Midnight for Charlie Bone: Solidly interesting, not particularly compelling

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Jenny Nimmo Midnight for Charlie BoneMidnight for Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo

Any book nowadays that has its main character be a young boy who suddenly discovers he has magical talent is, fair or not, going to be compared to the Harry Potter series. Add in a school for geniuses and those “endowed” with magical talents, a small cadre of mixed (talented and not-talented) friends to aid the main character, suspicious professors, and a missing presumed dead father and you’re almost asking for it. It might not be right, but at least so many people have read Harry Potter that it gives us all a solid baseline standard. So let’s get to the inevitable, fair or not — how does Charlie Bone stack up against Harry Potter? The answer has to be “not very well,” mostly due to the writing rather than the storyline itself — it simply lack the richness of detail, of character, of atmosphere that permeated the Potter books.

The idea of the endowed is interesting enough, and one of the nice touches of originality are some of the talents themselves — which are a bit odd and sometimes even seemingly useless or trivial. Charlie’s talent, for instance, is to hear voices from the photographs he looks at; another character can make lights explode. These are more quirky than one might expect, and while some others are more run-of-the-mill (the ability to call the winds or to hypnotize), the quirkiness and “smallness” of some of these is what lends some charm to the book and its larger premise. It’s nice to see characters have to work around limitations rather than being able to simply research a specific spell or potion to solve almost any problem.

The background story also adds some interest beyond the ordinary. It seems the endowed are the descendants of the “Red King,” who disappeared almost a millennium ago. His children have been at war over the generations, with the added complexity that sometimes the “bad” children gave birth to some “good” ones and vice versa. It’s a bit sketchy, but laid out in sufficient detail for this book; clearly there will be more information to come in the sequels.
Charlie’s family also has potential. A mix of talented and untalented and seemingly a mix too of the opposing sides, the conflict lying under the surface and occasionally rising to the top keeps a nice bit of confused tension around the reader. The aunts and grandmother have a little of Roald Dahl in them, the major problem (here and in the book as a whole) is that they are not developed enough. His uncle, the one talented member of his family on his side, is better developed but still not fully so. The mother, a character that could have added some tonal depth, is almost a complete throwaway character who might not even exist for her place here. And except for his best friend, Charlie’s school friends also suffer from a lack of depth or personality.

As mentioned, lack of development is what keeps this an average book rather than allowing it to blossom into a good book. One almost senses that in writing for young adults, the author decided to strip out the “dull” stuff, which of course just bleeds the work of most of its interest. The setting are mostly perfunctory — there’s no real sense of place or tone or atmosphere anywhere in the book, whether it be Charlie’s home or the school or even the spooky old castle ruins which just cry out for some detailed description. The characters too suffer from some pallidness, including Charlie. We don’t see enough of the talents in use nor do we have any sense at all of their place in the larger society or what the “good” and “bad” sides of the Red King Children’s war really means. The pace drags a bit here and there and the whole book probably could have done with some cutting of plotline and replacing of some predictable or repetitive story actions with some fuller characterization or description.

In the end, this is a solid book that mostly keeps the reader’s attention but doesn’t really compel them to keep reading, either due to the gripping storyline or the interesting characters. There is clearly some potential here, however, and I’d give the author’s second book a try to see if she makes good on that promise with some fuller detail and better characterization. Though I probably would only give her a few chapters into that second book before making my decision. Midnight for Charlie Bone isn’t a bad story, but it isn’t quite yet a good one.

The Children of the Red King —  (2002-2007) Ages 9-12. Publisher: The fabulous powers of the Red King were passed down through his descendants, after turning up quite unexpectedly, in someone who had no idea where they came from. This is what happened to Charlie Bone, and to some of the children he met behind the grim, gray walls of Bloor’s Academy. Charlie Bone has discovered an unusual gift — he can hear people in photographs talking! His scheming aunts decide to send him to Bloor Academy, a school for genius’s where he uses his gifts to discover the truth despite all the dangers that lie ahead.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsJenny Nimmo Midnight for Charlie Bone, Charlie Bone and the Time Twister, Charlie Bone and the Invisible Boy, Chalie Bone and the Castle of Mirrors, Charlie Bone adn the Hidden King, Charlie Bone and the BeastJenny Nimmo Midnight for Charlie Bone, Charlie Bone and the Time Twister, Charlie Bone and the Invisible Boy, Chalie Bone and the Castle of Mirrors, Charlie Bone adn the Hidden King, Charlie Bone and the BeastJenny Nimmo Charlie Bone and the Shadow 8. Charlie Bone and the Red KnightJenny Nimmo Charlie Bone and the Shadow 8. Charlie Bone and the Red Knight

Chronicles of the Red King —  (2011-2013) Ages 9-12. Publisher: NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY bestselling author Jenny Nimmo is back with a brand-new series chronicling the origin and the adventures of Charlie Bone’s magical ancestor, the Red King! Timoken is a prince born in a secret kingdom. At his birth, a forest jinni bestows magical gifts upon him: a cloak made by the last moon spider and a potion called Alixir. When the peaceful land is attacked, Timoken and his sister, Zobayda, must find a new kingdom to call home. Together, with only the magical gifts and a talking camel, the siblings set off. In this brand-new series, bestselling author Jenny Nimmo takes readers on an extraordinary quest with one of her most powerful and mysterious characters, the one who started it all for Charlie Bone and the children of the Red King.

Jenny Nimmo Chronicles of the Red King 1. The Secret Kingdom 2. The Stones of RavenglassJenny Nimmo Chronicles of the Red King 1. The Secret Kingdom 2. The Stones of Ravenglassfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews


SHARE:  Facebooktwitterredditpinteresttumblrmail  FOLLOW:  Facebooktwitterrsstumblr
If you plan to buy this book, you can support FanLit by clicking on the book cover above and buying it (and anything else) at Amazon. It costs you nothing extra, but Amazon pays us a small referral fee. Click any book cover or this link. We use this income to keep the site running. It pays for website hosting, postage for giveaways, and bookmarks and t-shirts. Thank you!

BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

View all posts by

Review this book and/or Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *