The Girl at Midnight
This book has a beautiful cover, interesting description, unique fantastical beings, and should have been everything I love in a book. I read it mostly because I saw it compared to Daughter of Smoke and Bone, which is an all-time favorite of mine. Sadly, all of those elements didn’t combine into a great book.
Echo is a human girl who has been taken in by a race of humanoid, birdlike creatures called the Avicen. Particularly, their Ala, who is kind of leader/shaman figure, has taken care of Echo since childhood. Now, she acts as a thief and trader for them, travelling the world to do deals with both magical and normal folks. If you’ve read Daughter of Smoke and Bone, this probably already sounds kind of familiar; human girl doing the business of non-human beings.
The Avicen are enemies with a dragon-like race known as the Drakharin. Still sounds familiar. Both groups are racing to find out more about the legend of the firebird that could have the power to help one group defeat the other. Echo ends up in the middle of this adventure, although she barely knows what she is looking for or how to look.
What worked for me in the book was Grey’s writing style. I like her way with words and the country hopping that Echo does. However, there were times when things got too flowery and it slowed down the book. Even though Girl at Midnight starts with Echo racing through marketplace, the first half of the book was slow. I actually thought I was going to give up on it if something of interest didn’t start happening. We get so much introduction to Echo’s life and it all felt heavy handed. She lives in a library which, as a librarian, I wanted to like. However, it almost felt like trying to pander to book-lovers. At one point I said out loud, “Okay, we get it, she loves books.”
As for her relationships, I did like her friendship with Ivy, an Avicen, but her boyfriend seemed tacked on for dramatic effect. We had already been getting to know Echo for a fair chunk of the book when suddenly a boyfriend, Rowan, popped out of the woodwork for her to obsess over. Of course, being that this is YA, I knew that the relationship was doomed. When she met Caius, the handsome dragon prince, I heard the nail hammer into the coffin of her love story with the boyfriend. However, this is when I finally started paying attention. I actually liked Caius and the conflict he is having with his sister over the Drakharin throne. I thought he and Echo actually had some chemistry, unlike Echo and Rowan.
The secondary characters actually ended up being my favorites. Echo has a friend named Jasper who is kind of snarky and fun. He flirts outrageously with Dorian, the dragon prince’s guard and friend. Dorian is very stoic and so I found myself rooting more for their romance than Echo/Rowan/Caius.
What ended up really ruining this book for me was that I saw the ending coming a mile away. There is a twist, but it is the same twist as Daughter of Smoke and Bone, so it was hard to be surprised by it. Also, it was executed with far less explanation or aplomb. I ended the book feeling like things really hadn’t been wrapped up very well and just felt confused as to what the truth about Echo really was. I have a feeling, with how open-ended this was, that this is the start of a series. I tried to look around for some confirmation of that but I haven’t found it quite yet.
I say that, if you’re considering reading this, maybe just skip it and go for Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. It is this book’s better-written cousin. It has all the same elements, yet the stakes feel higher, the world is better imagined, and the characters are more memorable.