Goodreads: The Girl at Midnight
Series: The Girl at Midnight #1
Publication Date: April 28, 2015
For readers of Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones and Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone, The Girl at Midnight is the story of a modern girl caught in an ancient war.
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.
The Girl at Midnight is an imaginative book that will appeal to bookworms and lovers of fantasy. Protagonist Echo lives hidden in the New York Public Library and smuggles books to her room, but she is also the adopted daughter of the Ava, one of the bird-like Avicen race, and gets to go on magical adventures of her own. The story takes readers through Echo’s journey to find herself as she races across the world to locate the mythological firebird she believes can save the future of her adopted family.
The marketing plan has been to compare The Girl at Midnight to City of Bones and Shadow and Bone. However, readers will also see echoes of Daughter of Smoke and Bone (What’s with all the “bone” books?) in the way travelling magic works and parallels to Avatar in the character of the Dragon Prince. Like Zuko, Gray’s prince has conflicting ideas about the best way to lead his people and a complicated relationship with the protagonist that has the opportunity to fall into either friendship or enmity. He also happens to have an insanely violent sister who can wield fire and is bent on fighting him for the throne. The characters are not straight transplants of Zuko and Azula, but Avatar fans will certainly call them to mind.
Echo comes across as more original in her characterization, but not in her dialogue. The majority of her speech is composed of cliché expressions, literary quotes, and literary allusions. The author’s goal was most likely to convey the sense that Echo is an avid reader. Unfortunately, however, so little of Echo’s speech is her own that it is hard to read her as either a sincere character, or as one with serious thoughts about the world. Her character often exudes the sense she is just being carried along for the ride, even when she is ostensibly making active decisions about how her life will go.
Other characters, however, nicely round out the two protagonists and add a bit of diversity to the book. The Dragon Prince has a loyal guard who is a bit more in love with him than his position allows. Echo is friends with a flamboyantly criminal Avicen. Other friends are more quiet and introverted, but not less useful to the plan to save the world.
Plot-wise, the book is well-paced and offers readers variety of schemes and locations. The Avicen can travel by magic dust, and have passed the secret on to Echo, who can romp freely about in America, Paris, or Japan, as she pleases. There are also some great museum adventures, which are sure to appeal to many readers. A sense of Grey’s love of literature, history, and learning pervade the book.
Unfortunately, the conclusion is somewhat lacking. Of course, this is partially due to the fact that this novel starts a series. The result, however, is that absolutely nothing is resolved and the big reveal is underwhelming. The role of the firebird is overstated, and though arguably it is because the characters misinterpret that role, the feeling of the novel is really that the narration itself is misdirecting readers about the firebird for the sake of interest and suspense. The Girl at Midnight would benefit from having a stronger story arc, instead of pretending it has an arc for most of the book, then suddenly pulling back at the end and saying, “Wait, actually you have to wait for the sequels for anything to happen! This is just an opening scene.” The fact that The Girl at Midnight is book one is a series does not mean it must feel quite as incomplete as it does.