by Joan Aiken
So Aiken is one of those authors whose books I either seem to really enjoy or really not enjoy. For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, you know that Wolves of Willoughby Chase is one of my all-time favorites. Last fall, I read the rest of the books in Aiken’s Wolves Chronicles, and was so disappointed that (in my opinion) they got progressively less coherent and much darker as the series progressed. However, I’ve read a couple of her other novels and enjoyed them both – Jane Fairfax is a delightful continuation of Jane Austen’s Emma, and The Five-Minute Marriage is a wonderfully fun and lively Regency romance. (I actually have another of her Regency romance on the TBR shelf.)
The point is, I approach each of her books with trepidation – and, for the first time, I found one of her books that was just, well, a book. A solid 3/5, it struck no real emotion in me. Midnight is a Place is an interesting and well-written story, set in the town of Blastburn (recognizable from Wolves). One can get the gist of the story from the titles of its three distinct parts – “Evening,” “Midnight,” and “Daybreak.” The “Daybreak” one is what gave me the courage to read the story, and I was rewarded – while the ending is not happy, exactly, it is at least a bit optimistic, as though things may get better. (In a weird way, it reminded me of the ending of the actual novel The Princess Bride – the ending of the book isn’t at all like the ending of the movie, really – a bit ambiguous.)
While I liked the main characters, Lucas and Anna-Marie, and appreciated their courage and maturity under difficult circumstances, the story itself was rather dark without a strong plot. I’ve owned this book since 2005, when I bought it at a booksale, and read it now as part of my strict “I will read every book I own or I will get rid of it” policy. Sadly, Midnight is a Place is destined for the give-away pile, although at least that means I have shelf space for a new read, right??