Moving to Highgate, London, April Dunne must start a new life and a new school, stuck in a creepy old dump of a house which doesn't even have proper mobile phone reception. Ravenwood, her new school, is a prestigious academy for gifted students (financially and academically) - and for reasons unbeknownst to April, her father insists on enrolling her here even though they are struggling financially. April grows suspicious of her father's motives when she suspects there is more going on at Ravenwood than meets the eye. Nobody ever says what they mean, or means what they say. April soon discovers that her father is working on a secret investigation surrounding Highgate, and when she encounters a dead body in the cemetery (and is saved from an unidentified attacker by the mysterious Gabriel Swift) her suspicions that Highgate is more than it seems is confirmed. Gabriel seems aloof and avoids April as best he can, but when April’s incessant snooping places her life in danger he finally entrusts her with the truth: Highgate, especially Ravenwood, is a playground for vampires; and he is one of them.
By Midnight by Mia James is not the worst book I’ve ever read, but it contains way too many similarities to Twilight: Girl moves to gloomy, rainy town infested by vampires. She’s drawn to a moody boy who’s initially rude to her. He’s all “it would be better for you if we weren’t together”. Surprise, surprise, he’s a vampire, and soon he must protect her from another vampire intent on killing her for fun; there is even mention of Robert Pattinson!
The story builds very slowly, and while the slow-burner pace of the book might work for some, I personally prefer a fast-paced plot. The major problem while reading this book, though, was that I didn’t particularly like April. I found her to be immature, unreasonable, selfish and whiny. She’s so obsessed with “hot boys”, she might be a bigger blow to feminism than Bella Swan! I also worry about April’s intelligence. She realises her town is infested with vampires, mysterious murders occur around her, she suspects she’s being followed… does she carry any kind of weapon with her? No. Does she learn how to protect herself from vampires? No. Does she attempt to identify all the vampires in her midst? No. She’s too obsessed with why Gabriel hasn’t called. And then the author tries to convince me that *spoiler alert* April is destined to become a vampire slayer? I don’t believe she has what it takes – when you have no faith in the protagonist, a book becomes very dull very fast.
Gabriel is a strong character, but as the protagonist’s love interest his page time is ridiculously limited. He is probably the least featured character in the whole book. As he is supposed to be the romantic lead, this was a huge mistake by the author. There’s a fine line between mysterious and absent, and Gabriel verges on being a non-character.
As for April and Gabriel’s “relationship”, I didn’t find their chemistry very believable. They have a moment, April ruins it by being unreasonable and rude, they don’t see each other for days – this becomes a very annoying pattern. They don’t spend enough time together to convincingly fall in love; by the time Gabriel tells April he loves her, my first thought was “really?!” They hardly spend any time together throughout the course of the novel; when did he have time to fall in love with her? When they are together, April is being a brat - the fact that she’s not very likable also comes into play here; how on earth did he fall in love with her? It must be destiny again. It comes across as a very superficial relationship – they make no effort to create a meaningful connection.
The sad thing is, this book isn’t all bad. In fact, it has a lot of potential! The vampire lore is excellent, and the mysteries of Highgate as a whole are gripping. The author strengthens the book by using actual London landmarks and drawing on historical London happenings such as Jack the Ripper, the plague and the legend of the Highgate Vampire. Building fiction on a foundation of reality always makes it stronger and more believable. If this story had a stronger protagonist or even a better developed romantic element, it would have been amazing. As it is, when the reader doesn’t like the protagonist, and doesn’t believe the chemistry of the central romance, there’s something really wrong. By Midnight concludes on a a cliff-hanger, and is followed by two more books in the Ravenwood Mysteries series. However much I like Gabriel and wonder about his fate, I am so annoyed by April I doubt that I will continue following this series.
Title: By Midnight
Author: Mia James
Number of pages: 448
Publisher: Orion Publishing Co