to access Cleolind’s tomb, finding a matching stone to Dumai’s. Tuva and Esbar kill Canthe, who reveals she’s the Witch of Inysca and had stolen Wulf as a baby. They plan to use the stone to defeat the wyrms. In the East, Dumai finds her father murdered, refuses to fight the Kuposas, and establishes her own court to protect her people.

The final battles with the wyrms commence as the star approaches. Glorian gives birth and joins the battle against Fyredel, while Wulf protects their child. The wyrms retreat as the star passes, vowing to return. In the South, Siyu, Esbar, and Tuva kill the wyrm Dedalugun using the stone’s magic. Dumai fights the River Lord and the golden wyrm, Taugran, amplifying dragons with her stone. They sacrifice themselves, killing the wyrm as the star passes.

After the conflict, Glorian becomes a strong queen, Wulf finds his own path, Tuva heals from her past, and Nikeya takes leadership in Seiiki, mourning Dumai’s loss.

A Day of Fallen Night Character List

Here’s a list of all of the characters who appear in the novel A Day of Fallen Night, by alphabetical order. Am I missing any characters? Let me know in the comments below.

  1. Bardholt I
  2. Canthe
  3. Dumai
  4. Esbar uq-Nāra
  5. Fýredel
  6. Glorian III
  7. Jillian III
  8. Kalyba
  9. Nayimathun
  10. Ninuru
  11. Sabran V
  12. Sabran VI
  13. Sabran VII
  14. Saghul Yedanya
  15. Tunuva Melim
  16. Wulfert Glenn

A Day of Fallen Night Main Character Analysis

Tunuva “Tuva” Melim

Tunuva Melim, often called Tuva, is a key storyteller in A Day of Fallen Night. She’s the main voice from the South, sharing her tale set in the Priory of the Orange Tree and the cities of Lasia. Tuva is a companion to Esbar and the mother of Siyu and Wulf.

She’s a caring and loyal person, balancing Esbar’s impulsiveness with her patience, both in combat and in relationships. Tuva grapples with the loss of her son, haunted by memories: ‘A ghost brushed tiny fingers over her face. A ghost fed at her breast. A ghost cried in the dark vaults of her memory’ (255). Despite her pain, she remains determined, searching for her daughter Siyu and vulnerable to Canthe’s tricks, who claims to have information about her missing son.

While journeying across the continent, Tuva transforms, seeking healing through her son Armul, also known as Wulf. Their reunion, although brief, brings her peace: ‘She would carry the pain of his loss, even if its weight was lighter’ (735).

Although this reunion doesn’t completely heal her or compensate for the lost years, Tuva finds solace. His departure doesn’t shatter her; she can move forward without the burden of his mysterious disappearance. Throughout the novel, she confronts her grief, trying to understand it and survive. In the end, she learns to live with it, leading to a stronger bond with Esbar. Together, they defeat the wyrm Dedalugun.

Glorian Hraustr Berethnet

“Glorian Hraustr Berethnet is the daughter of King Bardholt of Hróth and Queen Sabran VI of Inys, making her the next in line for the throne. She’s the main character representing the West in the story. Throughout the book, we see her transformation from a child to a queen in just four years. At the start, Glorian struggles with her role as the sole heir to the Queendom of Inys. She feels torn between her mother’s vision of being a political ruler and her father’s image of a great warrior. Glorian expresses her frustration to her father, explaining how she wants to be like him but feels confined: ‘I want to be like you…But a warrior possesses her own body. Inys has mine’ (146).

Glorian knows her duty is to conceive an heir to protect her nation from the Nameless One. This responsibility restricts her from living the life she desires because she must use her body to continue her family line. Throughout the story, she grapples with this dilemma. She believes she can be a capable leader, but her advisors focus on her role as a mother. Until she turns 18, she doesn’t have complete control of her queendom, and her decisions are often influenced by her councilors.

During the final battle against the wyrms, Glorian not only fulfills her duty by delivering an heir but also turns 18, gaining full autonomy. Holding her newborn daughter, she charges onto the battlefield, expressing her newfound freedom to Wulf: ‘I have done my duty…I am free to do as I choose. I choose to die with courage’ (780). In this moment, she realizes her true potential and can finally live life on her terms. She no longer needs to focus solely on providing an heir and can fight alongside her people, honoring the sense of duty passed down by her father.

