The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey

Author: Melissa Grey
Series: The Girl at Midnight (#1)
Read: March 9th-10th
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: April 28th, 2015
Genre: urban fantasy
Rating: ★★☆

 In short: reminded me far too much of other books that were far better. A love triangle with a bonus of cheating! Disappointing altogether.

I’ve tried to keep this as spoiler-free as possible, but because I discuss how this reminds me of other books, I couldn’t avoid some hints. Sorry!

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.

Ooookay, I didn’t have high expectations for this book. The blurb sounds interesting, but I eyed it with the same suspicion I give most UF. They’re almost always The Mortal Instruments/Vampire Academy rip-offs. And I hate to use such a strong phrase, but that’s exactly what The Girl at Midnight was—a rip-off. The only thing this book had going for it was the humour, and even that wasn’t great at all times.

The Avicen are a race of bird-people who hide from humans under New York. Echo, a young runaway, is adopted by the Ala, one of the Avicen, and lives a pretty happy life between her Avicen friends and her…life of food theft. (More on that later.) She has a BFF, a boyfriend (THAT THE BLURB FAILS TO MENTION FOR SOME REASON), and a mother figure, and things are pretty good for her. Except that the Avicen are at war with the Drakharin, a race of dragon-like people similarly unknown to humans. Legend has it that the Firebird, a random thing that no one actually knows anything about, has the ability to end the war. Both the Avicen and the Drakharin want to end the war on their own terms. So the Ala tasks Echo to find and steal the Firebird, but several complications (in the form of the Dragon Prince) make the adventure even more of a task.

Right off the bat, this reminded me of Daughter of Smoke and Bone. An animal-human hybrid race (the chimaera), with a wise, good important member (Brimstone) who adopts a human (Karou)…and a warlike, cruel enemy race (the seraphim). The country-hopping and exotic locations only added to that feel. Not to mention the LOVE. Because Caius reeks of Akiva. But wait – then the team dynamic reminded me of The Mortal Instruments. We have the reckless, brash MC (Clary/Echo), the best friend (Simon/Ivy), the hunk (Jace/Caius), the loyal sidekick (Alec/Dorian), and the eccentric outsider who chooses to help them because of the loyal sidekick (Magnus/Jasper). And these parallels run really, really deep. Trust me. So basically, The Girl at Midnight was a tame version of these books. It didn’t have the magical prose and insane originality of DoSaB, and though it tried, it couldn’t quite get the readability of TMI (and to be a bad copy of something constantly accused of being a copy…hmm).

But even if The Girl at Midnight had felt more original, I’d have had several other problems with it.

  • The writing. Humour is good, but you can’t just shove it anywhere and expect it to work. That happens far too often here, and I’m sitting here wondering am I supposed to laugh? Turn of phrase is important when you’re trying to be funny, but TIMING is just as important.
  • The point-of-view switches! So disconcerting. Especially since we get a new POV right at the end of the book for absolutely no reason.
  • Girl-on-girl hate. Why is Ruby even there?
  • Echo’s thievery. Okay, honestly, this girl does not even try. She does nothing except steal. I know, she’s not very educated, she’s got very little to do, but is the best she could do stealing every goddamn thing? Even food! She steals food in the very beginning of the book, and I’m just like, what about the person who actually worked to buy that? I, who loves books about morally skewed characters, was filled with righteous indignation. That’s right. Lives of crime (at least IMO) should be the last option for most characters, and the book did not do a good enough job of convincing me that stealing was Echo’s only option. Also Echo has an original Faberge egg. This was when I stopped taking it seriously. You do not just become a master thief as a child. I will not buy that. Especially since she’s somehow acquired a Faberge egg. What even.
  • The mentions of fancy words in other languages. Supposedly, our lovely heroine collects words. Off the top of my head I remember her mentioning a Japanese one, and a German one. Remember toska from our old friend The Conspiracy of Us? The pretty words felt like a ploy to convince me Echo and the book were deep~ and meaningful~, attempting to substitute them for actual gorgeous prose (see: DoSaB).
  • What kind of child names herself Echo? That is reminded me of—okay, I’ll say it—Ebony Dark’ness Dementia Raven Way. Stop trying to convince me Echo’s introspective or deep or whatever—especially because her constant snark contradicts that idea in every way humanly possible! Not that it’s impossible for  a person to have two contradicting personality traits, but just don’t shove them in my face like that.
  • I’m going to skip over the red string of fate love (cough DoSaB cough) and instead pick on this: I do not care how hot the other guy is. I do not care how soulful and mesmerising he is. I do not care if it feels perfect and meant-to-be with him. I do not want to read about your guiltless cheating.
    When we’re first introduced to Echo’s boyfriend Rowan, I almost choked on the syrupy-sweet description. That first meeting is overflowing with gushing about how beautiful Rowan is, how mushy he makes her feel, how gorgeous his eyes are (what is it with YA and eyes?), etc. Rowan is also one of Echo’s best friends, but he’s currently in a spat with Ivy and Echo seems to side with him throughout without even a bit of consideration for her best friend. Nice. So all this gives the impression that she’s crazy in love with him, as annoying as it was to read.
    And then she falls for Caius. She’s attracted to him, which is excusable, I suppose. And mentions of Rowan pretty much fall right out of the story. Who? Rowan? What? Boyfriend? Hmm? She barely thinks of this guy she supposedly luuurves, despite the fact that he’s also one of her best friends. ??? And if my count is right, only once does she think guiltily of Rowan in one of her moments with Caius. And she does not think of him at all when she kisses Caius. Echo’s such a great girlfriend!
    Girl’s gonna have a huge mess to clean up in book 2. I don’t even recall her mentioning her committed status to Caius. Well, I am not sticking around for that, thanks. I’m out.

I received a free galley of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All quotes are taken from an advance copy and are subject to change.

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