The Girl at Midnight (The Girl at Midnight #1) by Melissa Grey
Genre: Young adult fantasy
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release date: April 28 2015
Source: eARC from publisher via NetGalley
The nitty-gritty: A magical and action-packed fantasy with characters that I loved and plenty of romance for those who want it.
Lots of bloggers are gushing over Melissa Grey’s debut, and for good reason. This book is a young adult fantasy gem, with all the magical feeling of books like Harry Potter and (yes) Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Grey’s writing is tightly edited and I had a wonderful time reading The Girl at Midnight, barely able to put it down when I had other things I had to go do. Written in short chapters, the punchy plot never slows down, as Grey leads the reader on a magical journey where five characters, who start our as enemies, are on a mission to save their worlds from war.
Here’s a quick recap of the story: Echo is a human girl who lives in the New York Public Library (yes, isn’t she lucky??) but spends much of her time with a race of bird-creatures called the Avicen, who have colorful feathers in place of hair. She was rescued as a kid by an Avicen leader named the Ala, who took her away from an abusive home life. For the past ten years, Echo has been doing errands for the Avicen, mostly in the form of thieving, as she’s able to hop all over the world through a magical corridor called “the in-between.” But the Ala has a new mission for Echo, and it’s pretty important: she is sent on a quest to locate the firebird, a myth that no one believes in, but a powerful entity that, if it does exist, could end the war between the Avicen and their rivals, a race of dragon creatures known as the Drakharin.
Echo follows a trail of clues that lead her from one place to another, as a band of both friends and enemies join her on her quest. But an evil Drakharin is also after the firebird, which she plans to use for nefarious purposes. Who will find it first? And who will survive the final battle?
What made this story work for me wasn’t necessarily the plot (which I found very predictable—I guessed the mystery of the firebird long before the reveal), but the combination of main characters and how they interacted with each other. The Girl at Midnight uses what I call “the Torchwood formula,” in which a story revolves around five main characters. (Please tell me someone out there knows what I’m talking about!) One of the reasons I love Torchwood so much is that with five main characters, there are infinite possibilities for relationships and interactions. You don’t have the standard three-characters-oh-no-there’s-going-to-be-a-love triangle situation. This group includes Echo, who is human; her best friend Ivy, who is Avicen; Caius, the Prince of the Drakharin (oh yes, he has dragon scales scattered on his face like freckles!! Heart be still:-D); Dorian, Caius’ right-hand general who is secretly in love with Caius; and finally, the delectable Jasper, Echo’s Avicen friend who I immediately fell in love with. (If you’ve seen My Best Friend’s Wedding with Julia Roberts, you’ll understand why Jasper reminded me of her gay friend George!)
I don’t want to spoil all the fun of discovering the intricate relationships that form among this group, but I will say that Grey did an amazing job of keeping them interesting. Were they predictable? Yes. Once again, it isn’t hard to guess what’s coming and who will end up with who. But I honestly didn’t care. I had so much fun on the journey of discovery that I’d happily read this book again just to spend time with these characters. The things the characters don’t say to each other are just as important as what they do say.
I also loved the humor in this book! Echo is a snarky and quick-witted girl who has the perfect comeback for just about everything. Her dialogue is full of slang and modern-day references, and I loved it when she meets Caius for the first time, and he has no idea what she’s talking about. (Apparently the Drakharin are sheltered from modern-day life.) And when Jasper comes into the picture, watch out! Although he’s very much a stereotypically gay character, I loved every scene he was in.
The only real issue I had with the story is one I’ve been struggling with lately whenever I read young adult: trying to reconcile the ages of the characters with my expectations of what I think YA should be. In this case, The Girl at Midnight is definitely a YA story, but I felt the ages of the characters were off slightly from the way they acted. In short, I could not picture Echo and Ivy as seventeen-year-olds, no matter how hard I tried. Why the author decided to make them seventeen is anyone’s guess, but I was continually picturing them as thirteen- to fifteen-year-olds. Echo in particular acts like a kid for the entire story, at least until the romance kicks in. She’s mouthy and talks back all the time, and everything is a joke to her (she’s got the best sarcastic timing I’ve ever run across in fiction!). Now don’t get me wrong. It was these qualities that made me love her so much, but I kept tripping over the fact that she ought to be acting a little more mature.
Nevertheless, I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book! Grey wraps up the story without the over-used cliffhanger device (thank you Melissa!!) but hints at some important events to come. For lovers of well-written YA fantasy, who love romantic tension and strong characters, The Girl at Midnight is a must read.
Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.
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