Here is a spoiler summary of what happened in Nightrender by Jodi Meadows to help refresh your memory before you read the sequel. If you need help remembering what happened in Nightrender then you’re in the right place.
This recap was written and submitted by Irvin Khaytman.
Short Summary of Nightrender
The world of Salvation has darkness encroaching upon it – bad magic called “malice” and monsters called “rancor.” But the three kingdoms of Salvation are more interested in fighting each other than doing anything about it. There is a demigod called Nightrender who’s in charge of fighting back against the malice every time she’s awoken from her slumber, but it’s been 400 years and she’s overdue. Two of the kingdoms decide to unite against the third (Ivasland) because Ivasland has weaponized malice against them. This union is being forged by the marriage of Prince Rune and Princess Johanne (Hanne).
Rune is a good egg, and when Hanne gets trapped in a mal-site, he finally summons Nightrender to fight back the malice and get her back. But Nightrender’s memories are disappearing. And it’s been so long, that all the humans are far more interested in sorting out their political battles before tackling the problem of the malice. Rune is caught between a demanding Nightrender and his dismissive parents. Hanne is ruthless and conniving. She makes a deal with a rancor to help Ivasland with its weapon in exchange for freedom. She does this, then makes her way back to Rune in order to go ahead with their marriage and alliance. They are married.
Ivasland sends assassins to take out Hanne, but take out Rune’s dad instead, making Rune the king. Then Ivasland begins attacking with their new weapon, causing unimaginable carnage. Rune is now caught between his obligation to the Nightrender (and all of humanity) and his desire for vengeance against Ivasland (stoked by Hanne). Rune pursues the latter course and wages war on Ivasland, while Nightrender attempts to stop the malice all on her own.
What happened in Nightrender?
- The land of Salvation consists of three kingdoms (Ivasland, Embria, Caberwill) who are perpetually at war with each other. This is despite the looming threat of the malice tearing the whole world asunder. The Malstop is a barrier around the place where malice pours forth into Salvation, and it’s straining.
- Normally, when things get bad, someone summons the Nightrender, a demigod specifically made for fighting off malice. But the last time this happened, after stopping the malice Nightrender slaughtered all of the royal families in an event known as the Red Dawn. Since then, no one has summoned her in 400 years as things get increasingly bad.
- Word on the street is that Ivasland has created a weapon that utilizes malice (a mal-device), in contravention of the Winterfast Accords – the agreement between three kingdoms that no matter how bad things get, that is the ultimate no-no.
- To fight back, Embria and Caberwill will join forces against Ivasland – and to cement the alliance, Princess Hanne of Embria and Prince Rune of Caberwill are to be married.
- Hanne then intends to betray Rune and his family, and end up as the sole queen of all Salvation. She is harsh and ruthless, and the only person she cares about is her cousin Nadine.
- While out for a walk to conspire against Caberwill, Hanne and Nadine run into a rancor – monsters usually contained inside the Malstop. It chases Hanne until she is trapped in a malsite and can’t get out.
- Prince Rune was the “spare” prince, but has been elevated to Crown Prince after his brother died. He keep trying to convince his parents, King Opus and Queen Grace, to do something about all the malice, but they turn a deaf ear.
- With Hanne trapped in the malsite, Rune is desperate, so he finally awakens the Nightrender. The Nightrender shows up, but she cannot remember the Red Dawn (and a lot of other things). She’s shocked to see the humans aren’t genuflecting as usual, and are not prepared to follow her into battle.
- Hanne is threatened with eternal torment by the rancor, so she agrees to its demands: go to Ivasland and tell them how to get their mal-device working. She agrees, and is allowed to leave the mal-site.
- Hanne goes to Ivasland, captures the attention of its monarchs under a false identity, and helps out with the mal-device. She even befriends one of the scientists working on it, Mae. Once the device is operational, Hanne realizes she’s likely to be murdered, so she starts a riot and flees Ivasland… after a quick kiss from Mae.
- Rune and the Nightrender go the malsite to attempt rescuing Hanne. Burning through the malice is newly painful for the Nightrender, but she does so anyway. She manages to kill the rancor, but Hanne is no longer there. She is presumed dead.
