The Midnight Queen is the first book in Sylvia Izzo Hunter’s Noctis Magicae series. It is set in the past in an alternate version of our own universe. Maps in the front of the book show Merlin College at Oxford and the Kingdoms of Britain, Eire, and Alba.
Told in the third person, the two main characters are Gray, a student at Oxford, and Sophie, the daughter of an Oxford professor. Gray is coerced into participating in a shady outing that results in another student’s death. Although Gray is not at fault, he is blamed and whisked away to the professor’s country home in Breizh (the alternate universe’s version of France). There he meets Sophie.
Oxford is a school of magic, and Gray has many magical talents, including the ability to turn into an owl. Sophie does not appear to have any magic (and women are not scholars, in any event), but things are not as they seem, with Sophie’s magic and other circumstances.
Gray is plain and awkward; Sophie is so inconsequential as to blend into the background whenever the professor is around. Gray and Sophie find themselves caught up in intrigue involving a plot against the King of England as a sweet attraction grows between them.
There is nothing particularly original about the magical world or the romance, but the plot took some unexpected turns and the key characters are well developed. Sophie eventually grows into the standard, all powerful “chosen one” of a sort, but she is likeable. Interesting side characters flesh out the story into more than just a teen romance.
There are some plot holes and I found some of the narrative confusing. (Sophie is clearly the oldest child in the Professor’s household but it took me awhile to figure this out as her sister Amelia is described more than once as her “elder” sister.) But I got thoroughly caught up in this book and will definitely read the sequels. Recommended for anyone who likes a good historical fantasy.
The Midnight Queen can be found at the Galesburg Public Library in the adult fiction area under the author’s last name, Hunter. The second book in the series, The Lady of Magick, is due out in September 2015.