Book Review: The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

The Midnight QueenThe Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Ace (September 2, 2014)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This book would be perfect for readers looking for a well-balanced blend of fantasy with a historical fiction-type setting, overlaid with a story laced with a heavy dose of the kind of chaste, slow-burn romance one might find in a traditional Regency novel.

Graham Marshall – Gray to family and friends – finds himself out of favor at Merlin College when a midnight errand goes terribly wrong, landing himself and a couple friends in the infirmary while another boy loses his life. Disgraced, Gray is sent away to the summer home of the arrogant and unpleasant Professor Appius Callendar until such time the college can decide his fate. It’s there that Gray has the pleasure of meeting the professor’s middle daughter Sophie, who for some reason Professor Callendar seems to neglect and disdain. There’s certainly no love lost between father and daughter.

Even though he was told none of the Callendar girls were born with any magical talent, Gray senses something strange about Sophie. Because proper women studying magical theory is considered scandalous in their society, Sophie has been secretly learning it herself from the books in her father’s library. She’s delighted to meet Gray, finding him very different from the pretentious and foppish young men her father usually invites home from the college, and is grateful when he offers to fill in the gaps in her knowledge. The two of them strike up a friendship, and so when astounding revelations are revealed about Sophie’s past, Gray is wrapped up in the whirlwind of events. And here he was, thinking his life was complicated!

From page one, I was drawn in by the gorgeous writing. Admittedly, it can be somewhat difficult to get used to. Clunky and awkward in some places, it’s not exactly what I would call easy on the eyes, with a style and tone suited to the historical era. But it’s extremely effective when it comes to setting the mood, and once you adapt to it, the reading goes much faster and smoother.

The novel’s greatest strength is the characterization. Gray and Sophie take center stage, and the whole book is told through their perspectives, which alternate back and forth – a lot. Again, it can be distracting, at least initially. The author jumps between Sophie and Gray whenever it suits her, so that sometimes you can get a few paragraphs of Gray’s point of view and then abruptly we would switch to Sophie as she picks up the narrative. Regular readers of romance are probably used to this, but it was something else I had to adjust to at the beginning.

After getting the hang of things, it was easier for me to simply sit back and soak in the story. It bears emphasizing again that the characters are just great in this; because the relationship between Gray and Sophie are so integral to the story, it makes sense to establish and build upon them early, and that’s what we get here. Before Gray and Sophie can get to know each other intimately, the reader has to get to know them as individuals, which makes their eventual coming together that much more satisfying. As I mentioned before, theirs is a slow-burn romance (the kind where everyone around them can see what’s going on before the two can even admit it to themselves) so if you’re looking for instant gratification, this is not the book you’re looking for. We’re also not talking fiery passion or red hot love scenes here, keeping things clean and proper with good manners!

The heavy focus on G+S notwithstanding, that’s not to say the other characters were forgotten or underdeveloped. In fact, my favorite character was a supporting character, Joanna Callendar, who probably has more personality in her little finger than her sister Sophie had in her whole body. Sad to say, as much as I liked Sophie, she was an idealized character, a special snowflake that came across just a little too perfect in a lot of ways, and that makes her less interesting than the spunky, lippy and slightly insolent Joanna.

By the same token, plot is probably not this novel’s strong suit. A lost princess, a prophecy foretelling the return of “The One” and the pivotal role they play in the fate of a monarch and the kingdom…it’s a little clichéd, perhaps, but it’s also not a negative if you go in knowing what to expect. This book is obviously more interested in telling Gray and Sophie’s story, it makes its intention loud and clear right from the start, and so a lighter, less original plot is something I could overlook.

Bottom line: The Midnight Queen is a very beautiful, very atmospheric novel about young love, slow-going at times, making it feel like very little happens while the author develops the two characters. You can probably predict the outcome of the story with no effort at all, but the emotional payoff is worth it if you stick around and give the book a chance to let Gray and Sophie to resolve their feelings for each other. Recommended for fantasy lovers who want romance, but who also won’t mind the slower, sweet-and-tender but also more subtle approach.

90b91-new3-5stars

A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Ace Books!

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26 Comments on “Book Review: The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

  1. I have a copy of this but I’m debating whether or not to squeeze it in this month. There are so many great looking September books! Based on your review I may put it off for a bit.

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    • If you’re in the mood for some romance, I say go for it! But if you’re looking for something fast-paced to get your blood pumping, then yeah, hold off. It’s worth it though!

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  2. This sounds awesome! I had never heard of this one, but after reading your summary and review I definitely think I’ll add it to my to-read list. I don’t like the switching perspectives, but I could deal with it. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Tracy @ Cornerfolds

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  3. Alternate POVs used to be my favourite thing about romance novels but I think it’s gotten to the point where they’re overdone. Sometimes it’s not necessary for the author to write both perspectives. As abrupt as the switches were, I’m still excited to read this one. I’m not ashamed to admit that I love a YA fantasy romance – as long as it’s love triangle free. Plus how often do we get stand alone YA fantasy novels these days? Practically never.

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  4. Well sometimes ieven if it’s predictable if sounds like a good story and it’s always nice to have an interesting writing like that. I didn’t really know about this one but maybe one day. thanks for the review!

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    • Agreed, I definitely don’t mind predictable, especially when it comes to romance, because I know the author’s goal in that case is to focus on writing a love story. If the relationship is believable, that’s what I look for.

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  5. This one’s up my alley and i’m definitely picking it up. I am, however, apprehensive about Sophie because as you said, she’s an idealized character. And god knows, I’m irked with too-good to be true female protags. But is she tolerable? I wish she and Joanna had interchanged personalities.

    And yay to the romance. Slow-burning, that’s how I like it. The plot though…T_T Oh well, I can handle predictable as long it’s executed properly.

    Great review, Mogsy!

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    • No worries, Sophie may have been a bit Mary-Sueish but she’s definitely tolerable! Not annoying like some other protagonists. And if you like slow-burn romances, then YES this one would be perfect!

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  6. Well, reading your review I would say I have a few reservations and yet I still quite like the sound of this one. Maybe one to keep thinking about for now.
    Lynn 😀

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  7. hmmm… I don’t know what it says about me that having a “chaste romance” kinda turns me off. Maybe I shouldn’t admit that openly, but hey, what else is the internet for? Actually, romance in general can break it for me, so if this is slow burning, it may actually work better for me. And I just want to read it because I love the cover!!

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    • Oh, I totally know what you mean. These days, I just can’t do “chaste” in my romance – I like it fiery, passionate and hot, baby, and I will totally admit that openly 😛 So that said, this book probably wasn’t the best fit for me, but the fact I liked it well enough says a lot.

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  8. It seems like the author focused more on character development than on actual story telling which is disappointing. I also don’t like that the outcome was so predictable, but seeing how the emotional aspects made it a worthwhile read, it’s still going on my to-read shelf.

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    • That’s probably an accurate assessment, though I don’t always mind because I’m all about characters 🙂 Sometimes I find a good character study without a very strong plot just as enjoyable to read, I think this is one of them.

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