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Noctis Magicae #1

The Midnight Queen

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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…

417 pages, Paperback

First published September 2, 2014

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About the author

Sylvia Izzo Hunter

4 books184 followers
Sylvia Izzo Hunter was born in Calgary, Alberta, and started making up stories at approximately the time she learned to talk. She now lives in Toronto, Ontario, with her husband and daughter and their slightly out-of-control collections of books, comics, and DVDs. When not writing, she works in scholarly publishing, sings in two choirs, reads as much as possible, knits (mostly hats), and engages in experimental baking.

Sylvia’s favourite Doctor is Tom Baker, her favourite pasta shape is rotini, and her favourite Beethoven symphony is the Seventh.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 419 reviews
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,030 reviews2,605 followers
July 3, 2015
3.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctu http://bibliosanctum.com/2014/09/01/b...

This book would be perfect for readers looking for a well-balanced blend of fantasy with a historical fiction-type setting, overlaid with a story laced with a heavy dose of the kind of chaste, slow-burn romance one might find in a traditional Regency novel.

Graham Marshall – Gray to family and friends – finds himself out of favor at Merlin College when a midnight errand goes terribly wrong, landing himself and a couple friends in the infirmary while another boy loses his life. Disgraced, Gray is sent away to the summer home of the arrogant and unpleasant Professor Appius Callendar until such time the college can decide his fate. It’s there that Gray has the pleasure of meeting the professor’s middle daughter Sophie, who for some reason Professor Callendar seems to neglect and disdain. There’s certainly no love lost between father and daughter.

Even though he was told none of the Callendar girls were born with any magical talent, Gray senses something strange about Sophie. Because proper women studying magical theory is considered scandalous in their society, Sophie has been secretly learning it herself from the books in her father’s library. She’s delighted to meet Gray, finding him very different from the pretentious and foppish young men her father usually invites home from the college, and is grateful when he offers to fill in the gaps in her knowledge. The two of them strike up a friendship, and so when astounding revelations are revealed about Sophie’s past, Gray is wrapped up in the whirlwind of events. And here he was, thinking his life was complicated!

From page one, I was drawn in by the gorgeous writing. Admittedly, it can be somewhat difficult to get used to. Clunky and awkward in some places, it’s not exactly what I would call easy on the eyes, with a style and tone suited to the historical era. But it’s extremely effective when it comes to setting the mood, and once you adapt to it, the reading goes much faster and smoother.

The novel’s greatest strength is the characterization. Gray and Sophie take center stage, and the whole book is told through their perspectives, which alternate back and forth – a lot. Again, it can be distracting, at least initially. The author jumps between Sophie and Gray whenever it suits her, so that sometimes you can get a few paragraphs of Gray’s point of view and then abruptly we would switch to Sophie as she picks up the narrative. Regular readers of romance are probably used to this, but it was something else I had to adjust to at the beginning.

After getting the hang of things, it was easier for me to simply sit back and soak in the story. It bears emphasizing again that the characters are just great in this; because the relationship between Gray and Sophie are so integral to the story, it makes sense to establish and build upon them early, and that’s what we get here. Before Gray and Sophie can get to know each other intimately, the reader has to get to know them as individuals, which makes their eventual coming together that much more satisfying. As I mentioned before, theirs is a slow-burn romance (the kind where everyone around them can see what’s going on before the two can even admit it to themselves) so if you’re looking for instant gratification, this is not the book you’re looking for. We’re also not talking fiery passion or red hot love scenes here, keeping things clean and proper with good manners!

The heavy focus on G+S notwithstanding, that’s not to say the other characters were forgotten or underdeveloped. In fact, my favorite character was a supporting character, Joanna Callendar, who probably has more personality in her little finger than her sister Sophie had in her whole body. Sad to say, as much as I liked Sophie, she was an idealized character, a special snowflake that came across just a little too perfect in a lot of ways, and that makes her less interesting than the spunky, lippy and slightly insolent Joanna.

By the same token, plot is probably not this novel’s strong suit. A lost princess, a prophecy foretelling the return of “The One” and the pivotal role they play in the fate of a monarch and the kingdom…it’s a little clichéd, perhaps, but it’s also not a negative if you go in knowing what to expect. This book is obviously more interested in telling Gray and Sophie’s story, it makes its intention loud and clear right from the start, and so a lighter, less original plot is something I could overlook.

