A thrilling tale set in 1920s New York pits three children against a foe that bears an uncanny resemblance to modern-day Islamism.
The Eye of Midnight by Andrew Brumbach. Delacorte, 2016, 234 pages
Reading Level: Middle Grades, 10-12
Recommended for: ages 10-14
New York City, 1929: Cousins William and Maxine barely remember their grandfather, with whom they are to spend the summer at Battersea Manor on the Jersey shore, and they don’t remember each other at all. Before meeting Grandpa they meet his house, stuffed with mysteries and exotics, such as an ancient statue of a Jinn. Grandpa himself is scarcely less exotic when he appears. He’s barely met his grandchildren when he receives a cryptic telegram, prompting him to whisk William and Maxine off to the city to retrieve a package. But when Grandpa disappears from the train platform that mission descends on the kids . . . and much else besides.
William and Maxine are interesting characters before events overwhelm their personalities, and the mysterious Nura, who appears later, barely has time to emerge as a character. But what events! The author weaves tales of the ancient order of Hashashim with strains of the dying Ottoman and Persian empires, to create villains who strike eerie echoes with the radical Islamists of today: “This city is the cornerstone of the west,” [the Rafiq] said. ”But the cornerstone will fall, and the tower will crumble . . . Every knee will bow at the foot of the one who sees all things in the Eye of Midnight, who declares the unalterable word, who holds the key to paradise.” Needless to say, there’s only one Being to whom “every knee will bow,” and all imposters must be vigorously opposed. The good guys achieve a partial victory–but stay tuned for the sequel!
Cautions: Violence (mild)
Overall rating: 4 (out of 5)
Categories: Adventure/thriller, historical fiction, middle grades, character values
Cover image from Barnes & Noble