The girl smiled, and the Ala knew she would not be returning to the Nest alone that day. She had gone to the library in search of hope, but what she’d found instead was a child. It would take her many years to realize that the two were not so different after all.
As a small child, Echo ran away from home to live at the New York Public Library, a place she considered much safer than where she came from. Wandering around in the middle of the night, she happened to find the Ala, one of the leaders of a magical race of birdlike creatures called the Avicen. Taken in by the Ala, Echo was able to learn basic magic as well as all of the legends of the Avicen, including the legend of the firebird, a mystical, mysterious item to bring about the end of the centuries-long war with the Drakharin, the dragon people. Now in her late teens, Echo is called to assist in the quest for the firebird, which will determine who she can trust… and who she can’t.
In reading other people’s reviews of The Girl at Midnight, I’m seeing a lot of comparisons to Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I have to admit that I’ve yet to read that series, but I still found this book eerily similar to many books that I’ve read before.
So let’s start with that. There’s nothing original here. Sure, I’ve never read about bird-people and dragon-people fighting over a firebird (which I literally just now realized is a combination of the Avicen and Drakharin), but each bit of this story is similar to something else that I’ve read. In fact, you could probably dissect the entire book to find a list of ten or more novels that it borrows from. Is that a bad thing? Depends on your perspective. Depends on how many young adult paranormal/urban fantasies you’ve read. Personally, I’ve read enough that none of the plot twists surprised me. For a more casual reader, it might not be an issue. I’d like to give the author the benefit of the doubt and assume that this was unintentional. After all, as Mark Twain said, “all ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources.”
As for Echo, I absolutely loved her as a character. She was witty, sassy, and didn’t take nonsense from anyone.
“Stop!” Caius called out. Not that he expected her to listen. “I didn’t come here to hurt you.”
He didn’t know what bulls had to do with anything, but he had the distinct impression she was calling him a liar.
But the thing that bothered me was her relationships. Because this strong, independent, fiercely focused young woman completely fell into a puddle of hormones at the slightest mention of a boy. Neither of her relationships were necessary, let alone the absolutely ridiculous love triangle. Even Echo didn’t seem particularly into her relationships, except for the moments when they were sort of thrown in the spotlight with the author screaming, “BELIEVE ME, THEY’RE TOTALLY IN LOVE!!!”
But aside from the romance, the writing was actually great. The author wrote very detailed descriptions, to the point where I felt like I was actually experiencing everything with Echo. I particularly liked her descriptions of New York (yes, it is magical and also super gross) and the Avicen food. I also really loved the inclusion of gay characters whose sole purpose was not their sexuality, and the fact that none of the other characters so much as batted an eyelash about it.
So, in the end, I guess I would have to say that The Girl At Midnight is good for a casual reader, but anybody who’s read large amounts of books in this genre will notice distinct similarities with other more popular works, and it’s doubtful that they would find the plot twists shocking.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the free copy.