Bottom line: The Midnight Queen is a very beautiful, very atmospheric novel about young love, slow-going at times, making it feel like very little happens while the author develops the two characters. You can probably predict the outcome of the story with no effort at all, but the emotional payoff is worth it if you stick around and give the book a chance to let Gray and Sophie to resolve their feelings for each other. Recommended for fantasy lovers who want romance, but who also won’t mind the slower, sweet-and-tender but also more subtle approach.
Profile Image for Cooper.
517 reviews10 followers
August 26, 2014
Disappointed in what sounded like a great story. The plot was all over the place, lacked any kind of conflict, and at times just rambled on and on about nothing. A story so boring I couldn't even finish it. The only magic in this book is when I put it down and walked away. Now if I could only make it disappear.
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,009 followers
February 29, 2016
I can’t remember exactly when or why I picked up The Midnight Queen, but I think I was attracted by the references to the scholarship of magic. After Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, that’s proven to be something I enjoy reading about, particularly in alternate-history settings. This book reminded me of that, and of Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown in the sort of approach to integrating magic and history, while being on the lighter side — more Heyer than Dickens, if you want an idea of tone and style.

The Midnight Queen moves between London, Oxford and Brittany, and delighted my heart in a small, unobtrusive way by referring to the Welsh language as Cymric, and the country as Cymru, rather than Wales. (It’s a small touch, I know, but “wealas” in Saxon meant “foreigner”, so it’s nice to see a book using our word for ourselves as a matter of course.) It does the same with Breton, too, which proved interesting — there’s quite a few references to Breton customs and settings which is a little different in fantasy, I think.

The characters are likeable enough: the awkward Gray, and the lovely but trapped Sophia; lively Joanna, and Gray’s kind sister… they all work well as a cast you can root for, or in the case of the antagonists, hate. The magic is interesting, featuring various different types of magic — including Sophia’s own magic, wrapped in the power of song, like a Siren. It requires exploration on both Gray and Sophia’s part, though Gray starts off with a good grounding in it which allows him to guide Sophia and the reader.

I can see some readers finding it rather slow paced, particularly at the beginning; aside from a quick burst of initial action, there’s a longish section where not much seems to happen except Gray and Sophia talking to each other. I quite liked it anyway: it builds the relationship, which you do need for the later chapters to really work. The romance is sweet, without too many stupid setbacks due to lack of communication. Hurrah!

This is listed on Goodreads as a series, and I’ll be interested to see where it goes next — whether it follows the same characters, or perhaps takes a little detour into Joanna’s doings, or perhaps into the past with Laora. Personally, I’m up for it!

Originally posted here.
Profile Image for Katie Montgomery.
294 reviews192 followers
July 25, 2015
Part the First: In Which Katie Lists Things She Enjoys In A Novel, As Correlated With "The Midnight Queen":

_XXX_ Period-appropriate prose*** (seriously, if you enjoy Susanna Clarke, get on this shizz pronts)

___ Talking cats

_X_ Strong, sassy heroines who have no trouble kicking it with the boys

_X_ Believable, likable characters

___ Pandas

___ Swashbuckling

_X__ Magical colleges and/or general graduate-level spell nerdery

___ Dragons

_X_ People wearing awesome hats

_X__ Perfectly executed genre mashups

___ Fairytale flavors that induce minimal eyerolling

___ Spaceships and/or lasers

_X_ Princes/princesses who have their shit together

_X_ Romance that keeps it classy

___ Sword fighting

___ Dimension-jumping

_X__ Character that could be played by Maggie Smith in the BBC dramatization

_X_ Satisfying endings

Part the Second: In Which Katie Rants About Why The Collective Goodreads Rating Is ENTIRELY TOO LOW

I, I just, you guys ... ? What?? Why?? Goodreads, who hurt you and took away your ability to love the endless stream of 100% pure-grade uncut Regency AWESOME that is this novel? This is EVERYTHING I want in a fantasy of manners. I just want to shower it in love and hand out copies on street corners and have babies so that I can read this novel to them and GUYS I DON'T EVEN LIKE BABIES and I, I, I just don't get how anyone could give this novel any less than ALL THE STARS. I mean, first Ash and Bramble and now this?? You are ON NOTICE, Goodreads.
Profile Image for Cecelia.
399 reviews209 followers
August 20, 2014
You know that sense of well-being after you’ve finished a good book, when life is all contentment, and you feel a flush of joy? I read a very ‘Cecelia’ book, and I felt… pleased with everything and everyone. I couldn’t contemplate my next read for days – I had to let the euphoria of a tailor-made story buoy me up for some time afterwards. What was the book that ensorcelled me so completely? Only Sylvia Izzo Hunter’s debut fantasy novel, The Midnight Queen.

Graham Marshall (Gray to friends and family) is a young postgraduate at Merlin College, in Oxford. His vocation is the study of magic, and he hopes to one day teach fellow magician-scholars like himself. All his plans are upset when he discovers a sinister plot against the head of his college after a night escapade gone terribly wrong. When his tutor, Professor Callendar, takes him off to his country estate, Gray wonders if anything will turn right again… but that is before he meets the Professor’s least-loved daughter Sophie. Sophie doesn’t have any magic, but that doesn’t keep her from being intensely interested in it, despite the fact that her mother died in a magical accident. Together, Sophie and Gray may solve several mysteries, and perhaps find something more as well.

A good reading experience is as much luck as it is planning. I knew from the description of The Midnight Queen that I had quite a good change of liking the book – after all, it was languages/scholars/magic/Regency-esque manners and mores… exactly what I ordered up on my wishlist for reading material earlier this year. So, I said I’d read it. I was also lucky in that I read it on a leisurely Sunday afternoon with time enough to get invested (and eventually, lost) in the story, too. This one starts at a modest pace, but it gathers steam as the story unfolds, and I’m not sure I would have treated it with so much patience if I hadn’t picked it up at the right time. Long story short, that’s how I came to be happily engaged in an entertaining book for a lovely Sunday afternoon. And why I am now going to bully you into reading it too (not actual bullying of course… more like, strong recommend-ing!).

After the opening chapters, the narrative switches often between Gray and Sophie’s POVs, though Gray sees more ‘stage time.’ Gray himself is a studious, stubborn young man who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time to start the story. Overall he’s a smart, refreshing change from the ‘alpha male who thinks he knows everything’ sort of hero you sometimes see in fantasy. Sophie, though – Sophie is the winning character, if you can single one out. She’s young (only seventeen – YA crossover potential!), thirsty for knowledge, curious, caring, and has been cloistered away by her father for much of her life. Though they’re both odd in their own ways, they make a good team, and much of their character development is spent learning how to complement each other and then putting that into practice. It’s a mutual appreciation society, though it takes some time for them to realize how much they mean to each other. I did get my allotment of swoon, though, never fear!

But enough about the characters! I would say, though I loved Sophie, that most of the book’s charm lies in its complex setting and plot (once it gets going). Hunter has made up some languages and pulled in other (dead) ones, re-drawn national lines, and in all created an alternate world where everything seems familiar, but has been tweaked just enough to create a truly fantastical background. I want to go to Merlin and study it all myself! That said, there are also: secretive compatriots, plots upon plots, disguises and traveling incognito, true love, and parallels to Jane Austen’s novels. I also adored the sisterly (and sibling) relationships and friendships throughout the book. We all know in real life nothing gets done without a network of friends to help you out, but it’s rare to see the fictional equivalent in sci-fi and fantasy. I really loved that aspect, and I think it will only make the following books better (there must be more!).

Before I run away with this review and tell you everything, I must mention the book’s cons. The only serious one is that the book started slowly. It takes a bit of dedication to stick with the narrative when you have sunburned gardening going on for pages and pages. That said, once it does get going, it’s gold. My other (minor) complaints all have to do with wanting more detail, more backstory, and more of the side characters. But that’s the beauty of creating such a rich world – I’m sure Hunter will come back and fill in bits I didn’t even know I needed. And I didn’t feel as if I was missing anything on that score, merely that I am now curious about everyone and everything.

In all: this was MY sort of book, and I really can’t praise it enough. I’ve already gone back and read the delicious bits again, and I can’t wait to buy a finished copy for my shelf. *happy sigh*

Recommended for: those who like books with magical adventure, romance and intrigue, fans of alternate world historical fantasy, and readers who liked Kate Elliott’s Spiritwalker series and Patricia C. Wrede’s Mairelon books.
Profile Image for Melliane.
2,023 reviews340 followers
September 29, 2015
Mon avis en Français

My English review

The idea of ​​the book was really intriguing and I am rarely disappointed by the novels of this editor so when I saw the reissue of the series, I took my chance and asked for it. This is also why, moreover, I had high expectations before even starting it.

I was immediately curious about the story, a mixture of fantasy and history that we don’t find a lot in literature. We especially follow two main characters: Gray and Sophie. Gray is a young man who, after a terrible event, ends up working as a pupil for a famous teacher, this is also where he meets with Sophie. Sophie, she is the daughter of the said professor and despite the state of isolation in which she is, she is determined to learn magic whatever her father has decided. They’ll become friends and will start to understand together what is happening and how they can take action regarding the events of the novel.

It was easy to get into the story at first but I confess that once past the first chapter it started to get a little more difficult to hang to the characters or their stories, and I stayed a little behind everything. Although I think the novel will appeal to many readers, I do not think I actually managed to hang on the whole thing.
Profile Image for Nicki.
164 reviews13 followers
September 21, 2014

I received this ARC from Penguin (first to read) in exchange for an honest review.

As much as I tried, and as much as I wanted to, I could not finish this book. I stopped at around page 100. I usually have to really dislike a book to not finish it, so the fact that I couldn't finish it and had no desire to, says something.

The Plot:
I'm not sure if it picks up after 100 or so pages but from what I read, the plot was slow and uninteresting. Everything is written in a dull way with no suspense or excitement. I have to admit, the premise was interesting and had potential to be very good, but it just fell flat. There was little to no world building or any indication of where the plot was going. All in all, there wasn't enough to keep me captivated and intrigued enough to continue reading, so I didn't.

