Paperback, 361 pages.
Release date: April 28th 2015.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Reviewed by: Arianne.
Source: Received from publisher for review.
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, but 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.
Addictive, entertaining, dramatic, dangerous: The Girl at Midnight is the book you need to be reading in 2015. Pacy, exciting and taut with twists and turns, it rockets forward, plunging readers into a tale of old wounds, ancient wars and glorious romance. This unforgettable urban fantasy will capture your heart as well as your imagination.
The fierce and feathered Avicen have lived among humans for thousands of years. Yet their history is married by war, too. Locked in eternal battle with the scaly, secretive Drakharin, nobody really remembers why the war started, just that they have to keep fighting. With both sides getting desperate, thoughts return to a myth as old as time itself: the legend of the firebird, which may have the power to seal the fate of the Avicen and Drakharin alike — if it even exists. Sent to find it by her guardian, the powerful and wise Avicen known as the Ala, is a human girl named Echo — who, since reading this book, has become one of my favourite fictional heroines of all time.
A notorious thief with enough mastery of Avicen skills to get herself out of a sticky situation or two, Echo is a fantastic heroine. Relatable, daring, loyal, emotional and fearless, she’s the soul of this book, and she’ll make sure you know it. Bitingly sarcastic and searingly funny, she never fails to rise to the challenge and is completely unflinching in the face of the impossible. And of course, she isn’t the only outstanding member of the book’s fabulously diverse cast.
Ivy in particular is so much more than the sweet best friend — she and Echo know each other inside out and they’re not afraid to mention it, often to admirable as well as hilarious effect. Ivy’s capacity for forgiveness is so incredible even she’s surprised by it, yet it never once seems forced. Jasper is a riot of energy and humour from start to finish. Dorian is a riot of the sword-wielding kind, but somehow, together they just work. Their relationship is only just blossoming here, but I already know I want to see more of it. Immediately.
As for the romance, well, I adored Rowan from the start — his relationship with Echo is wonderfully endearing, made all the more memorable by the fact that he’s a friend first and foremost and you can tell they want to be there for each other. Caius, on the other hand, was not my cup of tea to begin with. He’s presented as a classic villain, standoffish and above it all, and I’ll confess I didn’t enjoy his early chapters — but wow, did I warm to him fast! I don’t often find myself genuinely torn between love interests, but for once I couldn’t bring myself to choose between them. What’s more, while there is a love triangle in this book, it doesn’t feel like a love triangle. It’s heartfelt and realistic, emotional and utterly compelling. It takes a lot of skill to navigate the minefield that is romance in YA, and Grey does it beautifully.
The author’s entire writing style sings with originality and energy. If it’s a little drawn out in the opening chapters, Grey strikes gold within twenty pages. YA authors are no strangers to quest stories, but as Echo hurtles from one life-or-death situation to the next (and cake, let’s not forget cake, since that basically earns the book a whole star by itself) I found I just could not put the book down. The plot of this book is so refreshingly woven and packed with action; it’s as surprising as it is satisfying. There’s so much potential in the world, the mythology and the character dynamics, this is a book which leaves you with just as many questions as answers. One of the best things about the book is its humour, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us with the sequel.
In short: I was blown away by how much I loved this book. Stunning and satisfying, dark and dramatic, it shimmers with near-perfect brilliance. A magnificent debut from an incredibly gifted writer. Fantastic.