Review: Velvet Was the Night (Moreno-Garcia)

Velvet Was the Night

I have something shocking to tell you. I read a book that does not contain magic!

Gasp.

That gasp is fitting for another reason: Velvet Was the Night lives in an interesting space between noir and historical fiction. Written by the author of Gods of Jade and Shadow (a heart-breaking favorite of mine) and Mexican Gothic (one of the best plot-twists I’ve read in a long time), this book’s atmosphere is relentlessly gloomy, full of the violent political underworld of one protagonist and dreams of Aztec sacrifice and dramatic romance in the jungle from the other.

Neither young protagonist of Velvet Was the Night have much of a future. There is El Elvis, an early-twenties (ish?) local tough taken in by a charismatic leader of the Hawks, a covert suppression group in late-1960s-early 1970s Mexico, and Maite, a deeply lonely secretary with money problems and an obsession with romantic comic books.

Velvet Was the Night Small Cover
Cover of Velvet Was the Night, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Maite also loves pilfering items from her unsuspecting neighbors, specifically because she’ll have a piece of their (better, in her imagination) lives. For Maite, part of the thrill of having a stolen object—everything from a single earring to a statue of a saint—is knowing her neighbor will never miss it.

Attention-starved and cash-strapped, she is easily pulled into her beautiful neighbor Leonora’s life when asked to watch her cat last minute. When Leonora doesn’t return and things get fishy, Maite gets sucked deeper into the mystery of her neighbor and a missing camera. Elvis, meanwhile, searches for both from the other side. Elvis and Maite are on a collision course, the depiction of which will feel pleasantly familiar for fans of Gods of Jade and Shadow.

Despite the violence of Elvis and the casual but elaborate lies of Maite, neither character is unsympathetic (though Maite crosses the line into pathetic for much of the book). Neither Elvis or Maite have families you could call supportive, or even nice, so it keeps them from being unlikable, if not particularly likeable, either. Maite is full of negative self-talk wants reality to be lovely and syrupy, and Elvis longs to earn the sophistication of his cultured leader, El Mago. The two characters earn the reader’s sympathy through their missteps.

Though I found the search for Maite’s rebellious, privileged neighbor wasn’t quite enough to sustain the whole book, as usual, Moreno-Garcia’s writing is wonderful and her characters are unforgettable. Read it on a rainy day, when you don’t mind sinking in to a bit of gloom; skip it if you need your mood to be brighter. But if you choose to go along for this book’s occasionally drawn out ride, the strangely moving, reservedly hopeful ending will leave you glad you did.

To learn more about this author, visit Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s website.

The C.K. Beggan Bookish Blog

The C.K. Beggan Bookish Blog

Welcome to The C.K. Beggan Bookish Blog! If you’re looking for your next read, titles are listed alphabetically and divided by indie and traditional publishing. (If you look closely enough, you may even find some non-fantasy books.) And while you’re here, don’t forget to check out the author interviews and special features, which include book lists by theme!

Independently Published Books: C.K. Beggan‘s Indie Book Spotlight

Fiction

Reviews of the best (and my favorite) fantasy and speculative fiction novels I’ve come across so far, all by indie authors.

Nonfiction

Traditionally Published Books: Reviews of All My Favs

My favorite books in the fantasy, noir, literary and speculative fiction genres that have been released by traditional publishers.

Author Interviews: One Author to Another

A new category! In which I do my best to pose thoughtful questions to some of my favorite indie authors.

Chesney Infalt, June 3, 2022 – 10 Questions with Chesney Infalt, author of The Fox and the Briar

Anna Velfman, April 15, 2022 – 10 Questions with author Anna Velfman (Snowblind)

Andrew Einspruch, May 25, 2021 – Questions with the hilarious, award-winning author of The Light Bearer

Helena Rookwood and Elm Vince, April 10, 2021 – Questions with the co-authors of An Enchantment of Thorns

Special Features: Authors, Books and Writing

From Ask an Indie Author to trivia to Book Lists, find blog posts featuring by topic, writing tips andIndie Author Spotlights.

Rise of the Fire Queen is here! (Book News) – live 8/7/22)

Ask an Indie Author with Ashley Evercott – How I make my book covers shine on social media? (7/15/22)

Indie Author Spotlight: Anthea Sharp – June 2022

Six of Crows month content (June 2022)

8 Fantasy Books with Delicious Cliffhanger Endings (Including Six of Crows)

9 Fantastic quotes from the Six of Crows duology

10 Books to read after Six of Crows

Kaz Brekker and my Fjerdan heist level character hangover

Trivia: Do You Know Kaz Brekker?

Trivia: How well do you know Six of Crows?

Trivia: How well do you know the Six of Crows duology characters?

From Storm and Shadow cover reveal! – 5/30/22

16+ Awesome Asian-Inspired Fantasy Worlds – 5/27/22 – A book list with settings from the Middle East to the Pacific Islands

Weaver cover reveal! – 5/10/22

Vow of the Shadow King cover reveal – 5/4/22

A Throne of Shadows Cover reveal! – 4/28/22

A Darkness at the Door cover reveal – 4/22/22 – in which I discuss the Dauntless Path series and reveal the fabulous cover

Retellings to Thrill Any Fantasy Reader – A complete list of fairy tale and classic book retellings I’ve reviewed on the blog

Supporting Diversity in Fantasy – A mission statement for the blog, plus links to authors who feature diverse characters in their work

Lessons from Bestsellers Part I (Using Contrast to Create Depth) – Learning from Hannah and Leo in The German Girlby Armando Lucas Correa

Lessons from Bestsellers Part II (Using Contrast to Create Depth) – A look at the many sides of Ali in S.A. Chakraborty’s City of Brass

Lessons from Bestsellers Part III (Using Contrast to Create Depth) – A mystery and a terrible truth rounds out Bethany C. Morrow’s A Song Below Water

5 Awkward Situations to Make Your MC Shine – Examples of awkwardness that endear main characters to readers in some of my favorite books