The Midnighters by Hana Tooke

Published by Puffin, 2022.

I was swept along by the magic and mystery of The Midnighters – an original and exhilarating MG adventure about a missing friend, a gothic city, and a secret society full of wonder and invention.

Ema Vašková has always felt different. In a family of famous scientists, there’s not much room for superstition or omens – but they seem to follow Ema wherever she goes. It doesn’t help that she appears to predict events before they happen, and has a peculiar fear of shadows…

When Ema is sent to stay with her eccentric uncle, she fears she’ll lose the chance to ever fit in. But then she meets Silvie – a girl who finally sees Ema for the extraordinary person that she is. Soon the girls are meeting for secret midnight adventures, and facing Ema’s fears together.

But then disaster strikes. Silvie goes missing and it’s up to Ema to find her. Now she must gather the courage to hunt the city, find her friend, and uncover the secrets of the one clue Silvie left as to where she might be – inside the mysterious Midnight Guild…

The friendship between Ema and Silvie is a delight! The two girls have the best adventures together but, more than that, there’s is a friendship built around trust, acceptance and loyalty. Silvie allows – in fact, she positively encourages – Ema to be herself and embrace her originality.

Ema is depicted as not fitting in: an oddity in a family full of scientists. Someone whose thoughts and manner mark her out as different. Ema’s family doesn’t understand her and she feels obliged to hide her true self, and act ’normal’ in order to belong. All the time desperately trying to make sense of the world around her. This exploration of masking and difference will ring true for many neurodivergent children, especially girls.

I loved the book’s positive messages about bravery and facing your fears. There’s a life-affirming wisdom in so much of what Silvie says:

There’s a very fine line between fear and excitement […] I think perhaps you need some nudging over that line.

(page 54)

The story is set in late 19th century Prague and Hana Tooke’s vivid descriptions brilliantly convey the awe-inspiring beauty of this magnificent historical city. Prague almost feels like a character itself. We are also taken into the incredible subterranean city – breathtaking, vast hidden spaces – the perfect backdrop for the activities of the Midnight Guild. And I loved the Midnight Guild itself – illusion, mystery, spectacle and wonder – pure escapism!

Rating: 💙💙💙💙💙

Suitable for children aged 8+

Thank you to Puffin for sending me this book to review.


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