Dumai of Ipyeda

Dumai of Ipyeda, a central character in A Day of Fallen Night, hails from the East and is one of the key storytellers. She’s the daughter of Emperor Jorodu and, despite living much of her life in ignorance, her world changes drastically when she’s named heir to the throne. Dumai, much like Glorian, struggles with the weight of monarchy, especially when she’s expected to bear a child and secure the future of her empire. However, Dumai’s perspective is different. She’s more concerned about protecting her people than just safeguarding the throne.

Dumai’s leadership style focuses on the welfare of Seiiki’s citizens rather than her own status. She even allows Clan Kuposa to take control of the throne, believing that her energy should be directed towards more significant threats rather than internal power struggles. In a selfless act, she sacrifices herself, ensuring the safety of Seiiki: ‘She reached for the light deep within, and darkness accepted it, like an offering’ (804). Although her fate remains uncertain, her disappearance is a sacrifice made out of love for her people.

Her actions lead to significant changes in Seiiki. Nikeya, the first Warlord of Seiiki, takes charge and advocates for openness with dragons to everyone, not just Clan Noziken. This shift mirrors Dumai’s belief that power shouldn’t be concentrated in the hands of a few; it should be accessible to everyone. Dumai’s bravery and sacrifice shape the future of Seiiki, ushering in a new era of inclusivity and opportunity for all.

Wulfert “Wulf” Glenn/Armul Melim

Wulfert “Wulf” Glenn, also known as Armul Melim, is a central character representing the North. He divides his time between Hróth and Inys and shares a deep connection with Glorian, his childhood friend, with whom he has a daughter named Sabran. In the story, Wulf goes through a profound journey of self-discovery and transformation.

Haunted by rumors about his origins, Wulf struggles with self-doubt and feelings of unworthiness, especially after enduring tragic losses, including the death of King Bardholt and most of his people. Believing himself cursed, he withdraws from others, fearing he might hurt them too. It’s only when Tuva and Canthe find him that he learns the truth about his past. He realizes he was not abandoned but stolen, freeing him from the burden of feeling unwanted.

Returning to the Priory from Hróth with Tuva, Wulf’s perspective changes. He discovers the reasons behind his survival and his yearning for another place. He finds solace in the revelation that he was loved and cherished. Expressing his newfound understanding to Tuva, he says, ‘I never imagined my mother was a great warrior, who loved me so much she would cross the world to see me one more time’ (734). This revelation liberates him from his nightmares and insecurities, granting him the sense of belonging he always craved.

Embracing his newfound love and security, Wulf becomes a protective father to his daughter Sabran, sheltering her in the barrow. Despite his own painful past, he strives to instill her life with love. Wulf undergoes a profound healing process, shedding the traumas that have haunted him. He knows his daughter won’t face the same hardships he did as a child, but he still wants her to experience the love he found within the Priory. His journey signifies his resilience and the transformative power of love and acceptance.

Canthe of Nurtha

Canthe of Nurtha is a prominent antagonist in the novel, besides the fire-breathing wyrms. She initially appears at the Priory as a mysterious visitor from the West, claiming to have once been a protector of her own sacred tree. However, her true intentions soon become clear – she manipulates Tuva in her quest for a powerful relic. Canthe’s deceitful actions shatter the trust Tuva placed in her, especially when it’s revealed that she was responsible for kidnapping Wulf.

Canthe starts her manipulation by bonding with Tuva over shared experiences of loss. She pretends to empathize with Tuva’s pain, gaining her trust in the process. Canthe even uses information about Wulf to deceive Tuva, coaxing her into allowing access to the Tomb of the Mother, where she plans to steal a valuable stone.

During a confrontation in the tomb, Canthe reveals herself as the Witch of Inysca. Tuva and Esbar realize that many dangerous events in recent years were orchestrated by her. She tricked Hidat into killing Anyso, causing Siyu to flee, and constantly tried to create conflict between Tuva and Esbar. Canthe even manipulated Tuva’s nightmares. Despite her motives becoming clear, Canthe’s goal remains unchanged – she seeks the stone, claiming it’s her duty to restore balance to the world. Although she appears to share Tuva’s desire to combat the wyrms, her inability to be honest and her manipulative tactics make her more of an enemy than an ally.

