Genre: Contemporary Fantasy Age Range: YA Star Rating: 4 stars Series: yes - book two of trilogy
*SPOILER ALERT: contains SPOILERS for MIDNIGHT’S TWINS*
In a city that sleeps, the darkness is gathering…
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…
Blurb taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
A GATHERING MIDNIGHT is Holly Race’s follow up to her wildly imaginative debut, MIDNIGHT’S TWINS. We return to the dreamscape version of London, where dreams and nightmares come true, and warriors protect dreamers. Except the dreams are largely gone as an ambitious, powerful politician poisons the dreamscape to further the rise of his populist star. The world is bleak and grey, fear and suspicion of anyone different leaking into the real world.
It’s so interesting to read a contemporary fantasy take on populism as it continues to gnaw at our real world. The mistrust of anyone “different” feels all too real, and gives Fern’s “real-world” London (called Ithr, as opposed to dreamscape Annwn) a dystopian feel. What is dystopia, but a slight exaggeration of ours? Of taking current facts to their logical conclusion?
The Arthurian influence is even stronger in this book, diving into a quest for Excalibur in a take on Arthurian mythology like you’ve never seen before. Arthur turned evil (a sequence of events still shrouded in mystery but more glimpses are gained in this book.) Guinevere and Lancelot had to team up to stop him. Merlin is really grumpy and paranoid.
These myths aren’t the thrust of the book though, they’re part of the world – the landscape (which is what Arthurian is all about to me, baked into the physical landscape.) It’s not an Arthurian retelling, but a world where the past is inspired by Arthurian myth – and then all spun with a much darker twist. It’s such a fun take on it all, and feels so different to the plethora of Arthurian out there.
Holly continues her streak of murdering scores of characters. No one is safe. If you like a character, chances are they’re going to die. It’s brutal, but shows the costs of the war, rather than everyone miraculously escaping scot-free. It takes a lot of guts to kill so many characters, and a lot of skill to make you care enough about so many that the death lands as a blow, but these books manage it.
One book to go in this series, and I’m very worried about which of the few survivors since book 1 are going to last until the end of it!
Read my reviews of other books by Holly Race:
Midnight’s Twins (this series):