Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Review: The Girl at Midnight - Melissa Grey

Release Date: April 28, 2015
Source: Netgalley
Published by: Delacorte Press

The Girl at Midnight - Melissa Grey | Goodreads

For readers of Cassandra Clare's City of Bones and Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone, The Girl at Midnight is the story of a modern girl caught in an ancient war.

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, but 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.

My first question for you is: does the idea of "City of Bones" meets a mash-up between Ruin and Rising (firebird + no-family girl + motley crew) and Daughter of Smoke and Bone (feathery human/animal mashed creatures + war between two races + girl in between both with romance tied to the opposite side + doors into the other world) appeal to you? If yes, proceed to the next question. If no, well, please still proceed to the next question.

Does the idea of this writing appeal to you?
"Echo threaded her way through the midafternoon crowd on Saint Mark's Place, swerving around packs of female students from the Catholic high school nearby, plaid skirts rolled up past the point of propriety, cigarettes dangling artlessly from their fingers, filters tinged pink with cherry lip gloss. They glared at her as she walked past, as if she were a threat to their prime real estate in front of the falafel joint. Echo didn't bother glaring back. In another life, she might have been one of them. 
The street was an eclectic mix of old and new, gentrification clashing against a past that stubbornly clung to the dirty sidewalks of the East Village. A tattoo parlor that doubled as a crepe cafe was sandwiched between a brilliantly illuminated frozen yogurt bar and a store that seemed to sell nothing but ironic T-shirts. Above her head hung a three-font-long plastic hot dog, marking the entrance to Crif Dogs, home of the trendiest frankfurters in the city. Echo pushed open the door and smiled at the girl behind the counter with booted feet propped up near the register, a long strand of blue hair twirled around her finger. The girl didn't smile back. That was fine. Echo wasn't here for hot dogs. 
She made a beeline for the old-school phone booth at the back of the restaurant, its black wood and glass doors harking back to a New York that Echo was too young to remember. Once she stepped into the cramped square and pulled the door shut behind her, the clickety-clack of laptop keys and the rattle of dishes from the kitchen fell away..." (chapter 10)
So, I don't remember much of the Mortal Instruments. It's been a while since I've read a Cassandra Clare book (2-3 years? though Clockwork Princess is still sitting on my shelf at home...), but what I remember most about the praise for TMI was that people said that her writing really captured the essence of New York. Reading Melissa Grey's writing, this is what I thought. The Girl at Midnight is not entirely set in New York, but regardless of where the action was taking place, I could trust in Melissa Grey to paint this distinctly beautiful atmosphere and picture of what I was supposed to see. Cassandra Clare and New York, or Laini Taylor and Prague, or just a wonderful new writer whose career I am most definitely going to follow no matter what, because her writing is GORGEOUS. Kyoto, New York, so many cities rendered beautifully under Grey's skillful touch. Regardless of whether or not you liked the City of Bones and Ruin & Rising/Daughter of Smoke and Bone comparison, maybe you'll just like the book for its writing. (To me, despite what I said above on the R&R & DoSaB comparison, it's also more "City of Bones" than the other two.)

But, back to the comparisons, I think that those are pretty good indicators of whether you'll like the book. The Girl at Midnight reminds me of the wit in a Cassandra Clare novel. The characters have plenty of banter back and forth; and they've all got their unique personalities. One thing that Melissa Grey did that City of Bones and other urban fantasies haven't always done is give each of her main characters point-of-views from the outset. We get to understand the shape of their characters through their perspectives in addition to their witty dialog. What also distinguished this book, for me, from others is that I found Echo to be a really compelling main character. She could easily have been a Mary Sue - the only girl able to steal the firebird so to speak. The only girl with the ability to stop this war. But Melissa Grey has grounded Echo in her wants, the family that she left behind and her very desperate desire to join the Avicens even though they consider her an Other; the bravado that Echo puts on whenever she's feeling upset or has no control; and the fact that she is very much a teenage girl. Crushes can be all consuming. They don't necessarily change who you are, but they do wreak havoc on your emotions and your wants/needs. I loved how Grey wove in Echo's pickpocket skills, and the personality she's acquired from having to steal, with Echo's role in this otherworldly war. Melissa Grey's writing is so beautiful that I'm convinced she could make me fall any which way for the romance that she offers in The Girl at Midnight.

The Girl at Midnight also reminds me of the feeling of Daughter of Smoke and Bone. DoSaB was a beautiful book - one of my favorites - but there was a sense of more to come, more about the world of the chimaera and seraphim that we had not yet learned. And we had two more books for just that; same with The Girl at Midnight. I want to know more about the Avicen and the Drakhari worlds. We've gotten a hint of their inner political landscape and certainly war has been going on for a while, war is all the characters know. But more: what of other "fairy tales" like the firebird? Have they been lost to time? And the ancient Avicen books and the Drakhari loss of magic: is there a deeper thread to these elements? I am sure that there are many more answers, and I look forward to more adventure and atmosphere, banter and steamy romance from Melissa Grey.


  1. I have been dying to read this. I'm so glad you enjoyed this one.

    Great Review!

    Michelle @ Book Briefs

  2. I loved this one! (I posted my review on Monday). I completely agree with everything you wrote. This was probably one of the first books where the comparisons they gave us actually were spot on. Loved Echo, she was so snarky and fun. She reminded me of Jace. And yes, the whole motley crew, the banter, etc. And the world-building…I thought we were given the right amount of information at the right time, and there's still so much more to learn. Great review, glad you loved it. ~Pam

  3. Yay, I've been waiting for this review from you. I think I'm more excited than when we talked before. Damn, that writing is beautiful! Reminds me much more of Laini Taylor than Cassandra Clare. Though I chafe at both the comparisons, because I think Grey deserves to stand on her own merit, which seems perfectly solid. I don't think I pre-ordered this before, but I'm going off to do that now...


    Sarcasm & Lemons

  4. You'll get to read it soon, Michelle! I've seen a few excerpts up here and there too, if you're interested in looking those up. And thanks!

  5. Gosh, ha, as soon as I finish finally catching up replying to comments & marking how many I have to leave (like 60 I bet), maybe I'll get around to commenting on your review of Girl at Midnight. I shouldn't say maybe, but I know I've wrongly underestimated how much time things take before.

    Yes, these comparisons are very spot on. It's interesting to me that you saw Echo as Jace. I can kind of see that, but thought Cassus (ooh gosh, why do I get the feeling I've got his name misspelled) was more like Jace and Echo like Izzy, Ivy like Clary, Jasper like Magnus, and D... Darius(?) like Alec.

    Anywho, yes! The banter and motley crew, the fun, the world-building - yes, completely agree. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Pam!

  6. Really??? Well I'm glad you're still excited for the book. Her writing IS gorgeous. I think Laini Taylor is a little more poetic than hers (just thinking of how the characters were described in their individual books), but Grey's is just as effective as creating atmosphere with it. I don't think anyone is saying she's not standing on her own merit. The fact that her book is getting published is saying she has her own thing, even if other people chafe at comparisons.

  7. Of course! Your reviews are typically good markers for whether I'll like something. Also, I totally meant Leigh Bardugo. Apparently my brain had a spasm. But anyhoo, I do love atmosphere. I guess I just get annoyed that every book now is pitched as X meets X. I know it's a marketing thing. Just one of those things that annoys me for no rational reason.


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