A Gathering Midnight (# 2)

Series: Midnight's Twins
Publication Date: 31 Aug. 2021
Format: Paperback / softback

ISBN 9781471410291

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    For Londoner Fern King, Annwn is her second home--the dream mirror of London, the city she loves. An astonishing world, a world where Dreamers walk in their slumber, their dreams playing out all around them. And Fern, along with her twin brother Ollie, is now a Knight, a trusted guardian and protector of those Dreamers--and every night is spent in Annwn, fulfilling that previously only-imagined destiny to guard those who sleep.

    But Annwn, this dark and golden city, is a fragile place. There are those who seek to control and to ruin it--mistrust and secrets are rife, and as the delicate symbiotic balance between Annwn and our own world begins to topple, rips begin to appear between the fabric of the worlds. And Fern and Ollie will have to do all in their power to protect this place that has become so precious to them ...

    Information

    Book Type: Junior High
    Age Group: 14 to 18 years
    Traffic Lights: Amber
    Class Novel: No
    Good Reads Rating: 4/5
    Literary Rating: 4/5

    Review

    Midnight's Twins introduced Londoner twins Fern and Ollie to the dream world of Annwn, an incredible--and dangerous--fantasy world. They discovered that if you die in Annwn, you also die in the real world (or Ithr). Fern and Ollie's mother was killed by a teitre (half-human assassin) in Annwn due to her suspicion of Sebastian Medraut, who plans to take over Annwn and remove all free will. Fern and Ollie are now knights who use their Immral powers to protect of Annwn. Meanwhile, Sebastian is still out there gathering power...

    This second book in the trilogy, expands the worlbuilding and explores Annwn's history, which is heavily influenced by Arthurian legends. In the distant past, King Arthur became consumed with the pursuit of power and used Excalibur to lay waste to Annwn. So many records have been destroyed from that time that it's difficult to find out what happened, but the knights think that the key to taking Medraut down is to find the sword and use its power against him.

    Meanwhile, the tension in Annwn is beginning to bleed over into Ithr. The dreamers who have joined Medraut show their allegiance by dressing in monochrome colours and conforming, joining his One Voice party. Fern, with her scarring and Albino colouring, sticks out even more against this landscape.

    At school, Fern has always faced censure due to her colouring, even getting burned by other students. The bullying continues to follow her. Because she is able to change her appearance in Annwn, she conceals the burn scar on her face. The lines between worlds continue to blur as Fern and Ollie discover a trail of clues to Excalibur left by their mother. Three trials will be required: one of strength, another of faith, and the last of humility.

    Fern is under immense pressure in Annwn. An apothecary called Jin is acting as a therapist for her in theory, but in practice Jin seems to hate Fern for no reason. When the next round of recruits join the knights, among them is Sachi--the younger sister of Ramesh, Fern's friend who died. Sachi wants answers, making Fern's difficulty connecting with and trusting people clearer. She has feelings for Samson, another knight, but he's in a relationship back in Ithr. That's easier to swallow before her brother (Ollie) introduces Fern and her father to his boyfriend Kieran, a member of Shout Louder--a counter-movement against Medraut's One Voice party.

    Meanwhile, the knights are discovering more about Medraut and Excalibur. They begin to realise that the two types of magic are powered by emotion. Immral, the immensely destructive power that Fern, Ollie, and Medraut can wield, is associated with fear while inspyre is associated with creativity and hope. Further, they realise that these powers can be compressed into powerful objects, linking the myth of the sword in the stone ton Pandora's Box--opening or unsheathing these objects releases colossal power. Fern and her friends plan to make a puzzle box imbued with hope to fight the destruction in Annwn.

    The trials are progressing as Fern undergoes tests of strength and faith. She opens up to Sachi and Jin, communicating and building trust. She uses her Immral power to create powerful sensors that should give them a better idea of Medraut's movements. But it's not enough: Brandon, one of Fern's friends, dies. Fern and Ollie talk to Medraut's daughter Lottie and get the key to Excalibur, only to find that they've been playing into his hands all along: he takes Excalibur and plans to open his puzzle box full of Immral. Sachi and Andraste, one of Fern's mentors, die in the struggle. Fern chops off Medraut's hand and takes Excalibur back, but he manages to escape. Channelling all this power leaves her unable to channel either inspyre or immral. They bury the box of inspyre, intending to come back for it someday.

    A pulse-racing story that plunges you into a highly imaginative world. Through the lens of One Voice's rise to power, this book examines the ways that populism can mask fascism and oppression while bystanders look the other way. Through the struggle between inspyre and immral, the characters see the seductive influence of fear and control, and the incredible power of hope, community and creativity.

    Over the course of this book and the previous one, Fern has transformed from someone who shields herself from getting hurt by lashing out at others into a humble, caring, and self-sacrificing person who willingly puts herself on the line to help others. She does her best to be there for her brother, who she has a complicated past with, and builds a relationship with Samson. A wonderful fantasy adventure full of action and intrigue.

    Themes

    fantasy, action, dreams, responsibility, consequences, trust, family, love, secrets, hope, politics, populism

    Content Notes

    1. Language: bitch x 4, bastards x 1, shit x 7. 2. Fantasy violence and battle scenes throughout. Two dreamers die, this is not described (p. 135). Brandon dies on-page (p. 301). Andraste dies on-page (p. 368). Sachi dies on-page (p. 380). Medraut's arm cut off (p. 384). 3. Ollie and Kieran kiss (p. 349). Samson and Fern kiss (p. 328, 392). 4. Fantasy magic, mind control, and elements from Arthurian legends appear throughout.

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