- Rune promised the Nightrender an army to follow her (Dawnbreakers). His parents are more interested in their tenuous alliance with Embria, and whether they should proceed uniting against Ivasland or should strike preemptively against Embria now that there’s no marriage happening. When Rune is caught between them, he lashes out, and tells the Nightrender about the Red Dawn.
- Among the other mysteries about the Nightrender’s history, there’s a mysterious voice in her head talking in a bold italic font and goading her into bad choices. A voice that is allegedly that of the Numen (god) of Embria, but is rendered in an identical font, is also goading Hanne into bad choices. Hmmm…
- Rune may be catching feelings for Nightrender. It may be mutual.
- They are doing some research, and come across the troubling revelation that someone may have summoned a rancor recently, and that centuries ago people were looking into summoning a rancor king – which is uber-powerful and cannot be killed.
- Hanne makes it back to Caberwill, spins a story about escaping the malsite through a hole, and goes ahead with the wedding to Rune (despite there not being any romance between them). Now the question is whether the armies of Embria and Caberwill attack Ivasland, or march into the Malstop with the Nightrender. Hanne is a big proponent of the former course of action.
- On the wedding night, Hanne finds out about the fight-with-Nightrender options. She marches off to convince King Opus, but runs into an Ivaslander assassin who’s after her. The assassin kills King Opus, Hanne kills the assassin, and covers her tracks so she was never there.
- Ivasland starts attacking towns with their mal-devices. As Nightrender cleans up the carnage, she (and some very angry Embrians) find out that Hanne played a role in crafting the mal-device.
- Rune is crowned King. The combination of King Opus’s murder and the mal-device attacks is enough to galvanize him into pursuing the attack on Ivasland. Hanne spins him a tale of remorse for her role in crafting the mal-device, and he continues to side with her.
- The Malstop flickers – time is running out. Rune and Nightrender have another big fight. He goes off to attack Ivasland with his armies. She goes off to fight in the Malstop by herself, even though it’s essentially a suicide mission.
How did Nightrender end?
While Rune is off at war, a rancor corners Hanne and Queen Grace. It demands Hanne kill Grace. Hanne is done taking orders from anyone, even an otherworldly demon, so she refuses. The rancor kills Grace itself, and Hanne kills the rancor in turn. In the Malstop, Nightrender finds an army of rancor to fight, and a rancor king: Daghath Mal. He finally explains what’s going on.
Four hundred years ago, each of the three royal families worked to summon a rancor king to destroy their rivals in the other kingdoms. Their unknowingly combined efforts succeeded. When Daghath Mal informed the Nightrender of this during their last faceoff, she was so furious with humans collectively, and the similar rage between them forged a connection between Nightrender and Daghath Mal. That’s how he was the voice whispering bad ideas in her mind, and why it now hurts her to use sacred fire to destroy malice. She was so enraged, she murdered all three royal families responsible – the Red Dawn. Mankind retaliated by putting her back to sleep and erasing her memories of the Red Dawn – except they botched the job, and now all her memories are disappearing.
The rancor king wants to make the Nightrender his queen so they could rule as equals. She is not having it, and makes her final stand. Ivasland infiltrates Rune’s military camp with a saboteur armed with a mal-device. The malice released takes the form of portals, and as luck would have it, one of the portals is directly into the Malstop where Nightrender is fighting rancors. Rune hightails it into that portal and joins Nightrender (along with some soldiers along for the ride, who don’t live very much longer).
We finally get the reveal that Rune is Nightrender’s soul shard, aka the one person she loves and cannot harm. That loves burns out the darkness in Nightrender, so she no longer hears the rancor king’s voice and no longer suffers pain when destroying malice. There is a lot of slicing and dicing – Nightrender kills lots of rancor, the rancor kill all of Rune’s soldiers and are clearly going to kill Rune sooner or later.
Daghath Mal offers an armistice: Rune is left in the Malstop as a hostage, but will not be harmed. In exchange, Nightrender stops killing rancor and leaves the Malstop. Nightrender accepts. This gives both her and Daghath Mal a chance to regroup and build up armies for the next battle. She just has to hope that Rune won’t be wholly corrupted by the malice while he is a hostage. They share a passionate kiss – followed by some guilt because Rune is still married to Hanne. But this does give Nightrender an epic new memory to treasure as she is losing all the rest. With that, Nightrender walks out of the Malstop, determined to fight another day.