Monday, 18 May 2015

The Girl at Midnight (The Girl at Midnight #1) by Melissa Grey

Description from Goodreads

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.

Despite the fact that I had read so many mixed reviews of The Girl at Midnight, my gut told me: read it. Without even meaning to, I was a bit apprehensive when I started the book as I had heard that the book bears a lot of similarities to Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy and The Mortal Instruments series. Nevertheless, my instinct whispered: give it a chance. And I'm so glad that I did. I really liked this book! I absolutely fell in love with the elegant and pretty language the author writes, without even mentioning the likeable and funny characters (even though they were a bit already-seen, but it didn't really matter because they were so well-established).

Ah, where should I start? Maybe I'll start off with the characters since they were kick-ass without being shallow or superficial. Echo, the main character, is officially one of my newest additions to the independent and cool heroines list. Even though the majority of YA heroines are witty, funny, and smart, there was just something really cool and unique about Echo that made me instantly like her. Maybe it was because she didn't wallow in her sad history, or that she lived in the moment and enjoying the life as it came, but she felt such a real character troughout the novel. The emotions she felt weren't downplayed but processed and examined just in the perfect level of depth. Two other characters that I want to mention are Caius (the Dragon Prince) and Dorian (the Captain of the Guard). While Caius as well was the slightly typical hurt and misunderstood (and of course devilishly handsome) royalty, his character was well-established and stayed true and consistent. He was immensely charming and had a surprisingly strong moral values which I always find attractive in a guy, even though Caius wasn't exactly Mr. Perfect, either.. Dorian on the other hand was the brooding yet clear-eyed mysterious guy who has the potentiality to become one of my favourite characters in the series due to his complex and conflicted nature (and he also was included in some of the best scenes in the novel). 

I have to admit that while the book had quite a bit of similarities to other popular YA novels, I didn't find this off-putting (even though unoriginality often is a turn off for me). The author was able to transform something old/used into her own story with small yet brilliant additions. For example in the case of Avicien and Drakhain, the two unique societies which have been in a war for a century. While you can spot many contrasting cultures in YA literature, the current book's cultures were particularly fun to read about. Especially in the case of Drakhain as they appeared to be descendants of dragons with their elegant scales (I know it sounds a bit gross, but Grey is able to write the scales as very beautiful) and their accent with soft Rs resembling Scottish accent to some extent. The violence-proneness of Drakhain also was somewhat fascinating as Avicien came across as the more gentle ones with their tales and a Seer (sort of like a person who can see the future). I wish that these societies were explored more in detail as Grey has so much material to work with. 

Like I already mentioned, Grey writes very beautiful text. She isn't afraid to use a bit more sophisticated vocabulary which I love as it conveys that she isn't underestimating her readers. The author has the ability to paint a very atmospheric and beautiful scenes like when she is describing Echo's visit in Kyoto, New York, and in Strasbourg. The character and world-building was very subtle and sophisticatedly done, as it was done gradually rather than everything just being splurged at the reader. The fact that the book's world was part modern, part fantasy, didn't feel forced at any times as everything Grey had created felt very well-planned and thought-out. The integration of the fantasy element felt seamless and so effortless which made the reading experiences so joyful - urban fantasy at its best.

The book was so funny at times that I actually sniggered on the bus while reading. I highlighted a bunch of funny retorts, comebacks, and banters. I just went back to take a look at them and they still managed to bring a smile on my face. The humour mainly arises from the amazing personalities and dynamic interactions between the characters, often between Echo and Caius, while Jasper (Echo's friend, if you can call him that) makes the most hilarious, teasing remarks which are equally hilarious and piercing. I loved when Jasper made others (some more than others..) speechless. He is such a sassy guy. Also the fact that the author often makes impeccable Lord of the Ring references just increases my love for the occasional lightness of the book.

If I had to call out the book for one weakness, it would be that fact that the book was rather predictable. While the middle part of the novel was relatively mysterious to me, I always knew what was going to happen in the end. But strangely enough, it wasn't a too bad turn of events even though I knew what was going to happen. And this fact still puzzles me, because I constantly talk about how I hate predicable books. Maybe the predictablness didn't bother me because otherwise I really enjoyed the book. There was so much goodness included in the book like the humour, the best characters, adventure, a bit of romance, and the importance of loyalty and being brave in the right occasions. I have high hopes for the next instalment in the series (trilogy?) as I have often found that second books in series are often a lot better than the first ones, and when the first one was as good as The Girl at Midnight, what can we expect from the sequel??

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