Author: Jane Kindred
Series: book two of The House of Arkhangel’sk
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Publication Date: August 2012
Status: electronic (ARC)
The Midnight Court for purchase on The Book Depository
Review copy provided by the publisher.
I find sequels a tad daunting. Will they be as engaging as their predecessors? Will I feel that same sense of awe and wonder? And, most frightening of all, will I still love the characters?
I’m pleased to report that where THE MIDNIGHT COURT is concerned, I can answer "yes" on every count. I enjoyed it every bit as much as THE FALLEN QUEEN.
The story picks up roughly a year after the end of the first book. Anazakia and her demons, Belphagor and Vasily, have settled into a domestic routine at their dacha in the human city of Arkhangel’sk. They’re desperate to put their lives back on track but are unsure how to repair the damage done in the last book, until a betrayal sends them on a quest to move both Heaven and Earth to reunite their family.
I’ve now read three of Kindred’s books, and it seems to me that she handles a couple of things particularly well. The first and most important of these is character. She limns her fictional people with a deft hand. They’re consistently themselves, but they continue to evolve. Each of them has plenty learn about their own limitations and desires, and the story gives them ample opportunity to do so. And while this is far from the most important thing, I like them. I enjoy spending time with all three leads, and I adore their relationship dynamic. THE FALLEN QUEEN left things pretty durned complicated between them; THE MIDNIGHT COURT gives them the space they need to maybe work things out and arrive at a truly unified place. Provided, of course, that they all survive.
I quickly grew fond of the new characters, too. Love, the Romani girl, lives up to her name, and her charge, baby Ola, is a sweetie-pie. I’m a total sucker for a well-written young child, and that's exactly what Kindred delivers.
Kindred also has a great talent for generating and sustaining atmosphere. Her settings play a large role in this as she brings both contemporary Russia and Heaven, her secondary world, to life. The cast may have little contact with the mortal Russians who live in close proximity to them, but Kindred peppers the text with enough telling detail to impart a sense of the culture and climate that hold such sway over this northern land. She describes things like the northern sun, the dacha, the monastery, and the cultural parks the characters visit in such a way that they help cement the setting in the reader's mind. Kindred clearly loves the country, and her affection shines through on every page. Russia is perhaps my favourite real-world setting1, so I ate all this straight from the jar.
Language also plays a key role in generating atmosphere. Anazakia’s syntax is wonderfully rich and complex, with a slightly Russian flare to it. It’s easy to believe in her as the last scion of a Imperial Russianesque court. When we move from earth to Heaven, her voice perfectly complements the decadent elegance of this intricate setting, with its sordid underbelly and political strife.
I've deliberately remained vague on the plot, since it's all too easy to spoil the story when one discusses a sequel, but rest assured I found it compelling and worthy of what had come before. I wanted nothing more than to wallow in it--and since I saw no reason to deny myself, I did just that. I read the final three quarters of the book in a marathon session which I am completely unable to regret. Now I’ve just got to endure the wait for Book 3, THE ARMIES OF HEAVEN.
If you enjoyed THE FALLEN QUEEN, you must pick this up. I’m not sure if it stands alone, though; much of the emotional oomph rests on the characters’ responses to events from the first book. You should also be aware that the book earns a trigger warning due to sexual violence. That doesn't keep me from branding it with an enthusiastic recommendation, but please read with care if you think it might impact your mental health.
And hey, thanks to Entangled Publishing, I have an electronic copy to give away! If you’d like a chance to win your choice of either THE MIDNIGHT COURT or THE FALLEN QUEEN, please leave a comment telling me about your favourite real-world setting outside your own country. Make sure you include your e-mail address so I can contact you if you win! The giveaway will close at midnight Central time on October 31st.
4 stars – loved it
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Back In the Day:
- One Year Ago: The Time of Your Life by Neil Gaiman et al
- Two Years Ago: nada
- Three Years Ago: a whole bunch of read-a-thon posts. I shan't link to them individually, but y'all might like this post about Murchie. I know how much you like Murchie.
- Four Years Ago: The 2009 Pub Challenge and 31 Tales of Terror: Day Twenty-Four
- France is also a strong contendor. I love me some France.