Book Review: The Girl at Midnight, by Melissa Grey

I received an advance copy of this book in order to facilitate a review. No other compensation was received. All opinions expressed are honest and my own. Affiliate links appear in post.

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Marketing for the new young adult book The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey (due in bookstores April 28th), spends a lot of time comparing it Young Adult Fiction Book Review The Girls at Midnight Melissa Greyto other popular books in the genre, including Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones and Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone. Most early reviews have also noted the similarities. But what I hope doesn’t get lost in the noise of mentioning these other books is that THIS one is very, very good.

About The Girl at Midnight

Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market. Though a human child, the Avicen – an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins – are the only family Echo’s ever known. 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.

From the first page, Melissa Grey creates a sense of intrigue. At one moment the reader is being whisked through the streets of Taipei, the next, we are below ground, being introduced to a magical, unknown world. With the characters’ powers to transport between locations, including Scotland, London, and New York City, The Girl at Midnight becomes a kind of globe-trotting adventure. Grey’s sense of place is strong, and her descriptions of both familiar lands and new is solid.

Grey also has a tight handle on her characters, and it becomes easy to know and like Echo, her mentor the Ala, and others we meet. Written in third person omniscient, we are privy to each of their thoughts, feelings, and motivations, which I liked. Beyond the intimacy of each character, though, are two larger worlds that Grey takes careful time in constructing – the bird-like Avicen and the dragon-like Drakharin. I found their legends, histories, and customs to be well-drawn and compelling.

I should mention, too, how much I appreciated the complexity of Grey’s characters here. Things get messy. No one is just good or just bad. Not everyone makes the “right” choice. Which I think made me like each of them even more.

The pace of The Girl at Midnight is measured. Grey takes her time letting things unfold, never getting too far ahead or too far behind the reader. At times, things might be considered predictable, and genre norms like the ever-present love triangle might put some readers off, but the writing is so good, and the world and characters so tightly packaged, it makes this book easy for me to recommend.

*A final word about the similarities between The Girl at Midnight and the other novels mentioned above: do I see them? For sure. Some readers have expressed a real problem with this book not being “original enough,” or borrowing so heavily from others in the genre. I totally get that. BUT, for me, it is Grey’s talent as a writer – her ability to create atmosphere, place, characters, and breath life into this story – that allows The Girl at Midnight to stand on its own. I enjoyed reading this book, and look forward to more from the series, and that’s good enough for me.