Review: Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne
Release date: July 8th, 2014
Series: Yes, #1 in the Midnight Thief duology
Source: ARC from the publisher
Length: 368 pages
Rating: Like a glass of water at room temperature.
Growing up on Forge’s streets has taught Kyra how to stretch a coin. And when that’s not enough, her uncanny ability to scale walls and bypass guards helps her take what she needs.
But when the leader of the Assassins Guild offers Kyra a lucrative job, she hesitates. She knows how to get by on her own, and she’s not sure she wants to play by his rules. But he’s persistent—and darkly attractive—and Kyra can’t quite resist his pull.
Tristam of Brancel is a young Palace knight on a mission. After his best friend is brutally murdered by Demon Riders, a clan of vicious warriors who ride bloodthirsty wildcats, Tristam vows to take them down. But as his investigation deepens, he finds his efforts thwarted by a talented thief, one who sneaks past Palace defenses with uncanny ease.
When a fateful raid throws Kyra and Tristam together, the two enemies realize that their best chance at survival—and vengeance—might be to join forces. And as their loyalties are tested to the breaking point, they learn a startling secret about Kyra’s past that threatens to reshape both their lives
This review is a killer one for me to write, and I've been putting it off for a few days. On paper, Midnight Thief is everything I love. Look at that synopsis! It's like Blackburne was pulling idea from a "Things Gillian Loves" hat. Thieves! Asassins! Knights! VICIOUS WARRIORS WHO RIDE BLOODTHIRSTY WILDCATS. SIGN ME UP.
|Sadly not this kind of wildcat but CAN YOU IMAGINE|
And I waited for the magic. The plot was better than serviceably good and the action well-realized. The stage was set. We meet Kyra, our agile thief of the knight, as she's scaling Forge's palace wall, and it's pretty cool. (Even though that's exactly how Poison by Bridget Zinn begins--with a girl named Kyra scaling a wall. So that was weird for me.) We meet Flick, her best friend and fellow ex-gutter rat, and James, dark and mysterious leader of the Assassins Guild. Then we learn about Kyra's awful life growing up in the streets, and we meet the kindly woman who practically took her in, and we meet more street children and learn more about Forge. And I kept waiting for the magic to happen.
Soon, I realized the magic wasn't going to happen.
Again, the ingredients are there. The set-up takes an insanely long time, but somehwere around page 200, I really liked the way the stakes raised and Kyra was forced into several impossible situations. I liked the idea of her being this spunky city girl thief playing off of honorable, law-abiding, noble Sir Tristam. But it's here we discover the flaw in the ointment and the reason I'm not singing the praises of a book I so wanted to adore:
The characters have all the personality and vivacity of soggy lint.
Tristan of Brancel is a void of a character. Vengeance-driven? Um, no, not really. Kyra has her moments, but she's still very blank. All the characters are. The book is not exactly boring, and I'd read good long chunks of it, curious to find out what happened next, but every time I put it down, I was reluctant to pick it back up again. It took me nearly a week to read, because I didn't care. And that killed everything.
For me, reading is all about investment and feels and characters, and if I don't care what happens to the characters, then what is the point? People died, and I shrugged. There was a romantical moment, and I shrugged (and rolled my eyes). There are demon vicious wildcats, but I didn't care. How? How did I not care? I don't know. I wanted to care. I begged the characters to make me care, but they just couldn't manage it, and it was the saddest thing. I hate being bored.
I've seen a lot of glowing reviews for this book, and that makes me happy but also extra sad, because why couldn't I love it? Why didn't Kyra and Tristam feel like real people to me? The only person I felt anything for at all was Flick, Kyra's best friend slash brother type. He was the only person who triggered any sort of emotional response from me at all.
|Even though this guy was all I could think of.|
The amps didn't go all the way to eleven in this book. The characters were at a simmer, the tensions were halfway there for two thirds of the book, and the world-building didn't quite coalesce for me, despite the fact that it's got a ton of cool elements. For example, the names. There's James, Bella, and Jack (which, Twilight flashbacks, thank you). Then there's Kyra, Tristam, Flick, and Willem. And then there's... Bacchus? How does that name fit in there? How'd a Roman god get in here? I don't know. It's little things like that that can drive my crazy brain a bit crazy with high fantasy, but what can you do. You're bugged by what you're bugged (sorry Flik).
I also was not enamored with the writing, which veered a bit towards the stiff and stodgy side. Things I did like: the themes of moral ambiguity, the beast within, struggling with your nature, etc. The relatively fast pace of the plot. Some of the twists, though they were predictable. The idea of the wildcats. The fact that I now have High School Musical stuck in my head.
I thought this book would be everything I wanted, but with its lukewarm characters and zero amount of feels, Midnight Thief was just not a Gillian book, and I'm bummed about it.