SPOILER ALERT!
The Midnight Witch - Paula Brackston

[I received an ARC through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. This not being a published copy, a few things may change in the final version of the novel.]

 

I had a bit of a hard time getting into the story at first, as the style felt a little too convoluted at times, and the whole present tense + 1st/3rd person POV shifts weren’t needed in my opinion.

 

Contrary to what usually happens with such stories, I ended up liking the romance part better than the witches one. It wasn’t particularly original—a young woman from a very conservative background, betrothed to a young man from an equally conventional background, falls in love with a a starving artist, and finds herself torn between what society dictates and what her heart truly wants. Though there’s chemistry between Lilith and Bram from the beginning, I thought their relationship progressed in a believable way, and that their fears and questioning about said relationship were understandable, considering the place and time period. Again, it wasn’t very original in itself, no surprises here, but it still worked, unlike too many romance plots I’ve seen in the past couple of years. Also, bubbly Charlotte wasn’t an important character, but I liked her way of being. Same with Gudrun; blunt, haughty, yet to-the-point Gudrun.

 

The witches-related plot, on the other hand, made me roll my eyes several times, because I couldn’t believe how the ninnies had managed to actually survive for so long. Here we have an ancient coven full of necromancers (nice ones, who only speak to the dead and don’t try to raise them every Saturday evening), but they didn’t do much, and didn’t seem very organised. That part (i.e. half the novel) seemed to rest on inconsistencies and deus ex machina, and it didn’t work for me at all. A few examples:


* When it’s time for Lilith to officially become Head Witch,

someone in the coven challenges her to prove her worth. The challenge, as per the coven’s rules, is to summon then send back a demon, something that is considered as very hard and dangerous, and ended in the death of more than one witch in the past when the demon went on a rampage.

(show spoiler)

For starters, why was this even a trial? Shouldn’t a coven leader realise that stooping down to this isn’t a very wise solution? Why was this rule still in effect, and not replaced by something difficult, but that may not end up with people dying?

* The challenger was a spy from the Sentinels, a group of enemy sorcerers. Everyone was wearing masks, and he had disguised his voice, so they didn’t know who it was. The senior witches decide to investigate and see who joined their coven in the past years, to try and find the spy. Then… Nothing.

(show spoiler)

* At some point, Lilith learns the name of her enemy. At least another member of the coven knows, too, because said enemy tries blackmail on that person. Were the other witches ever informed? If no, why? If yes, why didn’t they do anything?
* Very early in the story, Lilith finds herself haunted by a spirit. Why didn’t the coven band to destroy it? Lilith only enlisted the help of ONE witch. As if that would work.
* A first hard strike against Lilith. Someone dies. Then the war happens, and the enemy… does nothing to press his luck and gain some more ground.
* The Elixir, the one that can resurrect people and that the Sentinels so badly want, is on the verge of being stolen.

It’s World War I: suddenly a bomb falls on the house. The thief and his acolytes die.

(show spoiler)

Convenient.
* Lilith must keep the coven a secret from non-witches. But she reveals things easily enough to her lover. No wonder some deemed her unsuitable to be Head Witch.
There were other inconsistencies, and making a very detailed list would be tedious, so I’m going to stop here.

 

In general, I found the “nice witches” way too bland and passive. They had that whole coven, that power, they knew who their enemy was, they could’ve struck him, could’ve done, well, anything but they didn’t. They just seemed to wait in the background, wait for something to happen, not making moves of their own. I couldn’t understand why. (The matter of fragile balance or whatever else might have justified non-interference wasn’t raised, so I assumed it wasn’t an issue.)

 

I wish I had liked this novel more, but alas, it didn’t happen.