The Midnight Queen – Sylvia Izzo Hunter

About the Book

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…

432 pages (paperback)
Published on September 2, 2014
Published by Ace Trade
Author’s webpage

This book was sent for me to review by the publisher.

Admittedly when I got the offer to read and review The Midnight Queen, I was a little nervous. I’m not incredibly fond of the Victorian era, and manners, and using 100 words to tell people to piss off in the most socially acceptable way possible. It’s not my bag, and I generally try to stray from those books. However, something about the synopsis made me curious.

And while I don’t think Victorian era books will ever be the first books I pick out when I’m at the library, I’m pretty glad that I decided to give this one a chance. Yes, it’s Victorian, but there is enough unique about it that I moved past my knee-jerk reactions pretty quickly.

The Midnight Queen is one of those books that might take a little time to get into. The writing style is kind of unique in the sense that sometimes the writing flows better than other times. Furthermore, it’s written from that historical setting, and some of the terminology and verbiage might catch you off guard until you get used to it.

Despite the fact that the writing does take some getting used to, once readers do adjust to it, they’ll realize that the style itself is incredibly effective for infusing the book with atmosphere. The Midnight Queen is, above all else, a powerfully atmospheric novel, and a huge reason why is because of Hunter’s writing. It is also quite necessary. A lot of the time when I read Victorian-esque novels, it all feels so over the top I almost instantly don’t believe any of it. Hunter’s writing makes the setting seem so real and believable. I don’t just believe that this could be a real place and real happenings and real people, but I actually care about all of it.

The Midnight Queen is told from two primary perspectives – Gray and Sophie. Both characters were incredibly delightful to follow, and their personalities complimented each other well. Furthermore, it really helps get a well-rounded view into what is going on when readers experience it through the perspectives of two people who have distinctly different opinions, insights, personalities, and flaws.

While it will be pretty obvious from the start that there will be some romance involved, I have to applaud Hunter for not ruining all she built up with atmosphere and setting and characters by having the romance be some wham-bam hot and heavy, over-the-top romance. This romance is a slow burn, and the readers will get to know the characters very well, which makes the eventual coming-together of Gray and Sophie so much more satisfying.

And while the main characters are very well done, the secondary characters are all nicely developed as well. In fact, the novels strong suits are two-fold. The atmosphere is incredible, and the characters are fantastically believable and delightfully developed.

The novel’s actual plot doesn’t really match the quality of the other things I’ve talked about. In fact, when its stripped down to its bare bones, this is a plot you’ve read before a few times. There are prophecies, and a chosen one, a lost princess and all sorts of other token things you’ve found in so many other fantasy books. While that’s not to say that it isn’t entertaining, it certainly isn’t really new and unusual, and readers might find themselves wanting something that is matches the quality of the characters a little more.

Furthermore, the storyline is rather slow to develop, too. When mixed with a plot that is sort of lackluster, the slow pace might cause a few to lose interest. There really isn’t any fast paced action or real adventure. It takes a while for things to get rolling, and while the characters are wonderful, they can only take a reader so far if readers aren’t in the mood for this sort of thing.

There is something to be said for a book that you can just sit back and enjoy, despite its flaws. This is one of those books that is simply beautiful and the characters are absolutely captivating. However, the plot and pacing might require readers to be in that right mood for this book. However, if you are in that one mood, give this one a try. The Midnight Queen absolutely charmed me.

Regardless of how a reader boils this one down, the truth is that The Midnight Queen is a love story that will warm your heart, and a story of magic and struggle, truth and might, in the face of all odds, with some stunning writing that will really hook readers and brings them into the colorful world that Hunter has created.


3/5 stars

2 Responses

  • “I’m not incredibly fond of the Victorian era, and manners, and using 100 words to tell people to piss off in the most socially acceptable way possible. It’s not my bag,”

    Yes, this is usually why I usually tend to stay away from these types of books. That said, I enjoyed this one quite a bit myself. This one was a lot of fun and Hunter’s prose really hooked me, too.

  • It caught my eye yesterday at the bookstore because of the cover. In general, I enjoy atmospheric novels, so perhaps it will go on my TBR pile (the Victorian part does not bother me).

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