The Girl at Midnight

The Girl at Midnight

The Girl at Midnight was first published in 2015 and is Melissa Grey’s debut novel. It a fantasy story about a human teenager caught in the middle of a war between two ancient races. While the novel is currently out of print, it is due for re-release next month and its sequel – The Shadow Hour – is expected to be published in July.

Far away from human eyes, a magical war has raged for centuries. The Avicen – feather-haired and bird eyed – have done battle against their sworn enemies the Drakharin, descendants of dragons. The battle has been going on for so long that neither side truly remembers how it began but there is one thing that is believed to bring it to an end: the Firebird. The trouble is that nobody knows what the Firebird is and many believe that it is just the stuff of legends. That is, until Echo finds the map.

Echo is a human teenager who has somehow found herself as part of the magical world. She has been raised by the Avicen since she was a child and, although she has never truly felt welcome in their nest, still relates more to them than she does her own kind. When Echo finds the map, she realises that it is just the first part of a larger puzzle and she follows it to Kyoto to learn more.

The trouble is that Echo isn’t the only one searching for the Firebird. It is believed that the person in control of the relic will be able to decide the outcome of the war. For it to fall into the hands of the military commanders on either side, this would certainly spell even more bloodshed and death. Caius, the Dragon Prince, has grown tired of war and wants to find the Firebird before his savage sister can get her hands on it. However, this means that he will have to join forces with Echo and the Avicen…

Before I start, I just want to note that I’m reviewing this novel based on an unedited proof that won in a Goodreads Giveaway, so I’m aware the some details may have changed prior to publication. With that out of the way, I’m going to come out and admit that my feelings towards this story are mixed. Based on the blurb, I was really excited about reading this novel. It just sounded like it would be right up my alley but, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to ignore some nagging issues with the plot and world building.

Firstly, I’ll just say that I did really love The Girl at Midnight’s premise. I mean, it’s a story about an endless hidden war between a race of bird people and a race of dragon people. How could that not be awesome? The concept was enough to hook me and the frenetic opening chapters quickly drew me in. However, as I read more, I started to feel as though the novel was missing something. Its focus was pretty grand in scope, revealing quite a lot about the war and the Firebird legend, however it really felt as though it was lacking in depth.

The Girl at Midnight is always easy on the details and because of this, I never felt as though I was part of the world. We never learn how the war began or learn what caused Echo to run away from her human parents. The story also didn’t spend any time exploring the daily lives of either faction. I learned nothing of where they lived, what their daily routines were like or what the people who weren’t soldiers and royalty did with their time. Due to the lack of description, I can’t even picture the Avicen nest in my mind. In a story such as this, it is a big problem. A fantasy world needs to be immersive or it is quickly forgotten.

Yet The Girl at Midnight did make for a light and easy read. Over the early chapters, the focus on exploration really kept the story flowing as Echo and her growing party of friends hopped between many recognisable real world locations. As they followed the chain of clues leading to the Firebird, they visited a traditional tea house in Kyoto, the Scottish Highlands, the Louvre and many more places. This was easily my favourite part of the story and, while I did feel that every clue fell into their laps with remarkable ease, it was at least fast paced and exciting.

However, the book could not maintain this momentum. As more characters were introduced to the mix, the novel started to suffer from a case of too many narrators. While the story was written in third person, it flipped between the perspectives of Echo, Caius, Dorian, Ivy and Jasper at random intervals. Sometimes, the chapters really started to drag as the novel showed a single scene from five different perspectives. While stories can sometimes get away with having a couple of narrators, five was definitely too many for my taste.

The story was also incredibly similar to that of the excellent Daughter of Smoke and Bone and really did suffer by comparison. I don’t want to go into this too much because of spoilers but I’ll just say that if you’ve read Laini Taylor’s magnum opus, you’ll see every twist coming. Echo and Caius are a lot like Karou and Akiva and the basic mechanics of the story (the war, the hidden world, the magical travel through doorways) were almost exactly the same. Perhaps I would have enjoyed The Girl at Midnight more if I’d read it first but the similarities between the two were distracting and it just wasn’t a strong enough novel to steal any of Daughter of Smoke and Bone’s thunder.

However, where The Girl at Midnight did excel was in its characters. The main cast of the novel were all incredibly strong, each with their own distinct personalities and abilities. From soft-spoken Ivy to flamboyant Jasper, they were all vibrant and well rounded. Echo particularly stands out. While there are elements of insta-love in her relationship with Caius, she’s lively, optimistic and full of snark. Caius was also a character that grew on me, though I felt that not enough was made of his dark past. We first see him sentencing two Avicen to death yet this was never spoken of again afterwards.

Yet it was the supporting characters that I found myself drawn to the most. My favourite sub plot was the subtle development in the way that Ivy and Dorian behaved around each other. When they first meet, Ivy is chained in a dungeon and Dorian is reflexively cruel to her (something he immediately regrets). However, over the course of the story the two of them gradually overcome their prejudices and begin to form a mutual respect. I do want to see how this friendship strengthens in the next book.

Anyhow, I really don’t have much more to say about this one. The Girl at Midnight was an enjoyable light read but lacked in any real depth. Its plot was a bit unoriginal and occasionally got increasingly bogged down by the sheer number of narrators. Yet its characters really did shine and this made me optimistic enough to read more. I will definitely take a look at The Shadow Hour later this year to see if things improve.

The Girl at Midnight is due for release on 3rd May and is currently available to pre-order on Amazon.co.uk

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: The Shadow Hour | Arkham Reviews
  2. Trackback: The Savage Dawn | Arkham Reviews

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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