Friday, 19 November 2010
Review: By Midnight - Mia James
She's had to move from Edinburgh to Highgate, London, with her parents. She's left her friends - and her entire life - behind. She has to start at a new school and, worst of all, now she's stuck in a creepy old dump of a house which doesn't even have proper mobile phone reception.
Ravenwood, her new school, is a prestigious academy for gifted (financially or academically) students. So trying to fit in is more than tough. It's intimidating and isolating, even when she finds a friend in the conspiracy-theorist Caro Jackson - and perhaps finds something more than friendship with the gorgeous, mysterious Gabriel Swift.
But there's more going on at Ravenwood than meets the eye. Practical jokes on new students are normal, but when Gabriel saves her from ... something ... in Highgate Cemetery, and then she discovers that a murder took place just yards from where she had been standing, April has to wonder if something more sinister is going on.
...and whether or not she's going to live through it...
Ravenwood Mysteries Series:
I couldn't find a name for book 2 but it will apparently be released in 2011
Visit the Ravenwood Mysteries website for more information
April isn't happy about being forced to leave Edinburgh behind to move to London with her parents - all because her father lost his job. She is struggling to fit in at her new school and make friends but things get even worse when she almost witnesses a murder. Strange things are happening at Ravenwood but who can she trust to help her solve the mystery?
Being a massive vampire fan I was really looking forward to reading By Midnight, especially as it is set in London which I thought would add something special to the story. Unfortunately I ended up feeling disappointed. I know a lot of people who have loved this story but I'm going to have to go against the trend and say it just wasn't for me. The best thing about the book was the setting, I have to give Mia James (this is actually husband & wife team Tasmina & John Perry working together) credit for the great job they did with the Gothic feel of the novel. I loved the descriptions of Highgate Cemetery and as you're reading it really was like being on location.
Unfortunately the rest of the story just didn't live up to my expectations. When I'm reading a story I need to have a main character I can relate to - or at least like - but I struggled with April. Yes I can understand how hard it must have been for her having to move away from everything that is familiar to her and start again at a new school and I felt sorry for her at first but I quickly got fed up with her woe is me attitude and constant whinging. She was selfish, self obsessed and childish and I didn't find her a very likeable character. The characters I actually liked the most were her friends Fiona and Caro, both of whom I could have happily spent more time reading about.
As for the main love interest Gabriel I didn't get to know enough about him to be interested in him in any way. All you really know is that he's gorgeous and has secrets he can't tell April yet April is madly in love with him within days despite the fact they've never had a proper conversation. I love a good mysterious bad boy but I have to feel like there is some connection between the main characters and for me it just wasn't there between April & Gabriel. Even by the end of the book I really didn't care if they ended up together or not.
I found the story really dragged, it took me ages to finish a book that I would usually have finished within 2 days because I couldn't face picking it up again. I'll admit that I should have just given up but I'm one of those readers who has the "I've started so I'll finish" attitude and I had to know what would happen at the end. The action did pick up but it felt like everything happened in the last few chapters and the rest of the book was too long winded. I understand that with the first book in a series there is a lot of world building to be done but having read a lot of series I know other authors usually manage to do this in a way that doesn't leave the reader wanting to fall asleep.
I don't think it helped that the copy I read had several inconsistencies with days and lengths of time since things happened but the book I read was an ARC so hopefully this has been resolved in the final version. There were mentions of Robert Pattinson and Justin Timberlake that I think will date the story relatively quickly and I felt were just thrown in to appeal to the teen audience. I was also surprised at the passage that had been taken almost word for word from Twilight, I'm not sure how that got through the editing.
Usually I really like it when an author puts a new twist on vampire mythology but on this occasion it just didn't make sense. To become a vampire you have to be bitten by another vampire to get infected with the vampire virus (the virus constantly destroys your bodies cells which forces the body to make new ones which keeps you looking young) however you have to somehow choose to let the virus infect you - not everyone who is bitten is turned. (I wish I could choose not to let viruses effect me and never have to suffer another cold again!). If you want to stop being a vampire you can cure yourself though, all you have to do is kill the vampire that initially infected you & it will neutralise the curse (hang on a minute I thought it was a virus, where does that curse come into it??). Next time someone passes a cold onto me I'll have to remember that if I kill them the virus will somehow magically know that I don't want to be infected anymore! You can also get vampires who are born to 2 vampire parents - I dread to think what they'd have to do to cure themselves (watch out Mum & Dad!). Come on, if you're going to create a mythology at least have one that makes sense.
Another thing that was never really explained was the fact that vampires don't show up in photos or on film (apart from as a blurred image). I would have liked to know the reasoning behind this and thought a handy time to explain would have been when Gabriel made a joke about how silly it would be if vampires didn't show up in mirrors. Not sure why he thought that would be so silly considering what happens if you try to take a picture of one of them!
Although there is an interesting twist at the end of the story and I'm curious about what will happen in the sequel I don't think I can bring myself to carry on reading the series. As witnessed by plenty of other reviews out there I'm sure a lot of people will enjoy the story but personally I'd say with the number of YA vampire books currently on the market there are plenty of better options available.
Source: Received as part of a book tour arranged by UK Book Tours, this book has already been sent on to it's next destination.
Other reviews of this book: