Title: Midnight City (Conquered Earth, #1)
Author: J. Barton Mitchell
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
Release Date: October 30th, 2012
Young Adult Fiction these days is split very neatly into multiple genres, multiple “types” and multiple shelves. Yet, every so often a book will come along that doesn’t have one genre, one “type”, or one shelf it belongs to. If anything, it belongs to all genres, all “types” and all shelves. In my opinion, Midnight City is one such novel. While it is primarily a dystopian, it contains its fair bit of supernatural elements, action, survival, and romance. Yet, it would also equally appeal to all ages and genders and is one of the most unique tales to have been written in the past few years. In other words, I didn’t think it could go wrong and I am thrilled to report that I was right – it didn’t disappoint.
It has been eight years since an alien race, The Assembly, has landed on Earth and wiped out the entire adult race. Now, children scourge the dead lands, struggling to survive until The Tone, a deadly disease that caused the entire adult generation to become brain-washed and walk into airships of The Assembly, takes them too. Holt is a young bounty hunter running away from the price on his own head and struggling to survive, but he contains rare genes that have enabled him to escape The Tone and live to old age, alone and surrounded by young children. When Holt manages to catch Mira, a freebooter with more than a few tricks up her sleeve, he also unwillingly rescues Zoey, a young girl, from a fallen Assembly airship. But, transporting Mira and Zoey, along with his faithful companion dog Max, is more than Holt bargained for and as he will soon find out, the Assembly is after him. Or rather, after Zoey, an eight-year-old girl who may just have the power to destroy the alien race once and for all.
I’ll admit it -
exceeded even my highest expectations of it. I was sucked into this rich, futuristic, and original world that Mitchell had created and I didn’t want to leave. In fact, one of the main aspects of this novel that truly struck me was how complex and cleverly written the world-building was. It wasn’t all dumped at you in one go, but it also wasn’t withheld for too long. Mitchell gives you just enough information at just the right time and employs the ‘show not tell’ method very effectively in my opinion. This can especially be seen in the portrayal of his characters – he doesn’t tell us that Holt is strong and self-reliant, he shows us through his actions. He doesn’t tell us that Mira is kick-ass and brave, he shows us. Midnight City
While Midnight City was very much a plot driven novel with a heart-pounding pace and something worse happening at every turn when you thought it couldn’t get worse, I admired how it was, in equal parts, a character driven novel. Mitchell tells his story in third person and shifts perspectives, allowing us to see into Holt, Mira, and even Zoey’s mind from time-to-time. I thought this was a purposeful literary technique that worked very effectively in further developing these characters. I really enjoyed how the pasts of Holt, Mira, and Zoey, an important aspect that truly helped shaped them into the fighters they had become today, unfolded slowly and methodically throughout the novel. In fact, by the end of Midnight City I felt as if I truly understood these characters very well, but not too well that I wouldn’t still be wondering about them until the sequel came out. I thought the pacing of this was perfect – not only in terms of the plot, but in terms of the character development as well.
I think one of the areas I was most apprehensive about before delving into this novel was the romance, but, like everything else about this book, I needn’t have been worried. Mitchell develops the relationship between Mira and Holt in a very realistic manner – they both know that they are captor and captive and in the beginning, they are more than a little hostile towards one another. Yet, as The Assembly comes charging down on them and their mission to survive becomes more dire and pressing than their current relationship of captivity, they began to slowly work together to keep Zoey alive and form a mutual respect and admiration for one another that slowly grows into something deeper. Yet, what I love the most about their romance is that they are not in love – there is still so much about each other that they don’t know and even the future of their relationship is very precarious, but they make the best of what they have. Furthermore, Mitchell truly takes the personalities of Holt and Mira into account. Holt, for one, is used to being alone, so for him to suddenly begin to care about not only Mira, but Zoey as well, is a huge leap of faith. I thought Mitchell developed this inner dilemma very well and realistically portrayed Holt’s growth, as well as that of Mira.
Ironically, despite the fact that Zoey is the most important character in this novel due to her special abilities, she has gotten the least amount of discussion time in this review. Yet, there isn’t much I can say about her. Zoey has powers that she doesn’t know about – she can sense other people’s emotions and has strong, intense gut-reactions that never lead her astray. Still, there is so much more to her than just that and the journey to seeing her mature, become brave, and face on her scary abilities head-on is nothing short of miraculous. Zoey is very easy to like and while she may be just a tad bit clichéd and too-good-to-be-true for an eight-year-old girl, I think it remains true to the type of environment she grew up in and her strange powers. Of all the characters, the reader still knows the least about Zoey, but I think I like it that way. I’m curious about her and can’t wait to see how much more she develops in the sequel.
For all my praise of it, Midnight City is, by no means, a perfect novel. I thought the pace of it sped up a bit too much after the half-way mark and as events began to occur at greater and greater speeds, the conversation, witty banter, and heavy details that nicely balanced out the action previously seemed to disappear. Thus, I found a couple dozen pages of the novel to be a little hard to get through. In addition to that, I thought that the intensity of feelings that Holt had for Mira were a little too strong. I suppose that, for a first love/romance, they remain realistic, but I was a tad bit annoyed that we knew the intensity of Holt’s feelings for Mira, but we were kept in the dark about Mira’s true feelings towards Holt. I suppose, in a way, it’s a bit of a cliffhanger ending, and it’s definitely one I can’t wait to find out more about. Furthermore, I found that the quality of the characters seemed to drop once the trio made their way into
. I know this was because the characters mentioned at that point in the novel were trivial, but I wish that the pace could have been slowed down just a tad bit to give them a bit more depth. Midnight City
Nevertheless, these qualms are really only a slight dent in the creative masterpiece that is
. I am an avid Doctor Who fan, so of course, any novel about aliens was sure to go down well with me, but Midnight City proved to be far better than I thought. With rich descriptions, vibrant characters, and a break-neck plot that will leave you flipping the pages frantically, Midnight City is a fantastic and original new addition to the realm of dystopian fiction. It is definitely a novel whose sequel I am already eagerly anticipating and one whose world I am dearly missing. I cannot wait to immerse myself into this rich realm once again and cannot recommend Midnight City enough. It is a novel that has something in it for everyone and simply one that cannot be missed. Midnight City
Thank you to NetGalley and
St. Martin’s Press for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for a honest review.