Friday, March 14, 2014

Book Review: Mirk and the Midnight Hour

A Southern girl. A wounded soldier. A chilling force deep in the forest.
All collide at night’s darkest hour.

Seventeen-year-old Violet Dancey has been left at home in Mississippi with a laudanum-addicted stepmother and love-crazed stepsister while her father fights in the war—a war that has already claimed her twin brother. 

When she comes across a severely injured Union soldier lying in an abandoned lodge deep in the woods, things begin to change. Thomas is the enemy—one of the men who might have killed her own brother—and yet she's drawn to him. But Violet isn't Thomas's only visitor; someone has been tending to his wounds—keeping him alive—and it becomes chillingly clear that this care hasn't been out of compassion. 

Against the dangers of war and ominous powers of voodoo, Violet must fight to protect her home and the people she loves.

From the author of Strands of Bronze and Gold comes a haunting love story and suspenseful thriller based on the ancient fairy tale of “Tam Lin.”


This was such a fun surprise.  Sure, I read Strands of Bronze and Gold and enjoyed it, but I liked this one so much better.  It's not so much that Jane Nickerson's writing has drastically improved her second time around---both books are written beautifully---but I liked the story so much more in The Mirk and the Midnight Hour.  

Besides some Voodoo, this  book reads more like Civil War Era historical fiction than a fantastical fairy tale retelling, which is one of the things I loved most about it. You can practically taste the atmosphere through the writing.  Plus, giving it such a strong setting and flavor makes it stand out from so many of the other retellings out there.  And the world building isn't limited to just the setting and time period.  All of the characters, even many of the minor ones are complex, multi-faceted people with their own strengths, weaknesses and particular habits. 

Violet is an excellent main character.  The story starts off with a little bit of a Cinderella vibe (I'll admit, I had to read up on Tam Lin before I started this book, just so I could recognize it's influence on the story), where Violet's father marries and then immediately goes to War, leaving Violet with her new step-mother and vain step-sister Sunny, but that's as far as the comparison goes.  This story is really a coming of age. It deals with Violet accepting change and being forced to confront what the war is really about and how she feels about it personally.  I love the subtle changes in Violet throughout the book and especially the person she ends up being.

I'm also a big fan of the romance.  It's not as bit a part of the book as you might think from the synopsis, though it plays a significant part.  Again, this is more of a coming of age story, but still, this serves as a catalyst for a lot of Violet's growth.  I love it because we get to watch it grow slowly.  We also get Sunny's more flamboyant romance as contrast so we can see how good Violet and Thomas really are. 

The magic in this book is of the subtle variety, so we don't get to see much until the end.  Still, it's a constant presence throughout the story, and while I didn't understand it all that much, it's more because Violet didn't work with it rather than lack of world building, because what we do see was rich and complex.

All in all, this is a wonderful 4 stars for me.  If you're looking for an excellent fairy tale retelling or are a fan of historical fiction or just want to read something well written, you absolutely need to check this out. It's atmospheric and delightful and absolutely insured that I'll be impatiently waiting for Jane Nickerson's next book, A Palace of Stone and Shadow.

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