Land of Midnight Days is a story without the usual fantasy tropes, and the familiar elements (elves, ogres) are altered in such a way as to appear completely original creations. The hero is a lonely, mute boy, whose sole possession and tenuous link with an unknown past is a silver flute. The setting is out of the ordinary too. There are no orderly Hobbit-type Shires, desolate howling deserts or leafy, elf-filled forests; this is a mucky, violent, industrial city.
These are perhaps the story’s greatest strengths. The city is a character in its own right, ever-present and menacing. The underbelly of our large cities with their gang violence and underground economies becomes in this story the reality for everyone. There seems to be no escape from the street gangs, the despair, and dirt for the apathetic population. Into this grim, monochrome setting is introduced Jeremiah Tully, an engaging, intelligent waif-like boy who, as a half-breed, is an object of revulsion even in this city where nobody seems to give a damn about anything. Katrina Jack doesn’t clutter the storyline with explanations about the history behind her world. She doesn’t need to; we can all understand prejudice, and know it doesn’t need a reason.
This was my favourite aspect of the book, the atmosphere of indifference and menace, in which Jeremiah’s blundering search to find out who he really is seems doomed to failure. Circumstances push Jeremiah out of his fragile nest and into the maw of the city, and as he searches for clues that might lead him to a link with his lost family, the reasons for his very existence start to appear. The clues lead to real people and the action takes off into surprising realms.
If I were to make a criticism of this magical story, it would be that the introduction of the other characters in the second half occasionally seems rushed. Zebediah takes form gradually (and very surprisingly!), but the others appear already made; credible and original, but for that very reason I would have liked a bit more background about them. The action moves into a higher gear, and the intimacy of Jeremiah’s perspective has to take a back seat. But this is YA, there is a limit to the amount of introspection a younger readership will tolerate, and the action is very well done, ending with a fabulous, demonic tableau.
Land of Midnight Days is the kind of story that stays with you, and I am looking forward to reading the next instalment. From what we know of Katrina Jack’s world, we can be certain it isn’t going to be all beer and skittles.
See Katrina’s blog for details of where you can buy this wonderful book