Note: I received a digital copy of A Myth to the Night from NetGalley for review consideration.
This YA fantasy book by Cora Choi is about a young monk named Hugh, who died in 1615 trying to protect his book and his order. Because he had not yet completed his mission, he was granted permission to stay as a phantom on the island where he died. Hugh gave up his life at the age of 19, when the Order of the Shrike came to the abbey at Stauros Island and began massacring all of its inhabitants–the members of the Order of the Crane. Hugh has spent hundreds of years since wandering the island, trying to complete his mission. Hugh is searching for the Slayer of the Shadow of Fear, who will be able to defeat the evil force and possibly even overthrow the Order of the Shrike, which uses fear to maintain control over the entire world. After the massacre in 1615, the Order of the Shrike placed a university on the island, using the old abbey and the surrounding buildings, and over the years, Hugh carefully approaches students with his book, which contains the story of the Order of the Crane and the Shadow of Fear. However, he has to give up his quest in the late 20th century, when he realizes that all of the students he approaches with his book have started to disappear, and the disappearances are being blamed on the “Demon of Stauros.” Hugh himself disappears for almost twenty years, spending his days in an old, abandoned building, until one day, four boys from the university are sent to live in the decrepit building, and Hugh must take up his quest again.
Interestingly, other than the fact that the Order of the Shrike has taken control over the world, this is recognizably our world. The boys that attend the college on Stauros Island are regular boys (there are girls, but they are only mentioned in passing) who use iPads, wear sunglasses, and attend regular classes. However, there is a definite sinister air about the island and the people in charge of the school. The phantoms’ existence is unknown to most of the students, because there is a strict curfew (because of the supposed “Demon of Stauros”), and the phantoms can only be seen by living humans at night. Drev, one of the boys sent to live in the crumbling building and the main character other than Hugh, can be quite irritating at times, but he grows and changes throughout the story (and even when he does say or do annoying things, they do seem in character with an angry, ambitious college-aged boy). The other phantoms on the island, mostly characters from books that were burned at the massacre, try to assist in the quest to find the Slayer (although Hugh doesn’t always appreciate their approaches).
The “moral” of the story is that we don’t have to live in fear–we can fight it, if only we know how. Stories and myths tell us how to face scary circumstances with courage and dignity. Some parts of the book felt underdeveloped (I wish, for example, that Choi had spent less time building up to what the Shadow of Fear is–I knew what it was after the second or third clue, thank you–and more on the three boys who lived with Drev in the abandoned building), and I wish that there had been room for a sequel (maybe there still will be), but on the whole, it was a very interesting, mostly mysterious book. Worth a read if you’re into fantasy/paranormal that doesn’t sway in the direction of elves and dwarves or vampires and werewolves.
Rating: Pretty Darn Good