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The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter {3.5 Stars}

The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter is a historical fantasy that tells the story of a young man sort-of kicked out of magic school and a young woman determined to learn as much magic as she can despite women not being allowed to learn magic and having no magical abilities. The Midnight Queen is set in an alternative Regency-inspired setting where the Roman, Greek, and Norse gods are stilled worshipped in the areas we know as Britain and France, and of course where magic is very much existent and known to the populace. I loved the poetic writing of The Midnight Queen and found myself actually enjoying a Regency setting where I used to think I would never like more historical settings ;-).

Note: I received a copy of The Midnight Queen from the publisher. This did not influence my review.

The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter {3.5 Stars}

The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter
Published by Ace on Sept. 2nd, 2014
Genres: Adult, Historical Fantasy
Page Length: 432 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
Amazon - IndieBound - Book Depository - Goodreads
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In the hallowed halls of Oxford’s Merlin College, the most talented—and highest born—sons of the Kingdom of Britain are taught the intricacies of magickal theory. But what dazzles can also destroy, as Gray Marshall is about to discover…

Gray’s deep talent for magick has won him a place at Merlin College. But when he accompanies four fellow students on a mysterious midnight errand that ends in disaster and death, he is sent away in disgrace—and without a trace of his power. He must spend the summer under the watchful eye of his domineering professor, Appius Callender, working in the gardens of Callender’s country estate and hoping to recover his abilities. And it is there, toiling away on a summer afternoon, that he meets the professor’s daughter.

Even though she has no talent of her own, Sophie Callender longs to be educated in the lore of magick. Her father has kept her isolated at the estate and forbidden her interest; everyone knows that teaching arcane magickal theory to women is the height of impropriety. But against her father’s wishes, Sophie has studied his ancient volumes on the subject. And in the tall, stammering, yet oddly charming Gray, she finally finds someone who encourages her interest and awakens new ideas and feelings.

Sophie and Gray’s meeting touches off a series of events that begins to unravel secrets about each of them. And after the king’s closest advisor pays the professor a closed-door visit, they begin to wonder if what Gray witnessed in Oxford might be even more sinister than it seemed. They are determined to find out, no matter the cost…

3.5 Stars

Strengths:

  • The alternative history in The Midnight Queen is pretty subtle and it took a few references to the All-Father and Jupiter before it really sank in how cool the setting was, but on top of fun magic, The Midnight Queen really does have a version of Europe that is still completely pagan!
  • As much fun as hidden magic is in stories (like Harry Potter ;-) ), I’m liking the trend of magic being common knowledge and looking at how that would change the was society functions. While not everyone has magical powers and the amount of power varies, everyone knows that magic exists and there are many professions that revolve around what type of magic someone has (such as healing). The royalty also of course have magical persons in their service and having more magic in a royal blood line makes that an even better match. More alternative histories with magic please!
  • The romance is pretty obvious that it is going to happen from the start because I don’t know of any dual PoV with a male and female MC that doesn’t end in a romantic relationship, however it is also slow to brew. There are all the entertaining and cute moments of our two main characters mistaking the others’ actions and intentions while everyone else knows what is going on much better than the to-be-couple, haha.
  • The plot of The Midnight Queen is a good ol’ fashioned “we know the bad guys are trying to do something bad and have to find a way to stop them” but with a good amount of mystery still with trying to figure out who all is involved and who is the target of the nefarious plot ;-).
  • As far as I can tell, The Midnight Queen is a stand alone and I was quite satisfied with how everything wrapped up by the end. If you’re tired of starting more and more series, this is your book :D. Update: Sylvia mentioned in a guest post that there will be a book two, but Midnight Queen still works very well on its own!

Weaknesses:

  • While the writing of The Midnight Queen is clearly trying to evoke Regency-type historical fiction, it was clunky and awkward at times. Sometimes I was happy, but other times I had to backtrack sentences to figure out what was being said and just gloss over phrases that didn’t appeal to my inner-ear.
  • Again I assume because of the style of The Midnight Queen, the pacing is quite slow and circuitous. Even during daring action scenes when things are life-or-death, I somehow still felt like the characters were waltzing instead of running if that makes any sense :-P.
  • The setting of The Midnight Queen with the alternative history is definitely the most original thing in the book and the plot in particular is one I’ve read many times before and therefore guessed pretty much everything that would happen.
  • I’m not a fan of magic that is too easy. While there were certainly limits to the amount of magic that the various magical characters could do, they also happened to be remarkably powerful and therefore could pick up and do magic much more easily than most of the rest of the population. This meant that a lot of problems were pretty easily solved with the right Latin words.

Summary:

The Midnight Queen successfully convinced me that Regency-era settings can be fun with enough magic and pagan gods along with a sweet romance. While the magic system and plot weren’t particularly original or exciting and the writing struggled at times, I can see fans of straight historical fiction that want to dip their toes into fantasy really enjoying The Midnight Queen!

Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings

Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?
– Anya

 

 The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

© 2014, Anya. All rights reserved.

Comments

  1. Did someone say slow burn romance AND magic?! I’m sold! :D Although I haven’t really read many Regency-era styled kinds of books, I might give this one a chance. :) Great review!
    Ana @ Read Me Away recently posted…Review 107: Landline (Rainbow Rowell)My Profile

  2. Hrm, I’m not sure if this one is for me or not. I was really eager to read it but seeing that the writing is hit or miss and that it’s a bit slow. I’m not sure. Great review Anya!
    Kristen@My Friends Are Fiction recently posted…Stacking the ShelvesMy Profile

    • Yeah, I feel your pain. I found that I could get into it fairly well even knowing that it would be slower going in, but you have to be in just the right mood ya know?

  3. I love historical settings!!! I’ve been seeing lots of positive reviews for Midnight Queen (no rave reviews yet) lately, and it sounds like a wonderful cozy YA fantasy romance. Basically the book equivalent of comfort food!

    • Haha, definitely put it on the list then! I’m not as much of a fan of historical settings, so I think it would appeal, though it isn’t really YA, kind of more adult but with younger characters? Definitely written for adults though I think ;-)

  4. I haven’t read this book yet, but I want to, even more now that I’ve read your review. I can get over a predictable plot and overly powerful magic (though slow pacing bothers me) but the world and premise sound just so cool! Also, all three books on your upcoming reviews are on my wish list!
    Molly Mortensen recently posted…Awards, Awards, AwardsMy Profile

  5. You and I gave this one the same rating. I completely agree with the slow pacing, I know it was what the book was going for and it achieves that beautifully, but personally I prefer romances that are more fiery ;-)
    Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum recently posted…Tough Traveling: WitchesMy Profile

    • Haha, agreed. I always feel conflicted when I know the book does well at what it aims to and would appeal more to a different reader, oh well!

  6. This sound interesting. I like when magic is out in the open as well. It’s on my reading list
    Jen recently posted…Crown of Ice by Vicki L. Weavil #BookReview #AuthorInterview #GiveawayMy Profile

Trackbacks

  1. […] year I read and quite enjoyed The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter, so I’m thrilled to get to promote the sequel, Lady of Magick! I haven’t had a chance […]

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