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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The Helm of Midnight by Marina J. Lostetter review

Official Author Website

Order The Helm of Midnight over HERE (USA) or HERE(UK)

Official Author Info: Originally from Oregon, she now resides in Arkansas with her spouse, Alex. In her spare time she enjoys globetrotting, board games, and all things art-related. Her original short fiction has appeared in venues such as Lightspeed, Uncanny, and Shimmer Magazine.  Her debut novel, NOUMENON, and its sequels, NOUMENON INFINITY and NOUMENON ULTRA, are available from Harper Voyager.  

Format: The Helm of Midnight publishes April 13th 2021 with Tor Books. Print length - 464 p. Cover design by Glen Wilkins.

Overview: This book, guys. This book. How do I rate it? It shines with fascinating and creative ideas, evocative writing, and powerful characters. Parts of the story are PHENOMENAL. Unfortunately, all of this gets bogged down by lots and LOTS of exposition. The result is uneven - with sky-high ups, but also some downs.

Krona, a young Regulator, fails to protect enchanted artifacts. Thieves steal two of them - a despairstone brooch and the deathmask of a serial killer, Louis Charbon, imbued with his spirit. Krona will do anything to retrieve them and to prove herself to her sister and superior, De-Lia. She works under time-pressure; it seems Louis Charbon (or his copycat) is back on the streets wreaking havoc. 

Lostetter adds two more arcs to the story - one following a young woman trying to heal her mother; the second following Charbon himself. Their stories flow skillfully from past to present, revealing the unexpected connections and dark secrets in a tense drama that surprises right up until the final paragraph.

The story blends dark fantasy with horror and murder mystery. Steeped in the murkier extremes of morality, religion, and the supernatural, it doesn’t shy away from graphic violence. Fortunately, Lostetter keeps the bleakness in check and doesn’t allow it to overwhelm the story. Violence never feels gratuitous and when it occurs it serves something. It’s especially visible in Louis Charbon’s arc. Lostetter nailed his transformation into a monster.

The story takes place in Lutador, a fascinating and dark place with an even darker history. The setting is engrossing from the onset. Lostetter immerses us in the characters’ backstories and the history of the city. That said, her worldbuilding impressed me with the wealth of creative ideas but tired with frequent digressions and asides. As much as I appreciate her ideas, I would prefer something leaner.

CONSLUSION: Despite everything, The Helm of Midnight kept me turning the pages; the story didn’t ease up until the very last sentence. I’ll preorder book two as soon as it’s possible. I just hope it won’t contain as much backstory and lore as The Helm of Midnight.

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