The Characters:
Again, they all fell flat. None of the characters were particularly likable (to me at least), although they were obviously made out to be. Gray was rather cowardly and timid and Sophie just annoyed me. The love story that was building between Sophie and Gray felt insta-lovey to me, even though I'm pretty sure a lot of time passed (actually I'm not really sure; it was never really stated). They had no chemistry and everything between them seemed forced. The other characters (like the sister) just seemed really irrelevant to me as if just there to contrast with Sophie. Basically, I didn't connect with any of the characters, which is especially important to me. If I don't like or connect with the characters I don't really care if anything happens to them.

The Writing:
I think my main problem was the way that the story was written. There was this monotonous quality to it that just dragged down the story. The Midnight Queen could have been good IF IT HAD A GOOD WRITING STYLE, which is everything to a story. When I read The Night Circus (sorry, tangent), I didn't think the plot was developed well or particularly good but the writing was so beautiful that I had to continue. Nothing was really explained or elaborated on in the book; it was as if the writer was just haphazardly recounting the story.

I read a lot of fantasy, and I love it, but obviously only if it's done well. The Midnight Queen, unfortunately, although had promise, was tedious and flat, which is why I couldn't finish it.
Profile Image for Samantha.
1,679 reviews83 followers
September 24, 2014
Before I start laying into this, I'll say that it wasn't at all a "bad" book. It's charming and enjoyable, but extremely simplistic and lacking in originality. From characters to plot, it has a trite, neat and tidy feel like that of a children's book, which I suppose would be fine if only it were a children's book. So many conveniently fortuitous happenings! Ah, coincidences...the crutch employed to skirt a lack of creativity. I can't quite say it read like fan fiction for the better books of this genre, as Hunter is a far better writer in terms of handling language than that, but the plot was about on that level. Not sorry I read it, but I won't likely seek out more from this author.
Profile Image for Carrie Mansfield .
392 reviews16 followers
October 2, 2014
2.5 stars

Review on my blog: Fantasy Findings

There are light reads, and then there are light-weight reads. Light reads are your beach books. They are the kind of breezy books that, by their nature, aren't really meant to hold any deeper meaning. They're just meant to be fun and entertain you.

Then there are light-weight reads. Books that are meant to be more, but somehow don't quite get there. I feel like The Midnight Queen is one of those books. It is meant to be a blending of magic and spycraft. There is magic and there is some spycraft, but they just don't seem to amount to much, even though one gets the sense it was meant to add up to more.

This book takes place in kind of an alternate-history England, where magic has flourished. Izzo Hunter didn't take much advantage of this though, and there's no sense that things have changed much beyond the monarchs in power. Heck, we even still have a Henry the VIII, only now renamed Henry the Great. It's the kind of reinventing that makes you wonder why the author bothered with the rebranding in the first place, though I suppose one could argue it's because the Old Gods are still in favor, but eh. As for the magic, it's a fairly typical system based on Latin spells and chants out of a book. You've seen it before. Ultimately, some thought did go into this world and its magic, but it's still forgettable.

What about the espionage then? This is a book about Gray stumbling upon a plot against the King. Well...he stumbled upon it. And the other evidence. And that's kind of it. There's some work done with translating codices, but it's the kind of plot that was entirely too dependent on luck and timing to fully believe. The evidence they gather is also kind of skimpy at best. You have no doubt that our protagonists believe themselves, but it'd be hard to convict based on what they provided. Fortunately for Gray and Sophie, there are plot-convenient priests of Apollo whose abilities to pull truths form prisoners also happens to serve as a convenient plot device that explains the scheme in full. Were it not for their existence, I feel like this novel might have ended very differently, with our heroes in jail for treason at best.

There is a plot twist regarding Sophie, but it's kind of there. And convenient for our story.

As for Gray and Sophie, they were both likable and they made a cute couple, but that's not really enough. Maybe if the romance aspect had been amped up then you could call this a romance and the other sins could be forgiven, but this isn't being marketed as a romance, and given the couple don't get together til the last quarter of the novel you can't sell it as such.

I didn't mind the time I spent reading this, but I have to say, the second you start thinking about it, the second it begins to leave you feeling a bit underwhelmed.

It's a competent book and I think there are those who will definitely enjoy it, but as far as fantasy goes, there's just so much good stuff out there right now that it makes it difficult to recommend this.
Profile Image for Cee.
974 reviews221 followers
October 12, 2014
In an age of instant gratification, a scrambling rush for "fast-paced" and "nail-biting" reads, The Midnight Queen is a breath of fresh air, recalling books as they used to be - stories to be savoured.

Grey is asked by his fellow Merlin college students on a strange mission. It goes out of hand, leading to the death of one of his friends, and Grey tumbles head first into a conspiracy that is much bigger than he could ever imagine.

