Thursday, 8 July 2010
Review: The Secret Hour (Midnighters) by Scott Westerfeld
Strange things happen at midnight in the town of Bixby, Oklahoma. Time freezes. Nobody moves. For one secret hour each night, the town belongs to the dark creatures that haunt the shadows. Only a small group of people know about the secret hour - only they are free to move about the midnight time. These people call themselves Midnighters. Each one has a different power that is strongest at midnight: Seer, Mindcaster, Acrobat, Polymath. For years the Midnighters and the dark creatures have shared the secret hour, uneasily avoiding one another. All that changes when the new girl with an unmistakable midnight aura appears at Bixby High School. Jessica Day is not an outsider like the other Midnighters. She acts perfectly normal in every way. But it soon becomes clear that the dark creatures sense a hidden power in Jessica ...and they're determined to stop her before she can use it.
Written in 3rd person narrative but mainly focalized from Jessica's point of view. She is 15/16 and just moved to a new town due to her mums job. This isn't just any town. Jessica starts having strange dreams as soon as she gets there.
The other Midnighters recognize that she has the aura of a Midnighter before she does. The story actually reminded me a lot of The Power of Five by Anthony Horowitz which also features teenagers with special abilities fighting an ancient evil.
The only way you can become a Midnighter is if you are born at exactly Midnight (The Midnighters), the evil can only exist in a single hour starting at midnight but compressed down to a single moment in real time. Only The Midnighters are able to access this Secret Hour.
The story follows Jess as she comes to terms with being a Midnighter and discovering her special power. All the while being hunted by the Darklings (the ancient evil that used to rule the world). Throw in a budding romance with fellow Midnighter Jonathan, and you have a very compelling story.
For someone like myself that has a phobia of snakes, there are a lot of very detailed descriptions of snakes/slithers *shudders*. So that did actually dampen the story for me as I was trying very hard not to picture them within my imagination. It is certainly the stuff my nightmares are made of.
As to the other Midnighters the only 2 I actually liked were Dess and Jonathan. Dess seemed almost savant with here mathematical abilities. Melissa and Rex were not developed in depth but I have the feeling that they are pivotal to the ongoing plot. Something about their personalities and strange relationship really put me on edge. I have the feeling that there is a lot more to them than has been shown so far. Not all of it good. Hinted at within the narrative is the suspicion that they have their own agenda (especially Melissa) and are manipulating the other Midnighters.
Overall, a compelling story with some awesome superpowers but the amount of snakes really lowered my enjoyment of it. SORRY - as I always say reading is subjective and having a phobia about something certainly affects your enjoyment of a book when it contains lots of the thing you are scared of :( However, I am intrigued to discover the hidden agenda Melissa and Rex have, therefore will suppress my imagination to follow the story ;)