Title: The Midnight Gate
Author: Helen Stringer
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
It’s been two months since Belladonna Johnson discovered she was the Spellbinder, and she’s full of questions about her powers. When a ghost finds Belladonna and her classmate, Steve, and gives them a mysterious map, the friends don’t know if they should be looking for or hiding from the one person who holds the answers to Belladonna’s powers: the Queen of the Abyss. Throw into the mix that Belladonna’s parents, who are ghosts, have disappeared and that her brand-new and maybe even sinister foster family seems to know more than they’ll let on, and you have a sequel made of high adventure and intrigue, seasoned with affecting characters and topped with a dollop of wit.
I love when I enjoy a sequel more than the first book. That happened with The Midnight Gate! Where has Spellbinder seem to have more action and a faster pace, The Midnight Gate was slower but more complex and brain twisting (yes brain twisting!)
The Characters: I really enjoy Belladonna. Here’s a girl that’s picked on, left out and basically a loner. She has just “saved the world”, and now must slip back into her normal life – well as normal as seeing the ghosts of your dead parents can be! What a tough place to be. Here she’s suppose to be this amazing person capable of things others aren’t, but she can’t even stop the class bully from picking on her. It just makes me like her that much more. Then we things start to really unravel and everything she did get support from is gone you get to see her start to stand on her own two feet better. When I think back to how she was at the start of Spellbinder until the end of this book it’s amazing to see how much stronger she has become. There are still times when her youth blinds her to things that me, as an adult, could see happening. Realistic but at time a bit frustrating because I just wanted to see what I saw!
Steve – her Paladin (protector) is a bit frustrating in this book. He definitely fulfilled his role as the Paladin, but he was struggling with changes in his own life, and the way he was dealing with it made him a little less likable. As the story went along I grew to like him better again because he did redeem himself over and over, but it was frustrating how much he seemed to blame Belladonna. It wasn’t her fault I wanted to yell at him! He is very brave and very smart and at times very very foolish! Although I do know a lot of twelve year boys and that is pretty typical. I am very curious to see how his character will continue to play out and mature.
The Plot: Like I said, this story moved slower than Spellbinder, but that allowed it to be more complex. There were tons of twists and turns with a healthy dose action mixed in especially at the end. Once I got hooked into the mystery of the map that Belladonna and Steve had been given plus the whole mistrust of the family Belladonna has to live with, I couldn’t put the book down. The plot pulled me along – not like a raging storm, but like a steady strong current. And just when I thought it was slowly something new would jump in and disturb everything!
I will say that sometimes the plot lost me with the description of who was doing what – especially when it came to the Shadow People that Belladonna was seeing. I had to reread a bit to make sure I got it.
Final thought: Nice solid sequel
Best stick-with-you image: The shadow people while on the swing
Best for readers who: Like to watch a mystery slowly begin to unravel
Best for ages: 11+