The Midnight Queen is a story that follows characters rather than a plot. It reminded me of a sort of mash-up between Jane Austen and Harry Potter - on one hand we have the sweet unfurling of a romance, and on the other we have a magic college set in some sort of alternate history. The writing has put off a lot of readers, but I thought it quite beautiful. The story isn't to be rushed, and neither are the sentences themselves.
Beautiful, Callender Hall's gardens might be, but after only half a day he had already conceived a passionate hatred of them, and of flowering shrubs in particular. What was he doing in this distant corner of the kingdom, so far from all he knew? Why condemned to this sweaty, thirsty, apparently pointless labout?

Also reminiscent of archaic books, The Midnight Queen uses the descriptive type of chapter titles, like Chapter II: In Which a Prediction of Sophie's Comes True, and Sophie and Gray Discuss Magick. The chapter titles were very well done, raising just the smallest amount of suspicion of what is about to come, without spoiling any of the fun. You can safely read through all of the chapter names before starting the novel.

The Midnight Queen is the sort of book I love, but don't nearly read enough. It provides a world that can enfold you like a warm blanket. For a debut novel I found this to be very impressive - even accomplished novelists don't always manage to build a world from scratch, inhabited by genuine characters, with specific mannerisms and constructed through and through, a world that feels like it lives on even when you close the book. Although there might be more books set in the same world, The Midnight Queen stands on its own exceptionally well.

If you enjoy the writing style in classics, The Midnight Queen might be for you. Its world is a mix of historical, feint magical, and mythological elements, and instead of writing historical through a 21st-century lens, the language fits the time period. The Midnight Queen is a long journey through mistaken identities, conspiracies, and finding the limitations of magic capabilities, and a journey that was highly satisfying in the end.
Profile Image for Becca (Horners_book_corner).
177 reviews33 followers
June 23, 2019
This book had a great premise, I liked the plot and the twists, but found the language difficult to read and the pacing slow. I will read the next two because I want to see where the story goes.
Profile Image for Danya.
486 reviews22 followers
February 10, 2017
Sylvia Izzo Hunter’s debut novel THE MIDNIGHT QUEEN is a clever and sophisticated historical fantasy with charming characters and a delightful alternate Regency setting. I would classify this as a fantasy of manners book, a fantasy novel that mimics the structure and tropes of a classic comedy of manners. Struggling with a hierarchical social structure, battling one’s enemies with wit and intrigue, and chaste romance are all hallmarks of the sub-genre.

Graham ‘Gray’ Marshall is such a wonderful hero, particularly for the setting. He’s intelligent, he’s kind, he’s respectful, and he’s not deluded into thinking that women are less capable than men. In a historical setting like alternate Regency England, a man who’s not a misogynist is a bit of a shock, albeit a pleasant one. Personally I find it difficult to root for asshole heroes, but maybe I’m crazy! Anyway. Gray is an unusual romantic hero: shy and withdrawn, he struggles to articulate anything emotional when he’s in Sophie’s presence. But thankfully he can discuss magick with her, and the two of them build their friendship (and more) on a foundation of…well, magickal geekiness. It’s awesome.

While the world building in THE MIDNIGHT QUEEN isn’t particularly elaborate, Sylvia Izzo Hunter includes enough detail to keep the world of Merlin College and its magickal students fresh and original. I especially appreciated the inclusion of a symptom of spell casting called ‘magick shock,’ a horrible and debilitating exhaustion that comes of expending too much power in a short time. In my mind, any well thought out magical system or supernatural abilities should have at least one major drawback lest the characters become so powerful that it verges on the ridiculous.

One of the things that I like best about THE MIDNIGHT QUEEN is its feminist message and commitment to female empowerment. Yes, this novel is set in an alternate Regency England, a time when women – even those of high rank – had few options. And yes, Sylvia Izzo Hunter does take pains to convey that Sophie and Joanna are forced to act contrary to their desires because of male oppression (i.e. their father, Professor Callendar). But Hunter also incorporates moments of defiance, autonomy, and sheer gutsiness from Sophie and Joanna that really impressed me. And their “girl power” moments are supported by Gray ever step of the way!

Sophie desperately desires magickal knowledge and her heart’s desire is to become a scholar, but under the current rulership women in England cannot attend university and women are considered unfit for academia. Rather than take this lying down, Sophie skulks around after hours to scour famous magickal treatises so that she may learn more. Similarly, Sophie’s younger sister Joanna subverts expectations of female behaviour with her thirst for adventure and her refusal to kowtow to any authority figure. At one point her guardian calls her the most disobedient girl in the Kingdom, and she’s not far off! I have a soft spot for Joanna, in case you can’t tell.

Aside from the charming characters and the intriguing feminist elements, there’s also an intriguing plot in THE MIDNIGHT QUEEN. When Gray arrives at the estate where Sophie and Joanna live with their father, it quickly becomes clear to him that something strange and sinister is afoot. Professor Callendar is entirely too interested in what Gray may or may not have seen during the chaotic events at Merlin College; the Professor’s increasingly suspicious and erratic behaviour concerns Gray, Sophie, and Joanna alike. If they and their friends are to make it out in one piece, they’ll need to keep their wits – and their magickal talents – about them.

