When Krasnoslava Tsarinovna, younger sister to the Empress of Zem’, wishes to be let free to explore the world, her wish is unexpectedly granted when an Imperial soldier approaches the kingdom for support in exploring the Midnight Land; the land beyond the sun-line. The young royal volunteers for the mission, and unexpectedly, is allowed to join. Soon picking up the somewhat more casual moniker “Slava”, Slava and her companions venture into the unknown in The Midnight Land: Part One: The Flight by E.P. Clark.
The story of the unhappy princess of an exotic land is nothing new to fiction, of course, but this story has far more to offer. Everything from her homeland of Zem’, whose royal line possess spiritual gifts of precognition to aid their rule, to the spiritualistic and sometimes bizarre northern lands are all beautifully unique and rich in a Central European and West Asian feel that comes together with a surprising and wonder-filled world.
Clark tells that she is a well-traveled writer, whose life in other cultures seems to have influenced the book, all in its benefit. The writing has a telling aura of worldly experience, especially that unmistakable Russian influence in her writing. This experience and obvious literary familiarity has all lent itself to a gorgeous mix of ideas and a distinctive writing style that I quickly fell in love with.
The cover is quite plain, yet striking, with two pairs of stylized, cat-like eyes peering through a sparse white background and light font catching all other attention. It definitely made to want to pick it up, with part two utilizing the same format with a more bestial pair of peepers to differentiate the first and second halves. It’s unmistakable and a good move for the future. It’s perhaps a little simple but I do quite like the idea and consider it very effective.
I’m less impressed by the manner in which the supposed trilogy has been worked out into, according to Clark, seven books, taking one of the less preferable cues from Hollywood in her publishing habits by splitting longer pieces up in this manner. The series has a very solid start, but perhaps some of the near-600 page part-one-of-part-one could have been pruned a little more, even if the heartbreaking decisions of detail would rob the reader of some content in exchange for a better stop-off point in this book. In fact, the book could simply be labelled the first of a longer series rather than a part of a part of a trilogy, for simplicity.
Minor criticisms aside, it’s a great book that I honestly is feel sure to take off with a little more exposure. Exotic adventurers and those looking for a more feminine-oriented, delicately-imagined fantasy world, The Midnight Land is sure to do you well in its inspired, character-driven tale of wonder and outer and inner discovery.