Kuposa pa Nikeya

Kuposa pa Nikeya is a character in A Day of Fallen Night who undergoes a significant transformation from antagonist to ally. Initially, she is viewed with suspicion by Dumai and her allies because of her association with Clan Kuposa and her father, the River Lord of Seiiki. Nikeya’s actions, like threatening Kanifa, fuel this distrust. She is portrayed as a cunning and manipulative person, using her beauty and threats to get her way, following her father’s wishes. Despite this, Nikeya expresses her reluctance and inner conflict, revealing her desire for a different life away from her father’s control, especially after her mother’s death.

A complex relationship develops between Nikeya and Dumai, both drawn to each other but torn apart by their families’ legacies. As the wyrm crisis escalates, Dumai starts opening up to Nikeya, and their love blossoms. Eventually, Nikeya chooses to defect from her father and proposes marriage to Dumai, hoping to create a better future for Seiiki. Like many characters in the story, Nikeya strives to break free from her family’s influence and pursue her own dreams and aspirations.

In the final chapters, Nikeya earns Dumai’s trust, and together they work towards transforming Seiiki positively. Even after Dumai disappears, the determined Nikeya continues their mission, receiving the approval of the Grand Empress to rule Seiiki in Dumai’s absence, showing her resilience and commitment to their shared vision.

A Day of Fallen Night Symbols

Monarchy’s Stranglehold on Personal Freedom

In A Day of Fallen Night, various nations and dynasties are portrayed, with many rulers inheriting their positions through generations. Among them are the Berethnets of Inys, passing their crown from mother to daughter, claiming it keeps the Nameless One at bay. This belief demands every Berethnet Queen to bear an heir promptly. This obligation becomes even more pressing during crises, such as Glorian’s situation after her parents’ demise.

Glorian grasps the harsh reality that her role in the Inys monarchy boils down to childbearing. Until she produces an heir, she feels reduced to a mere vessel, devoid of her true potential and freedom. This realization dawns on her, especially after her parents’ deaths, when she is told about her imminent betrothal to Prince Therico of Yscalin. In her time of grief and turmoil, she isn’t regarded as a leader or warrior, roles where she excels, but as a political pawn.

This life-altering moment occurs during her daughter Sabran VII’s birth. It becomes clear to her how monarchy confines women to their reproductive capabilities, disregarding their other qualities and ambitions: “To give more than herself, because she alone was not enough. She saw the cruel truth of it now. The relentless, violent circle of monarchy” (775).

Monarchy compels women to produce heirs, perpetuating a name and legacy while undermining their individuality. Glorian recognizes that her newfound freedom comes at the cost of her daughter’s future. The constraints she felt will now burden her child.

After Sabran’s birth and the end of the Grief of Ages, Glorian finally senses her freedom. Her body is no longer bound by the queendom’s demands to chain the Nameless One beneath the Dreadmount. The burden of being scrutinized by her councilors, solely to protect the Berethnet lineage, is lifted. Glorian experiences immense relief and liberation.

She fought tirelessly to be acknowledged as a leader and warrior, not just a vessel. Now, she can fully embrace her role as queen, ruling according to her vision, unshackled from the obligation to bear further heirs.”

LGBTQIA+ Identity and Unconditional Family Bonds

In A Day of Fallen Night, the fantasy world constructed by the narrative embraces LGBTQIA+ identities without prejudice or exclusion, fostering an environment free from homophobia and transphobia. The novel explores profound LGBTQIA+ relationships and their significance in shaping familial unity.

Two central families, both featuring LGBTQIA+ parental figures, play pivotal roles, intricately linked by Wulfert Glenn. These families are bound not merely by shared blood but by deep emotional connections, emphasizing the power of love and dedication in forming lasting familial ties.

Within the confines of the Priory of the Orange Tree, the family unit of Esbar and Tuva flourishes. Esbar and Tuva, devoted life partners, have children with their friends within the Priory community. While Tuva’s child, Armul, also known as Wulf, is believed to be deceased, Tuva and Esbar lovingly raise Siyu together.

