- Burning Midnight
- Will McIntosh
- Delacorte Press
- Released February 2nd 2016
- 3 Stars
Colored spheres have seeded every corner of Earth and burning a pair of spheres the same color gives the user heightened abilities from enhanced senses to increased athleticism or beauty. Sully is a sphere dealer, one of the last remaining private sellers as Alex Holliday, a man who swindled him out of a 2.5 million dollar deal has pushed nearly everyone else out of the market. When Sully meets Hunter, who has a propensity for finding spheres, they set off to see if they can hit it big. But when they find a gold sphere, a color unheard of before, things are set into motion that changes the sphere burning game completely. Everyone wants to use them but no one knows where they came from, how they work, or why they’re on Earth.
Burning Midnight has a pretty cover and an amazing premise that just couldn’t seem to contain itself. The first 75% was great, super engaging and easy to follow but once the ending is set into motion, things became chaotic and rushed and thus the book feels stunted.
Sully, Hunter, Dom, and Mandy are the protagonists of the story, all of them sharing a fascination with the spheres and a hatred of Alex Holliday. There are interesting parallels between Burning Midnight and Ready Player One: four kids team up against a wealthy man who has become an overlord of a game of sorts. In addition, I’m pretty sure that one of the characters in Ready Player One is named Holliday or something as well… but it’s okay, this poor/insignificant rises up against an evil “dictator” format works for this book.
The first ¾ of the book had pretty good character development. I learned a bit about each of their backgrounds without anyone coming off as a pity case and no judgement about any of their cases. McIntosh really pulls diversity out which was really nice: the protagonists come from different socioeconomic backgrounds yet don’t feel any entitlement or bitterness about it, they have different sexualities, and each has a different family life but never judge one another. That was really cool and done nicely.
Moreover, the first part of the book kept me interested because the characters pour their lives into finding the spheres. They really think this is their last salvation, the only way to hit it rich and get out of their own situations, and the amount of passion there is quite moving. And because Sully and Hunter are so focused on finding spheres, there was time for a romantic interest to develop between them. Yes this romance felt like it was obligatorily added in, but they were brought together in a logical way which was fine with me.
The part of the book I didn’t like was the ending <spoiler> or basically from when the golds are burned and things are set into motion </spoiler>. The plot exploded, things moved too quickly to be logical, and I found myself having to turn back a couple pages to make sure I wasn’t missing things because the characters would suddenly be in a different place or a different situation and I would be confused about how or what had just happened. It takes half of the book to find the first gold, another quarter to find the rest of the spheres that matter and the last quarter is a complete mess. The characters act irrationally – granted Earth is kind of being invaded so they’re under stress – and despite agreeing to decide on things as a team, they go around making “heroic” sacrifices that end up being really stupid decisions.
Additionally, the spheres totally change in nature, not that they don’t give abilities, in that they aren’t just like mystery boxes in Mario Kart anymore. I thought that the turn they took was a bit on the fly and that everyone just rolled with it was a implausible. And finally, the book seems to just cut off. From the time that the climax occurs to the end of the book is about eight or so pages. There’s no elaboration about the rest of their lives or at least the near future and that would be fine if there were to be a sequel but there isn’t so I’m not feeling really connected to the book as of the ending.
Overall, a nice YA debut if not for a not so nicely executed ending. Burning Midnight wins points for having a wonderfully original concept which I really liked. It feels like it tends towards the juvenile side of the age spectrum but that doesn’t diminish its appeal. Definitely worth a read.