The Eye of Midnight
By Andrew Brumbach
Published March 8, 2016 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Reviewed from e-ARC
William and Maxine are cousins sent to spend the summer with their grandfather. Only, he's nowhere to be found when they arrive. Instead, they find a mysterious symbol all over his house and a secret basement. This only marks the start of their adventures.
Well, every review on Goodreads of this is either four or five stars. I gave it only three. I am, apparently, the dissenting opinion on this title.
Don't get me wrong, this is an action-packed and exciting historical mystery for kids. It was by no means torturous to read and it moves along at a pretty quick pace, keeping you turning the pages. I can see a lot of kid appeal in the story - Maxine's desire to be taken seriously and perceived as older, William's stubborn and occasionally reckless sense of curiosity, a mysterious grandfather they barely know, cryptic symbols that hint at dark secrets, and lots of intrigue and adventure. In fact, this might be the kind of historical fiction that kids will pick up of their own accord (it's not a favorite genre at my library). It's also poised to be the first in a series, another big selling point to young readers.
So, with all that, why only three stars from me? Yes, I can see the appeal factors quite clearly and, yes, I love historical fiction. But, for me, it never really transcended into something unique. Additionally, a lot of the plot felt too convenient and the book suffers from the unfortunate trope of Middle Eastern villains. Will and Max do befriend a young Middle Eastern girl who continues with them on their quest and that provided at least one positive depiction of a person of color, but her appearance in the story also felt like one of those conveniences I mentioned. Finally, I'm not sure Brumbach really established enough background for my liking. He spends a lot of time recounting the formation and philosophies of the villains, but not as much time covering the secret society of good guys. It felt lacking.
Overall, this will be an easy book to sell to young readers, but not my personal cup of tea.
Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.