Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Freda Warrington - Midsummer Night (Book Review)


Reasons for reading: I got a review copy from the publisher (Tor)

Gil wants to escape from the world, so she books a cottage on an estate belonging to Lady Juliana Flagg, a famous sculptor. Much to Gil's dismay, Lady Flagg's annual art school is taking place on the same estate, meaning Gil won't be as far from other people as she wanted to be. Despite her best efforts to stay away from other people, she stumbles onto a path into Otherworld, the realm of faeries, and forms a new friendship. And while friendship is going swimmingly, the Otherworld only brings trouble – first of them being a young boy who seeks shelter in Gil's cottage.
(This is what Midsummer Nights is actually about. I don't know who wrote the original summary, but it is full of weird mistakes.)

Midsummer Night is a second part of the Aetherial Tales series (first part being Elfland), but even though I didn't read Elfland, I didn't feel like I've missed anything – Midsummer Night can easily be read as a standalone novel. It's been a long time since I've read an urban fantasy book that dealt with the fairy world, and even those I've read last were all YA books, so I was happy to see one written for adults. Luckily, Midsummer Night didn't disappoint.

One of the first things I've noticed was that the troubled protagonist was very well written. Gill, suffering from PSD, is a perfect example of the 'show, not tell' principle - staying in character throughout the first few chapters, being paranoid and filled with irrational guilt, feeling asocial and broken. Her thoughts are full of pessimism, she doesn't know how to act with other people and everything she sees reminds her of the event that caused it all:

“What was it like, to be part of such a clique? Dangerous, maybe. You could find yourself suddenly rejected by the pack, alone and broken.”

Later on, though, Gill gets over her fears and negative feelings; she becomes much more normal and likeable, but also less interesting as a character. The plot of Midsummer Night is pretty generic, but since the book is well-written, I didn't mind it that much. It seemed to me that Warrington was not really trying to give us anything new or unique, but rather trying to write a decent genre book. I was also happy to see that she was aware that the whole 'I accidentally wandered into Otherworld' thing has been around for ages and therefore didn't overdo it – instead of dwelling on Gill's disbelief for a chapter or two, Warrington moves on with the story instead.

Sadly, after the first few chapters, the plot deteriorates a bit – it becomes a very typical urban fantasy plot, with protagonists moving to and fro between Earth and Otherworld and some romance tossed in for good measure. This could become boring very quickly, especially as the Otherworld parts were one of the least interesting in the book, but luckily, the parallel plotline saves the day – dealing with Lady Juliana Flagg's history, it was much more entertaining; I would actually be perfectly happy even if the Otherworld parts (or most of them) had not even been in the book.

While Midsummer Night was not one of my favourite books of 2010, it certainly was one of the best urban fantasy books I've read lately. Warrington obviously knows how to write and if the plot is a bit generic, the very lifelike characters and the family secrets more than make up for it. All in all – enjoyable.


They say it's better late than never: merry Christmas, everyone!



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