Review: The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter
Published September 2nd 2014 by Ace Trade
In an age of instant gratification, a scrambling rush for “fast-paced” and “nail-biting” reads, The Midnight Queen is a breath of fresh air, recalling books as they used to be – stories to be savoured.
Grey is asked by his fellow Merlin college students on a strange mission. It goes out of hand, leading to the death of one of his friends, and Grey tumbles head first into a conspiracy that is much bigger than he could ever imagine.
The Midnight Queen is a story that follows characters rather than a plot. It reminded me of a sort of mash-up between Jane Austen and Harry Potter – on one hand we have the sweet unfurling of a romance, and on the other we have a magic college set in some sort of alternate history. The writing has put off a lot of readers, but I thought it quite beautiful. The story isn’t to be rushed, and neither are the sentences themselves.
Beautiful, Callender Hall’s gardens might be, but after only half a day he had already conceived a passionate hatred of them, and of flowering shrubs in particular. What was he doing in this distant corner of the kingdom, so far from all he knew? Why condemned to this sweaty, thirsty, apparently pointless labout?
Also reminiscent of archaic books, The Midnight Queen uses the descriptive type of chapter titles, like Chapter II: In Which a Prediction of Sophie’s Comes True, and Sophie and Gray Discuss Magick. The chapter titles were very well done, raising just the smallest amount of suspicion of what is about to come, without spoiling any of the fun. You can safely read through all of the chapter names before starting the novel.
The Midnight Queen is the sort of book I love, but don’t nearly read enough. It provides a world that can enfold you like a warm blanket. For a debut novel I found this to be very impressive – even accomplished novelists don’t always manage to build a world from scratch, inhabited by genuine characters, with specific mannerisms and constructed through and through, a world that feels like it lives on even when you close the book. Although there might be more books set in the same world, The Midnight Queen stands on its own exceptionally well.
If you enjoy the writing style in classics, The Midnight Queen might be for you. Its world is a mix of historical, feint magical, and mythological elements, and instead of writing historical through a 21st-century lens, the language fits the time period. The Midnight Queen is a long journey through mistaken identities, conspiracies, and finding the limitations of magic capabilities, and a journey that was highly satisfying in the end.
In the hallowed halls of Oxford’s Merlin College, the most talented—and highest born—sons of the Kingdom of Britain are taught the intricacies of magickal theory. But what dazzles can also destroy, as Gray Marshall is about to discover…
Gray’s deep talent for magick has won him a place at Merlin College. But when he accompanies four fellow students on a mysterious midnight errand that ends in disaster and death, he is sent away in disgrace—and without a trace of his power. He must spend the summer under the watchful eye of his domineering professor, Appius Callender, working in the gardens of Callender’s country estate and hoping to recover his abilities. And it is there, toiling away on a summer afternoon, that he meets the professor’s daughter.
Even though she has no talent of her own, Sophie Callender longs to be educated in the lore of magick. Her father has kept her isolated at the estate and forbidden her interest; everyone knows that teaching arcane magickal theory to women is the height of impropriety. But against her father’s wishes, Sophie has studied his ancient volumes on the subject. And in the tall, stammering, yet oddly charming Gray, she finally finds someone who encourages her interest and awakens new ideas and feelings.
Sophie and Gray’s meeting touches off a series of events that begins to unravel secrets about each of them. And after the king’s closest advisor pays the professor a closed-door visit, they begin to wonder if what Gray witnessed in Oxford might be even more sinister than it seemed. They are determined to find out, no matter the cost…
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