Court intrigue and magickal politics play an integral role in THE MIDNIGHT QUEEN, contributing to the world building and the suspense surrounding Sophie, Gray, and Joanna’s adventure. Although there’s tension and action throughout the novel, I wouldn’t call it fast paced by any stretch. Those seeking high-octane thrills should probably look elsewhere. But if you’ve ever wondered what a Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer novel would have looked like with magic, then THE MIDNIGHT QUEEN is the book for you!

Profile Image for Siobhan.
4,491 reviews469 followers
December 27, 2017
The Midnight Queen is the first book in Sylvia Izzo Hunter’s Noctis Magicae series. In truth, it is more of a three-point-five star read; whilst I debated rounding up, in the end I decided to round down. There were some four-star moments, but there were more three-star moments, hence why I rounded down.

The Midnight Queen grabbed my attention by the intriguing concept: historical fiction mixed with magic is a sure way to grab my attention. However, the book was not as mind blowing as I had hoped it would be. It was fun, yes, but I had expected something more from this one.

The story was interesting from the start, but it took a long time before I was lost in the events. I was intrigued by what was happening, but I wasn’t sucked into the action. This was mainly due to the length of time it took before the events really started to move – there was a lot going on, but a lot of it was a means of giving us information. As there were so many elements to the story, it took was lot to get the head around – information came together, but it takes a decent amount of the book before you’re able to put everything together well.

With there being so many different elements, it was great to see how they all came together. We were introduced to so much throughout this one, and whilst there were times when I thought the story to be a bit slow, it was satisfying to see how things went together. Moreover, I feel as though there is quite a bit of potential for the future events in Lady of Magick and A Season of Spells. I may not be overly excited to pick up the next two books, but a part of me is intrigued by what could come next.

Overall, an interesting read even if it wasn’t all it could have been.
Profile Image for Anya.
763 reviews168 followers
September 28, 2014
3.5 stars. I was in the perfect mood for the writing of The Midnight Queen but it definitely isn't fast-paced or action-packed. The writing is at times elegant and fun but other times clunky and difficult to follow. I don't read straight historical fiction but get the impression that the writing fits that genre better with fantasy elements thrown in. The characters were fine, the romance cute and blissfully drama free.
Profile Image for Kristen.
324 reviews261 followers
March 30, 2016
I enjoyed Syvlia Izzo Hunter's debut immensely. The characters aren't terribly complex and are clearly "good" or "evil" and sometimes the path it follows is a bit predictable, but I found it to be incredibly charming and engaging nonetheless. It has a likable cast, family secrets, hidden identities, a conspiracy, and a rather drama-free romance.

Full Review: http://www.fantasybookcafe.com/2016/0...
Profile Image for Kitty G Books.
1,551 reviews2,937 followers
July 21, 2022
I just finished this one and I picked it up on a whim off of my shelf in an attempt to read what I have. I definitely enjoyed going for a more regency style of read as I don’t typically reach for these over other books, and it had charm and subtle grace to it which I liked. It’s reminiscent of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell but this focuses a lot more on ladies in magic and all the things I felt were lacking from JSAMN.

Here we follow a young magic student who, right at the start of the story, ends up in disgrace. He’s drawn into a plot unwittingly and ends up sent off to his Professor’s home to hide his time and see if he can return. Whilst there he meets the family of the Professor and it seems there’s hidden magic around the place too. Between the charming ladies of the house, the nefarious plot he was caught up in, and the mystery of the magic he can feel around him, Gray is thrown into a world of adventure and we follow along for the ride with him and Sophie.

I liked the romance here as I felt it grew more slowly and naturally than some. I also liked the relationships that were strongly formed between siblings Gray and Jenny and Joanna and Sophie. This made the story feel more authentic and believable and I liked seeing them bicker and support one another.

Overall the magic of this one was more about funny things happening and spell casting, but not much explanation behind the magic and where it’s from. I would have liked to know a bit more about that.

Profile Image for Bea .
1,981 reviews137 followers
September 19, 2014
As I read the first few pages, I thought it had a Harry Potter feel to it - magic school, check; boy more or less ignored by living family, check; names that border on the absurd, check. It's full of tropes and cliches. It has an Austen feel to it, which didn't really work for me nor did the fake-European setting. Use the real world and tweak it or create a brand new world but this was a mish-mash and the non-magical world building was often confusing. It's mish-mash of poorly done alternate history, fantasy, romance, political thriller, and young adult.

It is an interesting world, despite it's flaws, and an interesting magic system that has potential but the writing style didn't really work for me. It was a pseudo-historical way of speaking and style of writing and I mainly found it irritating. Our hero and heroine both belonged to standard tropes concerning family and abilities; they were also the best developed of the characters. The secondary characters were interesting but could have been fleshed out more. Parts of the story were predictable and it has loose ends which will be presumably be dealt with in the next book or following books.