Esbar honors Tuva by naming their daughter Siyu du Tunuva uq-Nara, a significant tradition among the Ersyr people: “As a descendant of Siyati du Verda uq-Nara, you may bless her with two names, in the way of the northern Ersyr—one for herself, and one to guide her” (23). While Esbar gives birth to Siyu, it is Tuva who actively nurtures her, guiding her through life’s challenges.

This family challenges conventional norms, rejecting heteronormative ideals, and instead, they provide unwavering support and love, affirming their irreplaceable roles in each other’s lives.

To the North, Wulf’s chosen family is led by two gay men, demonstrating that love transcends blood relations. Despite the origins shrouded in mystery and rumors, Wulf was welcomed into their family after being discovered near the haithwood. Wulf’s fathers and siblings shower him with unconditional love and support, offering reassurance in the face of his uncertainties: “Wulf tried and tried not to imagine. His father held his face. ‘You,’ he said, ‘are not evil. Every night, I thank the Saint he brought you to this family’” (542-43). I

n this family, love knows no boundaries, defying societal expectations of what constitutes a normative family structure. Despite these differences, their profound affection and unwavering support form the foundation of a complete and thriving family.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Quotes

  1. “Florell guided her back to the bolsters and stroked her damp hair… sunk too deep to pluck back out.” Glorian’s poignant reflection on her mother’s distant affection illustrates the strain in their relationship, portraying the conflict between duty and maternal love.
  2. “In every conversation with her mother, there were snares… Her mother did not like admissions of weakness.” The struggle between Glorian’s desire for warmth and her mother’s pursuit of strength unveils the complexities of their bond.
  3. “Wulf only meant to lie down, to remember how it felt to sleep close to his family… always there, never seen.” Wulf’s haunting childhood dreams capture his deep sense of abandonment and foreshadow his journey towards self-discovery.
  4. “That is the hardest part. Knowing that you embody a realm… it is just as important to their realms as the battles that secured their thrones.” King Bardholt’s empathetic words resonate with Glorian, emphasizing the weight of her responsibility and the battle of childbirth in their realm’s survival.
  5. “Virtudom had no mercy on women who conversed with spirits.” In a world free of real-world prejudices, the discrimination faced by women practicing heathenism reflects a unique societal challenge in the narrative.
  6. “She would not drown in grief again… lost in the agony of remembrance.” Tuva’s struggle with grief showcases her resilience as she battles through emotional turmoil, demonstrating her strength and determination.
  7. “Let his last day, his last choice, be the truth.” Wulf’s defiant assertion in the face of accusations highlights his courage and the theme of identity, emphasizing the power of self-definition.
  8. “Not her alone… She had lived as, and in, their shadow.” Glorian’s profound realization about her legacy and identity illuminates the weight of expectations and the struggle to find her own path amidst her parents’ greatness.

Additional questions

As we delve deeper into the world of A Day of Fallen Night by Samantha Shannon, readers often find themselves with questions beyond the plot and analysis.

In this section, we’ll address some commonly asked questions that can enhance your understanding of the series.

Is A Day of Fallen Night LGBTQ+?

Yes, A Day of Fallen Night features LGBTQIA+ characters and explores themes related to LGBTQIA+ identities and relationships.

Should I read Priory of the Orange Tree or A Day of Fallen Night first?

I would recommend reading Priory of the Orange Tree before A Day of Fallen Night.

Priory of the Orange Tree was published before A Day of Fallen Night and serves as the main novel in Samantha Shannon’s fantasy universe. It provides foundational context and background information that enhances the understanding of A Day of Fallen Night.

Will there be a 3rd Roots of Chaos book?

There hasn’t been an official announcement regarding a third book in the Roots of Chaos series. However, it’s always a good idea to check the latest updates from the author or the publisher for the most current information.

Should I read A Day of Fallen Night before?

It’s advisable to read Priory of the Orange Tree first as it lays the groundwork for the world and characters in Samantha Shannon’s fantasy universe. Reading it beforehand can provide you with a richer and more immersive experience when you delve into A Day of Fallen Night.

Final thoughts

A Day of Fallen Night offers readers an immersive experience in a world where dragons soar and complex characters navigate intricate destinies.

This enchanting world of dragons, diverse relationships, and intricate political landscapes invites readers into a realm of imagination and reflection.

Whether you’re reading this book as part of a book club or on your own, we hope the provided resources, including character analyses, and more, have enriched your reading experience.

Happy reading! ❤️