The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey
Digital Audiobook narrated by Julia Whelan
Published by Delacorte Press on April 28, 2015
Series: The Girl at Midnight #1
Genres: Fantasy, Magic, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Length: 357 pages or 9 hours, 55 minutes
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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 all but one human: Echo, a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market.
The Avicen are the only family Echo has ever known, so when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act. Legend has it that to end the conflict once and for all, Echo must 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.
The Girl at Midnight was interesting, and in some ways unique, but I’m sorry to say I didn’t fall in love with it.
Echo is discovered as an orphan and taken in by the Avicen – a species of avian humanoids who have feathers instead of hair. As a pickpocket, Echo wins her way into the hearts of the Avicen through stealing candy for them and through her own natural charm, but to some, she’ll never belong. When Echo is sent on a secret quest for one of the high council members to find the firebird, she follows her mission diligently, wanting to save the people she loves and end a centuries long war. But along the way, she doesn’t expect to fall in love – and with a Drakharin no less!
The Girl at Midnight gets serious points for an original idea – this one feels steeped in mythology, but if that’s true, I’m not familiar with the specific myth. Now, I hear that the world is strikingly similar to Daughter of Smoke and Bone. That’s on my TBR, but I haven’t gotten there yet, so I can’t speak to it. In my little universe, the Avicen are interesting and different.
That’s sort of where my interest ends. While the concept of following a treasure map and finding clues is a super fun Goonies-esque idea for an adventure, it’s all too easy. I actually love treasure hunt books, so I was super bummed that all the obstacles Echo came across in her journey were minor inconveniences. When a protagonist is so lucky that she manages to slip past everything virtually unscathed, I’m not invested in her. We all knew Echo was going to make it to the end, and that there was going to be a totally predictable twist.
There were moments. There was a breath in the Louvre where I thought things were finally going to get interesting. And at the tea shop in Kyoto… at first. But the scenes moved so fast and we are whisked around mostly in Echo’s head. I want to see the shadows on the floor, smell the cherry blossoms, not listen to her mentally ramble about how she wished she finished that burrito… so in that sense, Melissa Grey’s writing style didn’t work for me. There’s nothing wrong with it specifically if you like a steady stream of internal banter as your narration, but I like things a bit more aesthetic myself.
I’m starting to get agitated by the way all the characters in a book seem to couple up. There’s a lot of different romantic things going on in The Girl at Midnight, so if love and intrigue are your thing, you’ll probably enjoy it. There’s a gay couple (side characters), unrequited love, forbidden love (multiple instances!), requited love, love triangles… I think every character had butterflies in their stomach at least three times. It was the most depth of character I saw for most of the character, to be honest. Most times, the characters we described by either what they were doing with their feathers or what they were saying, making them all feel a bit two-dimensional.
I think that if you want a quick, kinda fluffy, fantasy adventure story, The Girl at Midnight could be a fun read. Otherwise, I’m not overly impressed with it, and will personally not be continuing the series. I just didn’t feel attached to any of the characters and I saw the ending coming from the first few pages.