I'll keep my eyes out for the next book in the series, but I won't be rushing to get it.
Profile Image for Daisy Paquet.
Author 1 book20 followers
July 27, 2017
Okay, here's the review, finally.

I like, never give a book anything less than three stars. This book, however, was an adventure.

And I don't mean in the good way.

It started out really well- a strong, sassy female MC who loved books and a nerdy cinnamon roll male MC who ALSO LOVED BOOKs. my kind of people. They were cool, and the world-building was superb. The magic system seemed almost believable, actually.

Then it got slow and boring. I didn't really care about the characters, I guess. They had quit being likeable, and I was like 'why should i care about this quest you're on, man?' :/ It kind of started to feel like a soap opera, which knocked off a star.

Then they had to go and insert a random sex scene because "it's not a YA fantasy book if there isn't sex" apparently. LOOK AT HARRY POTTER, MAN. IT'S CLEAN. IT'S CLEAN. It wasn't graphic but it was enough to knock off YET ANOTHER star. I mean the scene was random and out of place, even. it had NO build-up to it, and it added NOTHING to the plot.

Then, of course, it had to go and be like a cheesy inspirational romance movie and our strong and sassy female mc and nerdy adorable male mc had to go and change personalities- Sophia was all sad and crying and Gray was all strong and stoic like WHaT oN EaRtH GoOd sIr? So there went another star.

So, I didn't finish it.

I dunno, guys. Someone else might've liked it. Right now I'm just really disappointed.
1,979 reviews47 followers
December 3, 2018
This is a fun book that reads as a standalone - Gray is sent to live under his professor, Appius Callender, where he meets the professor's daughter.

While there is romance - and I was cautious of this, going in - the romance is slowgoing, and the plot shines. The circumstances under which Gray is sent to Callender are mysterious, and I enjoyed Gray slowly discovering the heart of the plot.

The worldbuilding is also interesting: there is magic, there are gods (who wield their own magic), and there appear to be the old gods. This is a mingled culture; one that we glimpse in part, and set in a Victorian-esque society (with the attendant norms).

This is the first book as part of a series; looking forward to the remainder.

3.5 / 5
Profile Image for Jordan (Forever Lost in Literature).
818 reviews104 followers
July 6, 2017
I've had my eye on this book for a while, so I was thrilled when I finally had the chance to read it. I particularly loved the fantasy historical fiction aspect, and I felt that Hunter established this setting extremely well. The prose is truly lovely, and though I can see how it could be considered a bit slow to some, I found it to be quite enjoyable to read. To me, this book seemed to have stronger characterization and a focus on the character relations than it did on the plot, and that didn't bother too much! This is certainly a series that I can see myself continuing. It wasn't anything groundbreaking, but it was definitely an enjoyable read.
Profile Image for Lucia.
66 reviews21 followers
March 18, 2021
2.5 stars, because the ending wasn't as terrible as the first 85% of the book. This is a bit of a weird one to rate, because it wasn't offensively bad. It just wasn't good. The plot moved along in a rather smooth, often convenient way, there was nothing special about the main characters, and the number of YA clichés randomly thrown in there made it quite difficult for me to take any of it seriously. But it did have a number of strong female characters, which I appreciated, and it made a pretty good attempt at world building. I can't help but feel that this could have been a lot better.
Profile Image for Denise.
6,464 reviews105 followers
August 31, 2021
Not terrible, I was just dreadfully bored throughout the entire book which sounded vastly more interesting and exciting than it turned out to be. Couldn't connect with the characters, the pace was glacial at times, the overly flowery dialogue got on my nerves... you get where I'm going with this. The whole thing just didn't work for me.
Profile Image for Jen Davis.
Author 7 books700 followers
September 17, 2014
I knew when I read the blurb for this book that it might be a little off the beaten path for me, but something about it piqued my interest and I decided to give it a go. It was actually a bit more off the beaten path than I expected. It wasn’t weird or anything, but it had a much younger feel than I anticipated. It’s also very English. And while I do enjoy a good regency romance, this was more of a YA British-magic-adventure thing.

Wow. That sounded elegant.

The story follows our 20-ish hero Gray Marshall, a student of magic who was wrongly blamed for the death of one his peers. Shortly after, he becomes a guest/ prisoner of one of his instructors at the man’s home for the course of the summer. Gray thinks he must follow Professor Callendar’s orders if he is to clear his name, but more than that, he has reason to believe something nefarious is going on with the Professor that means to do harm to others.

At Callendar’s home, Gray befriends two of the man’s three daughters. He becomes closest to Sophie, the middle child, who is about 17 and wishes to become a scholar of magic. Not only do she and Gray become friends, they find a kinship in their love of learning and magic. Together, they slowly unfold her father’s plan and later embark on a journey to stop his deadly intentions from becoming a reality.

