**BP Note: The publisher is also sponsoring a giveaway. Details at the end of the review. **
Publish Date: Out now
How I got this book: ARC from the publisher
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…
This blurb came from Goodreads.
Reading the blurb to The Midnight Queen transported me back to those days when I discovered Anne McCaffrey, Robin McKinley, and more recently in calendar years Tamora Pierce when young women sometimes girls dared to learn what was deemed only fit for men and thus changed the course of their world. With those reminiscences there was no way I could pass this story up and I am glad I didn’t. Hunter had a few stumbles but I found myself captivated and thoroughly invested in Gray, Sophie, and others along the way as they became embroiled in the fate of the nation.
The story started off with young Gray becoming involved in something he knew broke a few rules for students at Merlin College (loved that name) but they seemed minor only for the aftermath to result in the death of a friend, loss of his magic, and effective banishment between terms to work as a gardener at his professor’s country estate. Puzzled, hurting, and at a loss to salvage anything from what he thought was his future not to mention estranged from his parents, Gray found the estate rather strange. His professor had three daughters, one a cold socially calculating individual caring only for herself, one a stubborn sprite whose return from school brought noise and rebellion aimed at getting attention, and the other, Sophie, was a puzzle. Sophie was the first to welcome Gray and begin to see there was more to him than the gangly, stuttering young man meekly suffering his professor’s thunderous remonstrations. By the same token Sophie almost seemed to be two different people, one vibrant and alive the other a mere shadow who strived to avoid all attention. And then there was the housekeeper, seeming stern and distant yet occasionally slipping into care and affection.
Usually in a fantasy coming of age or of power story the growth is mostly on the part of one character while the other main character(s) change only slightly or act as the wiser adult figure. I was delighted to discover both Sophie and Gray growing throughout this story. Gray became more confident, trusted his intellect, and seemed to fully inhabit his skin. With the growth of his confidence, Gray also lost most of his stutter and gained some boldness as he investigated. Sophie started realizing she had a gift for learning and as their circumstances changed, she also had a talent for Magick, one that was much stronger than she ever guessed given her father’s dismissal of her lack of obvious magick. Sophie’s discoveries of what she could do were really neat, especially since she didn’t know certain things were not supposed to be possible.
I also enjoyed several of the supporting characters, the housekeeper Mrs. Wallis, Gray’s mentor Master Alcuin, Gray’s sister and her husband. They fill the role of family for Gray and Sophie. They also opened their arms to Sophie’s younger sister Joanna. I really wanted to like Joanna because I thought she had the potential to be more than a character who provided some lightness. Yes, the lightness was needed, but she never seemed to develop as more of a character even when given the opportunity and I felt let down. However, I did enjoy her interactions with the others.
Hunter created a rather complex plot that stretched over a couple of generations. I really liked how legend was tied to fact was tied to politics and to greed. The interweaving of the various threads seemed a bit confusing to me at first until the characters started making connections between history and present day. Understanding as they did certainly kept me in the story as I tried to follow the clues they were putting together. I thought the usage of ciphers, cryptology, sabotage, theft, Magick, logic, and determination to first figure out what was at stake and then to do what it took to try to prevent disaster had me fascinated. I cheered for their successes small or large and cringed or held my breath with setbacks. When I finished reading The Midnight Queen it was as if I could finally relax free from its building intensity. I am currently hoping she continues writing in this world because there is so much there. I also think certain decisions made towards the end have the potential to leave things a bit unsettled.
I found The Midnight Queen a very enjoyable read. It certainly lived up to my hopes from the blurb and then some. I wasn’t expecting the complexity of the plot but I am glad it was there because Gray, Sophie and their allies were able to shine in a variety of ways. I have added Hunter to my list of authors to keep checking for new releases.
I give The Midnight Queen a B+
**BP Note: This giveaway is for one print copy of The Midnight Queen open in the US only. To enter leave a comment talking about which author would you most like to discover for the first time again. Winner will be announced on Wed the 17th. Good luck!