Title: The Girl at Midnight
Author: Melissa Grey
Publisher: Delacorte BFYR
Pub. Date: April 28, 2015
Genre: Young Adult
Rec. Age Level: 14+
More by this author: n/a
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, though 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.
Melissa Grey's debut novel, The Girl at Midnight, is a fast-paced, romantic fantasy novel in the same vein as Cassandra Clare's City of Bones and Laini Taylor's Shadow and Bone books, but with an entirely new and compelling mythology.
As a child, Echo, an orphaned human pickpocket, was taken in by the Avicen, a race of beings similar to humans but with magical abilities and avian traits. Despite the Avicen being the only family she's ever known, Echo never truly feels that her place with the Avicen is accepted or permanent. When she's tasked with finding the mythical Firebird, an entity prophesied to end the war waging between the Avicen and the Drakharin, another underground humanoid race with draconian traits, Echo's doubt about where she belongs intensifies. During her search for the Firebird, Echo is forced to partner with two Drakharin soldiers who challenge her preconceived notions of the ruthless Drakharins of legend, confusing Echo's beliefs... and heart.
I absolutely loved Echo, the heroine of The Girl at Midnight. Though she was taken in by the Avicen, she's very independent and capable. She never wants to be a burden to the Avicen she's grown close to, so she tries to earn her keep, usually by tracking down and nicking things for the Avicen. Which is why she's tasked with finding the Firebird, a person or object that very little is known about, except that it will end the war between the Avicen and Drakharin. Echo, with the help of two Avicen friends and two Drakharin, ends up following clues to an extravagant scavenger hunt that she hopes will ends with the identity or location of the Firebird.
The two warring races an interesting element of the plot. I felt like I had a better understanding of the the Avicen and a clearer picture of what they looked like. I think this was in part because Echo's closeness to this race, but also because this race is bird-like and the characters were often compared to specific birds as introduced. The Drakharin are, in comparison, relatively unknown to Echo and dragon-like - which makes for a much more vague description. That said, I'm hoping readers are given more information about the Drakharin and their society in the next book!
There is a romantic plot line within The Girl at Midnight that is strong, but not distracting. Again, this felt like something that would develop more in the second book, but I really did like where it was going throughout this first installment. There's some game-changing reveals near the end of the novel that will make for a very interesting situation as the series continues and I'm looking forward to seeing how it is handled.
Melissa Grey's writing and debut novel will definitely be embraced by YA readers who enjoy strong female characters, romance, and magic set within the real world. Highly recommended.
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