Oi BOOKFACES!! Emily is back in the Midnight Howl and this time things are getting even more serious!
2019 brought a fiery girl with a proper shouty ‘gob’ on her, a constant need for snacks, a indefatigable need to ‘sort things out’ and a companion hedgehog who just MIGHT be magical, The Midnight Hour by Benjamin Read & Laura Trinder tickled my humour and wrapped around my heart.
With all the pandemonium that 2020 brought the sequel The Midnight Howl was delayed but came out at the end of the year, if you haven’t already stepped into The Midnight Hour I strongly recommend you acquaint yourself with Emily’s first adventure (read my review if you need further persuading) as there are MAJOR plot spoilers in book 2 and some being major plot and key narrative & emotional journey points are unavoidably referred to in this review but I’ll try to be vague.
SECOND WARNING: SOME UNAVOIDABLE SPOILERS OF BOOK 1!
It’s been a year after Emily returned from her and Hoggins’ adventure in The Midnight Hour and things are both better and worse at home.
Mum and Emily understand each other a little better now but since near-death experience makes you reevaluate your priorities it means Emily now has a little brother or sister imminently on the way. Also meaning mum can’t go to the Midnight Hour to help Emily understand her heritage without risking magical effects on the baby which causes Emily’s gob to run away with itself.
So mum and dad make an agreement, Emily can go to the Midnight Hour with dad for short bursts on the condition she keeps her curfew, doesn’t get into any trouble and absolutely positively under pain of death must not, can not, will not even think of nor look at Uncle Pat let alone speak to him or especially and most importantly…Herself aka Mum’s Mammy.
Shame that Mum’s wild family have found a rip in the spell holding the Midnight Hour together and The Library has set Emily on the task to save the world then….. ooooops.
“Harry Potter never got grounded for trying to save the world!”
“No, but he did get put in a cupboard under the stairs so don’t test me.”
The Midnight Howl is really about heritage, family and finding who you are. Where The Midnight Hour threw Emily into this marvellously weird world, it is in this book that Emily is coming to terms with her differences, and her heritage and accepting herself for who and what she is, even if it doesn’t match up to hopes or expectations.
There’s a lot of exploring of maternal relationships even if Emily’s mam is absent for most of the book- and deliberately so as Emily and her mum struggle because they are so similar as Emily finds as she uncovers her family roots and the deeper female and maternal struggles in her lineage.
Emily’s maternal ‘magical’ family have this outcast wanderer feel about them, not in a bad way but in the way that they are a fringe society with their own heritage, customs and traditions. There’s a dash of the gypsy representation one sees in Peaky Blinders certainly tricksy to the outsider and sometimes plays that game though are discriminated against and misunderstood as behind the charade they are fiercely bonded in family and loyalty.
Mammy Espeth reminds me of the likes of Peaky Blinders’ Polly Gray, strong, gritty women who were not afraid to stand their ground and speak their thoughts out of time or place- and a dash of the actress Maggie Smith in that they are foreboding enough to make grown men quiver and obey. Mammy Espeth certainly has the hundred yard do not mess with me death stare!
We equally see the struggles with siblings explored as The Library has to come to terms with the events of the First book and the reemergence of new concerns. This in turn addresses and pokes at the collywobbles that Emily is having over her impending baby sibling.
On this point there are a few scary scenes where Emily has encounters that, well let’s just reference the book itself ‘Emily had seen far too much Doctor Who to even think about blinking’ in Read & Trinder’s brilliant style that is both immersing atmospheric and woven with that twisted British sense of humour.
She had to strongly resist the urge that rose up in her doggy brain to go bark at the pelicans.
Whilst there is so much more to take and explore from this book, it is this that speaks to me and I love how Emily is this clumsy, slightly chubby and gobby but vulnerable and somewhat lonely girl who has ached watching her real world peers stream past her with ease into adolescence. So many young readers will identify with her anger, her social struggles and her cult geekiness, the fact that a girl like them could be a heroine, and one that struggles and fails but drags herself onward is a powerful and lovely thing to see.
I hope that if you haven’t checked out this amazing series by Benjamin Read & Laura Trinder you do!!
The Midnight Howl by Benjamin Read & Laura Trinder is published by Chicken House
Thank you so much to Laura for my copy 💜