I don’t know about you, but I do a LOT of reading in coffee houses. I do this with the intention of being less distracted. This might not makes sense to you, but…if I’m at home I can find roughly a million other things to do. When I’m curled up on a couch, headphones on and not in the vicinity of my washer and dryer, I accomplish more. All I worry about there is how full my coffee cup is and whether or not my facial expressions are giving away my thoughts on the book in my hands. Every once in a while however, my need to people watch gets the best of me, and though I keep my earbuds in, I turn off my ambiant rainforest soundtrack and just listen. Nine times out of ten, I gain nothing from my uncontrollable eavesdropping, but every once in a while I strike gold.
Two days ago (while mimicking an anti-social emo chick at my local java joint) I overheard a conversation between two (rather pretentious looking) 40-something year old women. See, there was a man in the corner reading a copy of Kevin J. Anderson’s newly released “Slim Underbelly” (which for the record is currently on my TBR) and for the life of them they just couldn’t understand why. I’ll spare you ALL of the details, but let’s just say that the words “crap” “waste of time” and “fictional drivel” came up more than once. At first, (I’ll admit) I was a little irritated with these woman. How dare they think their choices in literature were “so much better” than the man in the corner. How dare they chastise an entire genre because they just “don’t get it.” But…after a few minutes (of self-reprobation because I was basically doing the same thing to them.) I decided I felt more sorry for them than angry, and this is why…
The man in the corner…he had a smile on his face. He wasn’t concerned with what people were saying about him OR his book…or the fact that he laughed out loud more than once. He was in love with the book in his hands.
Funny thing…I realized (as I gathered my things to leave that day) that this man (whom I knew NOTHING about) managed to silently sum up how I feel about fantasy novels. Simply put, they make me happy. When I’m reading them I don’t care what is happening around me. I don’t care about the chatty women in the corner poking fun at me, or the fact that I may have just gasped out loud in public. I am way to lost inside the author’s imagination to give credence to the outside world.
What does this have to do with Hunter’s “The Midnight Queen?”
Well duh…it’s a fantasy novel.
Michael Scott (author of “The Warlock”) once said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
I don’t think fantasy could be summed up any better than this. Fantasy IS imagination, and if you are stilted by unrealistic predicaments…it’s not going to be the genre for you. However, if you love magic, deception, and the journeys that come along with self discovery, I think you have found your home.
As for “The Midnight Queen” it’s by no means the best fantasy novel I have ever read (I’m sure you already gathered that by my star rating) but it IS a good place to start. Like most books in it’s genre it is bursting at the seems with magic. As a matter of fact, it is the running theme throughout the entire novel. Magic is the reason Gray find’s himself in a shaddy situation. Magic is the reason a princess is missing. Magic is (in the end) what saves them all. But though it is the “theme” of the novel, it’s not the heart of it. There are many reason’s for the “journey” in this book, but the most important is to save a life. Well…lives. (Plural.) Caught in an ugly web of deceit Gray (and his rag tag group of family, friends, and former teachers) must clear his name and save a King. The journey to get there, understand their powers, and their feelings for each-other are what keep the book moving forward. The rest is just…stuff. (I’m going to assume this is due to it’s slow start.)
Fantasy novels require a lot of set-up, and this one was no different. However (geez, I feel like I’ve used that word seventy times already) the world building between the pages of “The Midnight Queen” were a little sloppier than I would have preferred. Instead of building suspense (something is being stolen, people are being killed, one boy turns into an owl and flies away) it just built irritation. It felt as though details were left out. That the things that SHOULD have been expanded upon were not and the things that WERE were totally unnecessary. In short, it felt muddy. And it continued to feel this way until the permanent appearance of Sophie. Once she entered the picture, plot lines seems to find their foothold and internal dialogue became (genuinely) much more interesting. Sophie’s entrance into the story also offered a different perspective. (Which was helpful.)
As for the characters as a whole…I didn’t love them, and I didn’t hate them. There were ALL interesting in their own right, but I didn’t feel connected to any one character WHICH might attribute to the lower character score. I want to feel emotionally connected to the characters inside books. No…I NEED to feel emotionally connected. Especially when it comes to books that incorporate long journeys (as this one did.) If I can’t connect, the book will only (at the very most) be enjoyable not SPECTACULAR.
So here is what it ultimately comes down to.
This book is a great “starter” for fledging fantasy fans. It’s got mystery, magic, deception and romance…all the things that make this genre so brilliant. It is an enjoyable book. A little long, and a little “draggy” in the middle, but enjoyable all the same. And as it stands right now, I may or may not pick up the next novel in this series. Take that for what you will.
Happy Reading my fellow Kindle-ites and remember: “All the works of man have their origin in creative fantasy. What right have we then to depreciate imagination.” – Carl Jung