Thursday, May 26, 2011

Book Review: The Midnight Gate (Spellbinder, #2) by Helen Stringer

Title: The Midnight Gate (Spellbinder, #2)
Author: Helen Stringer
Reading Level: Middle Grade
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Hardcover, 376 pages
Date Published: May 10, 2011
Description (Taken from Goodreads): 
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.
The Midnight Gate starts off not too long after Spellbinder concluded and while it begins with a much slower pace, the story unfolds cleverly and with ease. Belladonna’s troubles couldn’t have ended with Dr. Ashe being carted off by The Hunt, that would have been far too easy. But her troubles double, triple, just get really, really bad. Yet Belladonna is still Belladonna. She copes remarkably well for a twelve year old girl with dead parents and an ever-mounting pile of bad on her doorstep.

Belladonna’s perseverance is one of her many characteristics that make her, and this series, stand out. She’s tough and intelligent, but still only a young girl. She knows that. She’s unafraid to ask for help, and is more than willing to accept it from her Paladin, protector, and maybe-friend Steve. Just as before, Helen Stringer puts Belladonna and Steve through the ringer and places them in more than a few unsettling positions – Belladonna’s venture into foster care being only one of them. These two are able to work through it though and, from their uproarious banter with ghost girl Elsie, a huge story unfolds.

The Midnight Gate
is a bit slower than Spellbinder, but there are heaping, bountiful bouts of backstory that are captivating. The good and evil – Spellbinder vs. The Darkness – aspect jumps to life with dragons, other worlds, mythical creatures, life and death situations, and even some ancient Sumerian. The ending comes together flawlessly; with small details from the story working into a big showdown that provides the action and adventure young readers crave, but also adding to the series as a whole.

Unexpected twists and turns abound in The Midnight Gate, bringing Helen Stringer’s story about a girl who can see ghosts, into an entirely new light. Mythology runs heavy throughout the pages, leaving the ghost aspect on the backburner, to tackle the new responsibilities that Belladonna is only now realizing she has. Spellbinder is much more than just a nifty title for her and she quickly discovers that she holds a lot of weight in the fight between good and evil, light and dark. This series will entice readers both young and old, with a fantastical element that delights, characters with heart, and a strong backstory that ties each adventure together.

Opening line: “Mr. Evans!”  ~ pg. 1

Favorite lines/passages: Maybe things really were interesting in the olden days. Maybe everyone had been nice and played hockey and had midnight feasts and ripping adventures, but Belladonna doubted it. Something told her that once people left school, a sort of selective memory kicked in and all the bad stuff, all the teasing and humiliation, all the tedious classes and endless mounds of homework, were forgotten in favor of half-recalled sunny summer afternoons filled with laughter, tennis, and surprise picnics. ~ pg. 12
And this one:
For all that she’d longed to return to her normal life while she was in the Land of the Dead, she now longed for something new. Something important. Something where more was expected of her than just turning her homework in on time. Perhaps that was what she wanted, after all, not an escape from ordinariness but a way to be more alive. ~ pg. 49
*This review is my honest opinion and I received no monetary compensation from it.

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Jessica (BookLover) said...

I need to start this series! Great review! :)

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