The Girl at Midnight

368p. Delacorte. Apr. 2015. lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780375991790; Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385744652; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780385390996.
Gr 9 Up—For the past decade, 17-year-old Echo has been raised among the Avicen, a race of magical people with birdlike feathers. Despite her status as the ward of a powerful Avicen council member, Echo is still seen by some as an unwelcome human in their midst. When Echo stumbles upon a clue to the whereabouts of the firebird, a magical, legendary creature, she can't resist the chance to follow the lead. Prophecy says that the firebird will be the key to ending the Avicen's long-standing war with the dragonlike Drakharin people. If she can be the one to find it, she's sure that the Avicen will finally accept her as one of their own. She teams up with an unlikely crew that includes a pair of Drakharin soldiers. Suddenly, everything she has ever known about good and evil is turned on its head. Although the narrative in this series opener is clumsy and some details are confusing, the plot drives the story forward. However, its similarities to works such as Cassandra Clare's "Mortal Instruments" series (S. & S.), Leigh Bardugo's "Grisha" trilogy (Holt), and Laini Taylor's "Daughter of Smoke and Bone" saga (Little, Brown) is its biggest drawback. Notwithstanding, the same elements that make these series popular with teens—a feisty heroine, fun supporting characters, a mission to save the world, and some seriously spicy romance—may catch the notice of fantasy fans.
VERDICT Purchase where epic fantasies with strong female protagonists are popular.

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