Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Midsummer Night by Freda Warrington


Whoa. Even though this was 200 pages shorter than ELFLAND, it felt twice as long. I think part of that beefiness is because ELFLAND is a more accessible story: beneath all the fantasy trappings and trimmings, it's a story of family drama, and an enemies-to-lovers story spun out over decades. MIDSUMMER NIGHT has some of that, too, but it's more bitter in terms of execution, and I feel like the author was reaching more, to make her concepts bigger, and larger-than-life.

In this book, we're again met with a pretty large cast of characters. Gill is a half-Indian/half-English woman who used to be a champion runner until she suffered an injury that left her with chronic, debilitating pain. She ends up going to an artist's commune for secret reasons, which is run by a woman named Dame Juliana, who makes these impressive, mythical mixed-media sculptures that are eerie and seem to be alive. A lot of other artists live with her and worship at her feet, including the mysterious Peta, who makes masks that are similarly alarming-looking.

The plot-- what little there is-- kicks off when Gill discovers a secret path into a township that shouldn't exist. A man she meets there escapes from it and ends up at the commune, causing a stir because he looks like a man who disappeared long ago. His appearance kicks up all this old dust about family secrets and feuds, the governing of magic, and-- of course-- the question as to whether the man desperately and ruthlessly searching for him is his concerned brother... or an ancient evil.

I liked MIDSUMMER NIGHT a lot but I think it's harder to like because it doesn't have the romance of the first book. There is romance in this book but it's few and far between and isn't always satisfying, so people seeking that out are going to be bitterly disappointed. I also feel like this book didn't always feel like it knew where it was going or what it wanted to be, hence why the pacing felt so off. Warrington is unquestionably a brilliant storyteller, though, and she especially likes to use colors to set or convey a scene, which works especially well in a book like this, where one of the motifs is expression of art.

I'm not sure whether I loved or hated some of the characters in here; all I know is I'll be picking this one out of my teeth for a while. It's definitely a book that stays with you, and causes a little bit of discomfort and anguish even after you have the satisfaction of finishing it in its entirety.

4 to 4.5 out of 5 stars

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