The Helm of Midnight by Marina J Lostetter is the first novel in a brand new fantasy series. It is out April 13th and I definitely recommend checking it out! Thank you to Tor and Netgalley for the e-arc. All opinions are my own (as we all know from looking at my…more negative reviews)
The Helm of Midnight follows Krona, her sister De-Lia, and their team of Regulators. They’ve been tasked with tracking down a serial killer. There’s just one catch – the serial killer is long dead, and it’s their team’s fault that he is on the loose again!
There are three points of view, by Krona’s feels like the main POV as it drives the current plotline of the book. The other two POVs are in the past. One takes place two years before the present story, and another takes place 11 years prior. The story’s come together fantastically. There is no waiting for them to come together in future books! I’ll be focusing on Krona’s POV to summarize the story.
The story opens with Krona and her team at a politician’s event. Their job is to guard a series of dangerous magical artifacts that the councilor borrows for his rich guests to ogle over. But, when a seemingly random attack turns out to be an elaborate heist, the thieves get away with Louis Charbon (the aforementioned serial killer)’s death mask! We are also confronted with some of Krona’s weaknesses right out of of the gate, which I appreciated. No overly qualified characters who never mess up here.
As the story unfurls, we see that things and people aren’t as simple as they seem on the surface. Lostetter provides a real sense depth to the morality of the world and the characters. Things are not simple, but heinous acts aren’t forgivable even with good intentions or when done under duress.
One of my favourite parts was the magical system. There are several different dominions of magic based on the elements of their pantheon of gods. Combining the different magics together is illegal. One sphere imbues emotions into gems. Another of many focuses on creating magical death masks.
While everyone gets a death mask when they die, only some imbue their essence into the mask. These masks are highly regulated, but can be used to gain the knowledge and expertise of those who wore them. But, it’s not as simple as just slipping on a mask and receiving their breadth of knowledge. The masks fight for control and if you aren’t careful, you might find yourself slipping away. Louis Charbon’s death mask is one such magical mask.
This is a fast paced story with a wonderfully diverse cast of characters and a delightfully eerie ambiance. Beyond being a fantasy novel it also has all of the necessary elements of a mystery and a thriller. It is well-plotted with a well developed world that is vivid as has depth (both literally and figuratively). I really enjoyed this one! Like a lot, a lot.
The Helm of Midnight was also more emotionally devastating than I had predicted. I loved the book, but I was also openly sobbing at one point. I am quick to tears though.
Because this is a book about a serial killer, it might not be for those of you who are squeamish. There are daring sword/dagger fights that leave characters hurt and bleeding. But, worse than that are the elaborate arrangement of Louis Charbon’s victims. I wouldn’t really call it gory as the language and the arrangements are quite metaphorical and most of the characters don’t try to look them in too much detail. But is can be thematically dark, and it might be something to watch out for!
It’s also a fantastic queernorm world. There are they/them and neopronouns galore! Krona is also possibly bi (mentions a first kiss with a girl) and I’m always here for that.
I highly recommend this book! I had a lot of fun with the characters and the world. I’m really looking forward to the next books in the series!