ARC Review: The Helm of Midnight or a fantasy with a serial killer in it!

Hello people! I hope you all are safe and happy, today I am back with a book review, and I am feeling quite proud for myself, maybe I am really coming back, yay!

Thanks to NetGalley and to the Editor. I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Title: The Helm of Midnight
Series: The Five Penalties #1
Author: Marina Lostetter
Pages: 464
Pubblication Date: 13th April, 2021

A legendary serial killer stalks the streets of a fantastical city in The Helm of Midnight, the stunning first novel in a new trilogy from acclaimed author Marina Lostetter.
In a daring and deadly heist, thieves have made away with an artifact of terrible power–the death mask of Louis Charbon. Made by a master craftsman, it is imbued with the spirit of a monster from history, a serial murderer who terrorized the city with a series of gruesome murders.
Now Charbon is loose once more, killing from beyond the grave. But these murders are different from before, not simply random but the work of a deliberate mind probing for answers to a sinister question.
It is up to Krona Hirvath and her fellow Regulators to enter the mind of madness to stop this insatiable killer while facing the terrible truths left in his wake.

One of the main reasons I love Urban Fantasy is that they are a sort of mixed bag, when we talk about genre. All fantasy is a sort of genre container because it can have so much inside it, but this is even more true for the Urban Fantasy, because we usually have more mystery or romance in there, but we get to keep the fantasy setting. So this is not the only reason I love UF so much, but it is one of the main ones. And so I cannot really understand how the idea of a serial killer in a fantasy setting (something more high fantasy than your usual UF) never crossed my mind. (I am not speaking about it in a sort of “why I haven’t tried to write it myself?”, absolutely not. But I am talking about it as a reader, it happens sometimes to think about the kind of books we want to read, or what we would love to see in our next reading, for example) So… this took me by surprise, but I had no doubt that it would be good. And I was not wrong.
Thriller and “high” fantasy work really well together and now I am eager for more. I really hope to see more of these two tropes combined in my next reading!

And now let’s look a bit more closely to the book in itself. The world is a fantasy setting with really strong dystopian vibes. And even if I am not a huge fan of dystopia because it is usually far more claustrophobic for my tastes, I enjoyed this mix quite a lot. It is balanced, at least, it is so for me, and it gives us an interesting world to discover. The religious element is really strong, and the magical system is intriguing. I enjoyed a lot the part about the masks, and since they have a big part on the story I was happy. But, as in every distopic setting, things may not be quite as they are told. And this is the driving force of all the book. And I really enjoyed how this is developed, because slowly you start to doubt everything, both what it was a “given” and both what is revealed as the “real truth”. Because we have schemes behind schemes and all is way more complex that how it appears. And I think that this part was well developed. And obviously now I am waiting for the next book, because I just have to know what is real and what is not.

In this book we have one MC, with a lot of other characters that are almost protagonist too, but not quite there. Krona is our MC, a Regulator (one of the police forces of this world) who is trying to solve a theft and a series of murders that are all linked with the most infamous serial killer of Lutador. And here the things take a really Jack the Ripper meet fantasy twist. And it was gruesome, yes, but also quite interesting. Anyway, back to Krona. She is the one tasked with this case. She and her team of fellows Regulators. But we get to see the story by her POV (except for the chapters in a different time line, but back to those in few moments), and she is interesting, she is strong willed and even if she is broken in some ways (her fears and secrets are crippling her, in some ways) she plunge forward, always forward. And I have enjoyed this side of her. But it was, sadly, not enough to make me really empathize with her. There was something lacking here. Mind me, I enjoyed her but… I didn’t really love her.
And I had somewhat a difficult time with all the other characters. My favorite was Thibaut, he is a rascal but an adorable one and a really resourceful one. He gave some more life to the story. Then we have De Lia, Krona’s sister, and she is another interesting character, I liked her, even if she is more cold than her sister, and she is even more strong willed than Krona, I have to give this to her, but again, there was something lacking.
And then we have the chapters that are set in two different timelines, with their characters. Or, better, these two timelines let us know how some characters are in the place they are now. And even if they gave us some interesting insight, and in the end all things come together beautifully, I was not always interested in them. Charbon’s chapter were a bit more intriguing (and I have to say that the author did a great job with Charbon’s story and character. He is quite complex and he has a lot to say, in his ways), while Melanie’s ones weren’t bad or boring, but I wasn’t so keen on them. But this was just minor, because the narration is balanced, and it’s pace is good. It is not a short book, but it kept me interested from the beginning to the end, and even if I am not back to my old self (reading wise) I have read it in no time!

So, I had some minor problems with the characters, I was hoping to feel more for them, to empathize more with them, but it is a really good story, with an interesting world-building and an original magic system that is worth exploring. Another minor complaint is about the thriller part. It is not bad, and we get to see Krona investigates and all but… but it is more like the clues are throwing them at her than the other way around. I think it could have been done a bit better the investigative part, but it is not as bad as it could have been, and I enjoyed this story quite a lot. If you are in for something different that would keep you intrigued, well, I dare say this book would be the right one for you!

it is more a 3.75 book but since it is the first in a series I would be good!

Have you read this book? Or do you have it on your TBR?? Let me know!!

Happy reading!

9 thoughts on “ARC Review: The Helm of Midnight or a fantasy with a serial killer in it!

  1. Tammy says:

    I am sad I haven’t read this yet. I’m curious about some of the things that didn’t work for you, and I want to see how I react to them. Hopefully I can read this soonish!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: June Wrap Up!

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