Published by Penguin: 23rd June 2022
Science meets superstition in this beautiful second novel by Hana Tooke. Author of one of my favourite reads in 2020, The Unadoptables, this is another example of Tooke's exquisite storytelling, set in a similar time period but in a different city and with a completely different plot to her first novel.
Growing up as the youngest member in a large family of scientists, Ema soon realises she is different. Superstitions, omens and a strange fear of shadows seem to follow her wherever she goes and, according to her parents, superstition and science do not mix.
Sent to stay with her uncle in Prague, Ema forms a friendship with an elusive, mysterious girl called Silvie. But their midnight adventures come to an abrupt halt when Silvie goes missing. Now Ema must find the courage to enter the mysterious Midnight Guild and find out what has happened to her.
This is an upper middle grade novel for competent readers and perfect for those who love science, superstition, history or a really good mystery. Ema is an endearing main character, trying to find herself amongst family members who are very sure of themselves, and I found her fear and uncertainty very relatable. In contrast, Silvie is far more worldly, but with knowledge and secrets that also evoke fear. As a supporting cast, Ema's uncle provides some adult reassurance and Ferkel, an injection of humour.
The world-building is richly imagined. The city of Prague, which we mostly see at night, has a dark, gothic feel and the whole tone of the novel is as mysterious and secretive as a river shrouded in mist. There are lots of truths for Ema to uncover and, from the get-go, it is clear that the Midnight Guild is fully imagined by the author, with an in-depth backstory and wondrous detail. I really enjoyed the clash of science and superstition and how this plays out throughout, with Ema at the centre. As with The Unadoptables, Tooke writes very much from the perspective of a child who is navigating the dangerous world of adults and, for me, this is what makes her novels stand out.
A big thanks to NetGalley and Penguin for allowing me a review copy. The Midnighters is available to buy now.