Jane Kindred’s House of Arkhangel’sk trilogy reminds me of Russian tea, initially bitter, often and unexpectedly sweet, and filled with immensely complicated rituals. And incredibly satisfying for those who savor a heady brew.
The Midnight Court comprises the second book in this tale, following The Fallen Queen. The title is apt; in The Midnight Court Anazakia’s court is definitely in eclipse. All is as dark as midnight in a Siberian winter.
And the situation goes all downhill.
At the end of The Fallen Queen, Anazakia and her temporary allies rescued the demon Belphagor from Aeval. In the process, they burned much of the Supernal Palace that Anazakia once called home.
When The Midnight Court begins, it’s been months, and the alliance is fracturing. So is Anazakia’s peaceful household near the earthly 21st century Russian city of Arkhangelsk. Belphagor came back from Aeval’s torture broken; not where it shows, but inside. He’s not the demon he used to be.
And Vasily, his lover, is caught between anger that Belphagor offered himself to save them all, and guilt that in Bel’s absence, he fathered a child with Anazakia.
Ola, the child, is the light of all their lives. She is also a pawn of powers. For Anazakia is still the last heir of the house of Arkhangel’sk, and Aeval has no right to the throne of Heaven she sits on. It should be Anazakia’s. Or her daughter’s.
And Ola’s power is greater than anyone could have imagined. Because Vasily is not, as he was raised to think, a demon. He is a Seraph, one of the host. The little girl is more than a little girl. More than a sweet child or a toddler with tantrums. She is the holder of the fifth radiance, not air, fire, water or earth, but aether.
Some of the powers of heaven want to control her; others want to kill her while she is still a child, to make sure that the “wrong” party does not control her.
Ola is kidnapped, and the hunt begins. Across all of Russia, and through all the orders of Heaven, one tiny little girl is bartered back and forth like a tiny bomb, or a pearl of great price.
Her parents will sacrifice anything to get her back.
Escape Rating A: The Midnight Court (and the whole House of Arkhangel’sk series so far) is the kind of densely multi-layered political pot-boiling gut-churning romance that doesn’t come along very often. The nearest comparison is Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart series, as much for the very long game political machinations as for the kink relationship between Belphagor and Vasily.
The part of the comparison that I come back to is the politics. Every layer of every relationship, both personal and political, is going to matter before this series is over, and Kushiel had that same feel to it. Everything counts. Sex is sex but IOUs are forever.
The saying that “revenge is a dish best served cold” may have had Aeval in mind. She manipulated both the Romanov dynasty and the House of Arkhangel’sk to get something she wanted.
Waiting for the Spring of 2013 for the final book of the trilogy The Armies of Heaven, is going to be absolute torture. I stayed up until 4 in the morning to finish The Midnight Court. It ended on one hell of a cliffhanger, in a scene that reminded me a lot of something from The Dark Knight Rises. Read Fallen Queen and Midnight Court and see if you see the same thing. It’s so worth it.