ARC Review: The Helm of Midnight by Marina Lostetter

The Helm of Midnight (The Five Penalties, #1)

Rating: 5 out of 5.

First impression: I feel like I’ve been reading this one forever (which according to my reading activity translates to… 6 days). This is longer than I usually take to read a book, however, and I think this one did drag a tiny bit in the middle, but I never really felt it dragging. It was more an overall feeling and I think was mostly due to this book requiring a slower reading because parts of the worldbuilding are very complex and the structure of the story is many-layered. The conclusion was very fast-paced though. And if it’s not obvious from this intro paragraph… I absolutely loved it.

The way the story is structured, there’s a lot of anticipation as the reader discovers things the main character doesn’t know. There are 3 POVs, though the story is told mainly through de-Krona, a slightly naive and generally good-hearted police officer who starts the story off by failing to stop a heist of dangerous magical artifacts. (This is an angle I’ve never seen explored in a heist novel.) This heist reopens a sort of Jack the Ripper case that was rather disturbing.

After a few chapters, de-Krona’s chapters begin to alternate with another woman’s (unrelated at first) set two years previous. Later, another set of alternating chapters appear, this time of a man set 11 years earlier who very quickly becomes very obviously related to de-Krona’s investigation. There’s also a very clever intro to de-Krona’s chapters that becomes clear at the end.

I empathized with each of the POV characters and wanted things to go well for them even as it became clear for some that they wouldn’t. I also really enjoyed a few side characters, Thibaut especially.

You know a book is good when it gives you chills of anticipation and foreboding. Also I love how the threads of the story weave around each other.

The religion and creation story is complex and fascinating. It’s frontloaded in the intro and first chapters but it stays consistently important throughout. There are 5 gods with 5 sets of pronouns and this is done in a way that feels organic and makes sense with the story. There is a religious component to the overarching mystery de-Krona is trying to solve, as well as a magical component, and I have a feeling the gods are going to be very important in the next books.

The way magic works in this world is very interesting – especially the death masks. The time tax and use of time as currency is also quite unusual

I highly enjoyed reading this and am anxious to find out what comes next. It’s definitely going in my top 10 for the year, possibly top 5.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Tor for providing an e-arc for review.

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