What made me want to read The Midnight Hour was the dazzling front cover, especially the green flecks that sparkle in the light. The cover looks so warm and inviting, what lurks inside is most definitely not. Returning to look at the front cover in more closer detail after finishing the book I have noticed that there are some rather disturbing faces lurking in amongst the all the colours. The Midnight Hour is the debut offering by duo Benjamin Read and Laura Trinder and is the first in what will be a series of books. According to their bio on chickenhousebooks.com, “Benjamin is the words, Laura is the art, and they colour in-between each other’s lines on storytelling to make it all work.” And work it does.
London. The year is 1859, or possibly present day. When letters start arriving in the dark of the night at Emily’s family home and provoke hushed and rather frantic conversations between her mum and dad, her curiosity is raised. When her mum and dad set off to investigate the letters and fail to return, having seemingly vanished, and bizarre strangers start appearing at her front door, Emily must rely on her own investigative skills. Equipped with a newly acquired hedgehog named Hoggins, sandwiches and a can of pop she sets out in search of the the only clue she has, the Night Post.
What waits at the Night Post is a version of London where time appears to have stood still. A London that is stuck in Victorian times, a London full of dark folk and where monsters and magic lurk at every turn. As Emily learns about the Midnight Hour, she must navigate her way around in a world which she doesn’t belong. And as the two worlds become increasingly intertwined she must uncover the truth about her family, stay out of the clutches of a host of monsters and maybe just stop the Nocturne plunging the world into disaster.
This is a bizarre, enchanting and often terrifying read. The action comes thick and fast, much of it down to the feisty and fearless actions of Emily who is unperturbed by all sort of monstrous creatures. And just incase all the action and monsters are too much to bear along comes loveable and hilarious Uncle Pat. Uncle Pat is like a hug; warm and comforting.
Read and Trinder have created a very unique world in one sense but also one that feels oddly familiar, particularly for those readers with knowledge of London as place names and landmarks are referred to throughout. The Midnight Hour is not a read for those who are easily scared. Some of the characters are truly terrifying and are the stuff of your worst nightmares. It is worth dealing with the frights though as they are out-weighed by Emily’s sense of humour and her sarcastic comments to everyone - both day and night folk - no-one is safe from Emily’s gobby mouth and her sarcasm. I loved Emily as a character and she is very relatable - she is fun, loud-mouthed and brave.
In amongst all the monsters, mayhem and madness there are strong messages about first impressions and celebrating differences. Almost everyone in the book is not as they appear (for better or worse). And so the book is a great example of how we should not judge people by their appearance. For the main protagonist Emily, much of the story is about finding out who she really is. As a character, Emily is really relatable to many young readers. She finds her mum embarrassing, she is like a firework (ready to explode at any moment), she is feisty, fearless, sarcastic and a bundle of fun. Even for those readers who can not relate directly to her, they will know someone like her. She is also a great example of a person who shows resilience in the face of adversity and is always willing to solve problems.
The read is pitched at 9+, just make sure your nine year old is not one for nightmares. Care needs to be given before handing this read to any nine-year-old due to its content. Some of the words would also be a challenge for inexperienced readers and it is definitely pitched at those who are confidently reading chapter books independently and have a breadth of language. I should also add that I found parts of the narrative to be a little confusing and at times had to re-read passages just to make sure I was understanding the action correctly.
A read that is full of mystery, magic and plenty of moments to make you jump under the covers one minute and then burst out laughing the next. You may find yourself skipping meal times to read this one and it is always sensible to prepare for such an eventuality, in the words of Emily’s mum, “Never be knowingly under-snacked.”
Recommended for 9+.