It wasn’t for me. I found it terribly slow, especially in the beginning. The emotions felt shallow and I struggled to care about the characters. It all felt kind of whitewashed. The villains were cookie-cutter and the big reveal of their schemes at the end felt laid out like the end of a Scooby Doo mystery. The romance was… not a romance. These two people go from friends to in love with the snap of the fingers, once the other character notice they might like each other. Only I have no idea how they saw it, because I sure didn’t and I was reading in their POVs. No hints of a physical attraction or even a desire to kiss and then *WHAM* LOVE.

Maybe I am the odd man out. Apparently this sold to Ace after a three week auction and that’s part of the buzz –and the publicist told me it was one of her personal favorite titles of the year. It just wasn’t my cuppa tea. Maybe this young magical alternative-history adventure is just better suited for someone else.

Rating: C/C-

*ARC Provided by Ace
Profile Image for Jamie Dacyczyn.
1,613 reviews89 followers
September 16, 2015
This is a tough book to rate. Unfortunately, I read it during a busy time so I was unable to read more than a chapter or two per night. It felt more like a book that required longer sittings to really immerse yourself in the story.
The concept wasn't ground breaking: a young man (Gray) at a school for magic discovers a murderous plot, meets a charming and independent young women (Sophie) who turns out to have very strong magical talents, and they team up along with some side characters to stop the murderous plot. This takes place in what I think is Victorian-ish England, though in a different world or alternate history where Greek/Roman gods are still worshiped.

The writing was sort of old fashioned feeling, which made for both a more whimsical feel as well as a slower plot...which might have also been why I struggled to really envelop myself in the story.

I also couldn't shake the feeling that the whole book felt familiar for some reason. The relationship between Gray and Sophie, the magical Victorianish setting.....It just felt familiar. "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell"? "The Night Circus"? "Howl's Moving Castle"? I just felt like I'd bumped into these characters in a past book somewhere, but I can't think of what it is.

So, overall....not a BAD book, but one that I worry will not leave a lasting impression. I may reread it at a later date when I have more time, to see if I can sink into it better.
Profile Image for Stina.
Author 5 books66 followers
January 22, 2016
Book #49 for 2015
PopSugar Challenge Criterion Met: A book based entirely on its cover.

Yes, I was totally sold by the title and the owl on the cover. I was born at midnight and I have a thing for owls. So the fact that this book's protagonist shape-shifts into a bad-ass grey owl goes a long way to explaining why I enjoyed it so much, when I probably wouldn't have otherwise. The story itself is not groundbreaking in any way, or clever at all, really, and the plot is peculiarly straightforward. The characters decide to do something, so they do it. Then they decide to do another thing, and then they do that. And it continues in this fashion for several hundred pages. They might encounter an obstacle now and then, but they correctly identify it right away, decide what to do, then...do it. They are also astonishingly good at distinguishing friend from foe and heading off trouble before it happens. Which is good for our plucky band, I suppose, just not so great for telling a suspenseful story.

I can recommend this only with a lot of reservations. If all you really want is a nice story with some fantasy trappings and a guy who can turn himself into an owl, and you aren't in a mood to be critical, this is probably just the thing. Otherwise, you might want to give it a miss. Me? I'll probably read the next one at least. Because owl.
Profile Image for Mimi Zane.
293 reviews
August 31, 2014
DNF at page 78. The print was too small and I couldnt get used to the writing.

*I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

The August 2014 batch of First-to-Read books from Penguin was the best selection so far. I won my first book from the raffle but this is my second win overall. I was really happy to win a copy of this but I could not finish it and it had nothing to do with the content of the book. I DNF at page 78.

My biggest complaint with this ARC was that the writing was extremely small and very hard to see. I needed the print to be bigger and I hope it is when it is released September 2nd. The writing is Medieval English which made it hard to grasp and understand what was going on. When this book is released I will give this another try. I would love to listen to this as an audiobook.

From what I read, The main character Gray has been accepted into Merlin College due to his knowledge of magick. After a prank, he lands himself working his professor's garden for the summer. There he meets a girl named Sophie. I didnt get very far so Im not exactly sure what happens next. I am definitely interested in finishing the book but I'm going to wait until there's an audiobook version.
Profile Image for Margaret.
35 reviews1 follower
August 30, 2014
This book had a lot going for it. Interesting premise. Perhaps a unique world. However, for me everything fell flat. The world is not described in enough detail to really picture. It's also unclear what kind of culture and society the characters live in. I liked the characters, but wanted them fleshed out. Much of the book simply didn't flow, and there wasn't enough detail of events, places, or characters to be a satisfactory read. I had the uncorrected proof, so perhaps edited would be better? I didn't hate it, but it wasn't really compelling.
Profile Image for Allison.
489 reviews186 followers
August 15, 2016
I would have read this so much sooner had I known it was alternate-Regency era! I assumed it was going to be like Discovery of Witches T____T (It's much better!)

Slow-burn romance and really nifty alternate history world-building with Britain still worshiping Roman, Breton, and Celtic gods.

Already have book 2 on order!
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