Monday, March 16, 2015

The Midnight Spell review

    I don't normally review Young Adult books. I like quite a few of them but they are a bit far from my horror, urban fantasy, and comic book literature wheelhouse. The Midnight Spell, however, is a work by one of my favorite authors is Rhiannon Frater and Kody Boye so I was willing to give it a shot.

    The premise is childhood best friends Adam and Christy are a couple of normal teenagers: Adam is gay and Christy is a witch but this doesn't impact their otherwise normal interactions. The pair cast a spell one night in order to find Adam true love in his small Texas hometown and, the next day, a surprisingly handsome new student of the appropriate sexuality arrives. Sure, Christy shouldn't be doing magic that potent at her age according to her centuries-old parents, but what's the worst that could happen?

    It's an intriguing enough premise and the character of Mark gradually reveals himself to be a sinister figure who brings a surprising amount of menace to an otherwise peaceful existence. The actual identity of who, what, and why to his actions is kept for the ending but the book does a great job of slowly peeling away a seemingly perfect exterior. Is Mark a sociopath? A supernatural being? An evil-magic user? All of these questions get answered but the book takes its time to let the question stew in your mind.

    One of the big appeals to the book is the fact the two are some of the most well-adjusted teenagers in YA fiction. With the exception of Christy pining for the local heartthrob and the slim romantic prospects for an openly gay teenager in a conservative small town, both of them are fairly happy with their lives. A lesser author would have exploited Adam's situation for what is commonly known as "gaynst" when he's very comfortable with who he is as are his immediate social circle. He feels like an authentic person and that's good.

    Christy is also quite likable, even though she's basically Ally Sheedy's character from The Breakfast Club transplanted into a being from Samantha's race in Bewitched. I was a little put off by the fact she's, essentially a fairy sorceress versus a teenager using magic but once I accepted the idea of a "witch race" I found it interesting that she's otherwise a normal Goth girl from Texas. I also like the "refuge in audacity" moment where she uses a literal flying broom to travel around town on the assumption no one would report it.

    The pop culture references, frequently to Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, date the book perhaps more than it should be. I don't think teenagers would be referencing that specific show unless this took place specifically during the Nineties but that is a small quibble. I also like Christy's parents clearly watch the show as much as she does.

    The book, perhaps, takes a little too long for things to start happening. In our era of immediate gratification, many readers will not be willing to wait until the book is half-finished for anything sinister to start happening but I think the slow pace gives us a sense of how much an invasion "evil" is to their peaceful world. I also am inclined to think a resurrection halfway through is unearned and should have been avoided.

    Still, The Midnight Spell is a fun bit of fiction. For those who like YA fiction and mysteries, this is a good book to recommend for teenage readers or adults who never grew up.


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