Books, Reviews, YA Fiction

The Girl At Midnight, by Melissa Grey


2 1/2 stars

Magic lives in our darkest corners.
Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known.
Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.
Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, though if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants…and how to take it.
But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

I thought The Girl At Midnight would honestly become my next obsession due to the massive comparisons to The Mortal Instruments and Daughter Of Smoke And Bone series. I haven’t gotten to the latter yet, but mentioning TMI in anything is certain to pique my interest. Unfortunately, I was expecting something more grandiose than the adventure given to me in the underdeveloped package that is The Girl At Midnight.

The story takes place in an alternate fantasy world consisting of two races– the Avicen and the Drakharin. Both species have been warring for centuries and are in a race to find the ancient “firebird”, the key to end the war and finally create peace. Echo, is a seventeen-year old thief living in New York City, and the only human being that knows of this secret world. Before you know it, this girl is off to discover the firebird, picking up a few new tricks and friends along the way.

I loved the idea of the firebird, and the way the Avicen and Drakharin were described and just created in general. There was certain magical quality in the way Grey had depicted the scales of the Drakharin and the feathers of the Avicen, which was wholly organic to me. Unfortunately, that’s all I can praise about the writing and world-building as well. The writing, specifically pertaining to the characters and their emotions, felt extremely stale. There was really nothing popping out to me, that willed me to stay and read about their feelings and problems. In fact, for a book promising a ton of magic and intrigue, it hardly delivered due to the incredibly casual, simplistic writing. Maybe Grey was trying to make it a lighter fantasy, with more character angst than action, but the overall feel had no spark regardless. The air of humor or playfulness was not entirely consistent throughout the book, and it couldn’t seem to catch up to Echo’s relentless snark. The world-building itself only informed us the physical descriptions of the Avicen and Drakharin, and the fact that they were in a war. Dynamics between the races, even dynamics within the individual races were under-explored, and why do they hate each other in the first place? We don’t know! It’s all so subdued and vague, which is truly a disappointment.

Echo was so fun to read about, oh my. She’s just the type of heroine one can wish for, sarcastic, funny, and able to pull her own weight. I loved how she could look a scary situation in the eye and say something so random and relatable pertaining to it, whilst maintaining a serious approach toward many situations presented in the book. Despite her exterior facade, Echo also has a plethora of her own problems, largely associated with her being mortal in a magical, immortal world. It’s an I-don’t-belong issue, and while it’s slightly overdone in YA, I do enjoy reading about it because it creates a strong connection between reader and character. Sadly, due to the lazy character writing, Echo’s problems didn’t stick out to me from the masses of other angsty YA characters. To me, her emotions were written in a way where it felt banal and fake– which turns me off entirely. With some fine-tuning in the character-development department, I do think she could be a great character though, and I’m hoping for that in the sequel.

The secondary characters weren’t all that original, but enjoyable regardless. Caius and Dorian, the broody Drakharin were actually some of the few broody boys I’ve enjoyed reading about. They had a wave of sadness, guilt, and emotional courage to them, truly popping out of the page. Jasper is an unconvincing Magnus Bane, but Grey gets brownie points for trying. Jasper seems totally unoriginal at this point, but with more emotional appeal and character motifs unique to him, he could evolve into something special.

The romance isn’t one of my favorites, but I do ship it. Caius and Echo make a great pair, and the romantic tension between them wasn’t obvious from the very beginning, which I liked. Their alliance came first, and they had reasonably developed feelings for each other. I also greatly appreciated the much-needed female friendship between Ivy and Echo. Their conversations and overall demeanor toward each other felt so genuine, and I do hope it has more emphasis in the next book.

I would definitely recommend The Girl At Midnight for readers looking for a light, fantasy read with entertaining characters. But, for someone expecting a grander, richer, plot and story, look elsewhere. For readers already invested in The Mortal Instruments and Daughter Of Smoke And Bone, this is nothing you haven’t seen before.