SFINCS Review: Pale Night Red Fields by Joseph John Lee


The threads of fate are not so easily unwoven.

There is a growing fascination among the Dusk Tribe with the land of the dead. The Tribe’s shamans work tirelessly day and night to find a path to communion with their people’s lost souls, but answers are slow to uncover.

As both the son of a shaman and the Tribe’s only Futureseer, Zarrow is ordered to view the days and weeks ahead to reveal the source of the Tribe’s successful discovery, but when he does so, he finds not celebration, but destruction. Devastation. Sacrifice. And those closest to him bloodied by it all. Zarrow must find a way to prevent his visions from coming to pass, and he must do so quickly.

For the pale night approaches, and it promises a curse that may leave the Dusk Tribe forever haunted.


I read this novella as part of the first SFINCs competition and I enjoyed it a lot. Before I get into the review I have to mention that this is a prequel novella to the author’s The Spellbinders and the Gunslingers series, of which I have read the first book. As with most prequel novellas in my experience, while it is technically standalone and can be read as an intro to the series, I feel it has a much higher impact having read at least one novel in the main series beforehand. The novella gets off to a pretty slow start, with (for a novella) a lot of worldbuilding and establishing characters. I already knew who the people were that were the main focus of the novella so I was interested from the outset. Though I have to praise the author for how well established the Dusk tribe feels in such a short amount of time, without prior investment from the main series it might feel like it takes a while to get started, especially considering the short length.

Having said that, I loved the novella, and the character work was definitely the highlight for me. I obviously can’t get into the plot much at all without spoilers considering it is only 70 pages long, but the characters were very well developed for the short amount of time we spent with them. The friendships and animosities were detailed vividly and I was sucked into the emotions of the characters instantly. There is both an inner conflict within the protagonist and an external conflict among the people of the tribe that builds tension throughout the story to an incredible climax. The tone of the novella is very dark from the first pages, with the word choices evoking a sense of fear and dread. The ending is also quite gruesome so be aware of that going in. The novella as a whole is superbly well-written, it’s astonishing how much the author was able to accomplish in such a short page count. If a dark, slow-burn, character-driven novella sounds like something you would enjoy, I highly encourage you to pick up this novella.