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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"Midnight Guardian: A Millennial Novel" by Sarah Jane Stratford (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

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Sarah Jane Stratford has a master's degree in medieval history from the University of York in England. She has previously written short stories and screenplays most notably "The Tale of the Torturer's Daughter".

Mightnight Guardian is Sarah Jane Stratford's debut novel. It is the first in the Millennial series. It was released on October 13, 2009 by St. Martin's press. The novel stands at 304 pages divided into 22 chapters. Midnight Guardian is told from the third person perspective of the two main protagonists Brigit and Eamon.


As I was reading the book blurb about Midnight Guardian, in which main idea included Nazi Germany and features vampires as the main characters, my inner radar immediately went bonkers, and I knew I had to give this novel a try.

Midnight Guardian is set just before WWII (World War Two), with the first few chapters of the novel covering a wide time line. The prologue starts the novel out at the year of the Berlin Olympics, 1936. The first chapter of the novel then jumps to feature the vampires in the middle of Germany doing some of their many activities. The second time travels back nearly 2 years later, and features a tribunal of vampires set in Britain who are particularly worried about the events that are occurring in the continental Europe. The tribunal has had various reports from their vampire brethren about vampire hunting and a marching Nazi army that is starting to interfere with some of the tribunals plans and needs. The major problem that this tribunal faces is that the last time a major war broke out, World War I referred to as the "Great War" in this novel, the vampires faced famine-like conditions due to the massive amount of casualties. This famine led to an anarchy-like situation within the vampire domain, and the tribunal do not wish to see a repeat of this situation and hope to stop the war before it starts, and leads to major complications.

The story line begins with Brigit as she views Germany and the changes affected due to the Nazis. Brigit is one of a few group of vampires known as the millennials. The millennials are a bunch of vampires who have lived for more than 1000 years and thus have gained a lot of power in that time period. Five of these millennials are selected for a mission to eradicate the Nazi cause and make sure that the mistakes and events that lead up to the "Great War" are not repeated. Brigit often worries about the other members of her group, who are powerful but not as experienced as she is or trained for this particular endeavor. The only one of the 5 that seems to be trained and eager to carry out this mission is a vampire known as Mors. The other three of the group; Cleland, Swefred, and Meaghan are all powerful in their own right but appear to carry on with their own thoughts and actions.

Brigit and the millennials manage to infiltrate the working strata and try to work out the plans of the Nazi upper echelons. At the same time of this action, the story also focuses on Eamon, Brigit's vampire lover who happens to have been left behind due to the fact that he is not a member of the millennials. Eamon often frets about Brigit and her almost impossible task of stopping the Nazis.

As the novel progresses as far as time wise goes, readers are treated to a look at the past as the storyline also includes how Eamon and Brigit both got converted to vampires and the beginning of the love story that the novel seems to focus upon.

Meanwhile the story is also progressing as the millennials realize that their mission might not be as clandestine as they thought. These Nazis do not behave simply as the rest of mankind or what the millennials thought they would. There is also a twist in which Brigit and her group of millennials are forced to take their mission in a different direction.

Midnight Guardian disappointed me for a few couple of reasons.

First the meandering style of the narration was a slight distraction from the actual story line. The story starts out in the year of 1938 and then is moved into the year 1940 but then the the novel jumps back again to present a point and is fast forward back to the "present" day area of the novel. There are also moments of flashback into Brigit's page where readers see how she was converted, the meeting of her and Eamon, and many others. All this toing and froing makes reading and following the time line of events throughout the story a little confusing and makes the reading a bit complicated.

The second area of disappointment was in what I felt was a slight weirdness to the storyline. What I couldn't understand was that there were these five millennial vampires that were supposed to be some of the most powerful creatures of their kind, so why is it that they weren't able to deal with the Nazis in a much more thorough manner? There are explanations provided in the novel as to how the Germans have fortified themselves with Irish vampires hunters and other admirable hunters making them a bit of a stronger enemy then expected. However these millennials are supposed to be the supermen and women of the vampire race and yet they couldn't solve this Nazi problem. The conditions in the story just didn't seem to add up for myself and it a big loophole.

Although there were some disappointments there are some positives as well. Sarah Jane Stratford's prose is elegant in spite of the previous mentioned drawbacks. The dialogue and characterization is done fairly well. The highlight of this story is that of the romance between Eamon and Brigit, in which readers learn of the beginning of this love story and to the present romance, all of this is done very captivating.

Midnight Guardian is a case of me expecting something that wasn't presented to me. The novel is packaged as a historical thriller with vampires which is a bit misleading as the central focus of this novel really appears to be the relationship between Brigit and Eamon, their past and the present. My experience might have been better if this novel was presented more as a historical romance with some action instead of the other way around.

In the end, I was expecting something else completely and therefore I could not fully enjoy the book as much as I would have liked to. Since this is supposed to be a series, I would still readily read the second book of the series to see where Stratford takes this series and what she does with the ending of this book. I would also like to see how her writing progresses in her sophomore novel.


book review said...

great novel..

Donna said...

I agree with all your points here. It took me awhile to get into this one also. I enjoyed Ms. Stratford's writing style. I'm curious if the next book will be about Mors.

Great review!

The Reader said...

Thanks Donna, the story structure did take some shine away from the story. I would also like to get to know more about Mors. Hopefully the next book might satisfy us to a greater extent.



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