April 16, 2014 by kristin
When I read the description of THE MIRK AND MIDNIGHT HOUR, by Jane Nickerson, I knew I must read the book ASAP. It’s the story of a 17-year-old Southern girl who begins to fall for a wounded Union soldier, despite the fact he’s supposed to be the enemy. So, you know – exactly the plot of my book. Fortunately for me, it turned out not to be exactly like mine. Whew.
In THE MIRK AND MIDNIGHT HOUR, Violet Dancey has a lot to cope with – her beloved twin brother is dead, killed in battle, and her father is about to leave for war, too. But first, he quickly marries a new wife and brings her and her spoiled teenage daughter to live with Violet at their farm. Too, a pair of distant cousins arrive – one a boy Violet takes under her wing, one a young man too darkly charming for anyone’s good.
Then on one of their adventures, Violet and the boy find a wounded Union soldier hidden in an abandoned hunting lodge. He is being healed and cared for by someone, something. As Violet discovers her hatred for the Union might not extend, after all, to this particular soldier, she also begins to suspect his healers might be dangerous.
THE MIRK AND MIDNIGHT HOUR, which is also a retelling of the Scottish fairy tale Tam Lin, enchanted me from the first page. The dialogue was snappy and perfectly captured the Mississippi cadence of Violet Dancey and her slave/best friend Laney. The Southern spring and summer, too, were beautifully rendered. There was a magical quality about it all from the start, hinting at the paranormal elements that surfaced later in the novel. The characters were real and whole and interesting, and I gripped the edge of my Kindle tightly whenever any of them might be in danger.
My only complaint is that the paranormal elements, while fascinating and mysterious as hints along the way, felt rather anticlimactic when they all came together in the end. I wasn’t familiar with the story of Tam Lin and purposely didn’t read up on it so I wouldn’t spoil the ending of the book for myself, but now that I have, I suppose the climax of the book was the only logical conclusion.
Maybe I’m just not much of a paranormal kinda girl, because I thoroughly enjoyed the straight historical fiction parts and not so much the paranormal parts. It wasn’t that they were badly written – I think the author has a wonderful command of language – but just that I wished for a version of the book in which the dangers the characters faced and the actions they had to take were of the old-fashioned human variety.
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