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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 histo 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.


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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 histo 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.

30 review for The Helm of Midnight

  1. 4 out of 5

    Petrik

    I have a Booktube channel now! Subscribe here: https://www.youtube.com/petrikleo ARC provided by the publisher—Tor Books—in exchange for an honest review. 4.5/5 stars This is an incredible book. Character-driven and bloody thrilling; The Helm of Midnight has pretty much confirmed its spot in one of my favorite books of 2021 list. I owe a thank you to Andrea Stewart, the author of The Bone Shard Daughter, for recommending this book to me. I was already intrigued by the eerie cover art illustrated by I have a Booktube channel now! Subscribe here: https://www.youtube.com/petrikleo ARC provided by the publisher—Tor Books—in exchange for an honest review. 4.5/5 stars This is an incredible book. Character-driven and bloody thrilling; The Helm of Midnight has pretty much confirmed its spot in one of my favorite books of 2021 list. I owe a thank you to Andrea Stewart, the author of The Bone Shard Daughter, for recommending this book to me. I was already intrigued by the eerie cover art illustrated by Sam Weber, and it was her endorsement that really push me to read The Helm of Midnight amidst my ever-growing TBR pile. I don’t regret it one bit. This was my first time reading Lostetter’s book, and I’m undoubtedly impressed, especially because this is her fantasy novel; her previous books were all sci-fi if I’m not mistaken. Lostetter herself described The Helm of Midnight as The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris meets Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson; I can confirm that this isn’t a far-off pitch, and I loved it. Unraveling: that’s what it feels like. The more I try to wind the lengths of my life into a neat, manageable knot, the more they seem to stretch and fray and snap. Order is not easy. Breaking takes less effort than building, that is the way of the world. The Helm of Midnight, the first book in The Five Penalties trilogy, opens with a daring and deadly heist. The perpetrator managed to steal a dangerous artifact of terrible power: the death mask of Louis Charbon. Louis Charbon was once known as the most terrifying serial murderer, and this death mask created by a master craftsman being stolen means that someone might have the power to channel Louis Charbon’s abilities when they wear the death mask. Now it’s up to Krona, De-Lia, and their fellow Regulars to find out the thieves, the truth behind this heist, and Louis Charbon himself. As you can probably guess, investigations is a huge part of the narrative in The Helm of Midnight. The terror and mayhem unleashed by Louis Charbon were frankly terrifying; it made me wonder what kind of research the author has done to successfully write massacres in such a vividly horrifying detail. Yes, this is quite a dark book, and if you’re not into reading grim books, you might be better off skipping this one. However, as evil blooms in darkness, The Helm of Midnight was an amazing read to me not because of its attention to murder, yes that’s a part of it, but more importantly it was the magnificent characterizations that immersed me into the narrative so much. “Nothing can stop a man who thinks his violence is not only justified, but the epitome of virtue.” This is, at its core, a story about faith, trauma, family, and duty. The characterizations are the key factors that made these themes worked so good. Even when the pacing considerably slowed down in the middle of the book, I never felt bored because I’ve grown attached and invested in finding out the fates of these characters. The story is told through the perspective of three main characters in a different time frame. First, we have Krona in the present timeframe who deals with the plotline I mentioned earlier; her story took some time for me to fully enjoy. Eventually, I became attached to Krona’s character development and the well-written sibling relationship she has with her sister: De-Lia; the complexity and love between the two characters as sisters really shine through the pages. “They’d wanted to protect each other so much, sometimes they’d forgotten what they were protecting.” And then we have Melanie’s chapters that take place two years before the current event. I will admit that I was worried that her chapters won’t matter much to Krona’s story; it just seemed disconnected at first, and I thought this would be one of those cases where a character was introduced, but their story won’t connect until the sequel. Obviously, I couldn’t be more wrong. That’s all I can say about this, though, you have to find out for yourself. In Melanie’s POV, Lostetter also exhibited her talent in writing a romantic relationship that’s so wonderfully done. ’“It’s not just about what I want,” she said with a sigh. “We take actions in life, and there are consequences. Those consequences narrow our choices. Time makes us walk a straight path between where we’ve been and where we are now. There’s no changing it.” “But new decisions mean new consequences and new choices,” he said softly. “We’re never locked into one path. Time also allows us free will. She never freezes our future.”’ And finally—my favorite of the three POV characters—we have Louis Charbon himself; his chapters start eleven years before Krona’s story. This POV, y’all… It exceeded my expectations. I recently read a manga series called Shuumatsu no Valkyrie (Record of Ragnarok in English), and the similarity to Jack the Ripper found in Louis Charbon’s reputation reminded me of reading Jack the Ripper’s story in that manga. I’m giving a self-standing (yes, I’m standing right now) ovation to Lostetter with Louis Charbon’s origin story. THIS is the one that gives the necessary extra depth to the novel. Does eternal malice accompany Louis Charbon since his birth? Is he really the personification of death? Again, read and find out for yourself. Suffice to say that I was absolutely compelled with his chapters; reading about the internal and external conflicts he has between loving his family and executing his duty to the Unknown God was heartbreaking, disturbing, and unputdownable. “People are more complex than that. Evil has its logics, just as good does. I need to understand Charbon to understand this killer.” Three different characters with three different timelines and all connect with each other to bring a great result. Plus, The Helm of Midnight has one of the most despicable villains I’ve ever read. Lostetter’s prose felt so well-polished, and the full force of the horror and nightmare that the characters felt can truly be felt. I seriously love books with characters that made me feel; Lostetter’s capability to describe emotions—especially pain, anguish, and regret—was incredible. I could really feel the character’s emotions. And speaking of emotions, the magic in this novel revolves around emotions, and it also reminded me of the magic system in Mistborn; without the explosive actions. There’s quite a lot to unpack here; I’m just going to mention them briefly. People with an affinity for wearing a death mask have the power to channel the abilities and memories that comes with wearing one; each death mask has its own level of Magnitude, Tier, and abilities, with its own benefits and drawbacks. Then there’s also the concept of Enchantments and emotion stones, and more. “Real time is far more valuable than bottled time. It has a better exchange rate. I decided I wanted to spend mine as productively as possible, get the biggest payout I could. That way, when I’m close to dying, I won’t feel the need to cash in—to lay on extra days, or months, or years. Because I won’t have any regrets. I think only people who waste their lives scrape for those extra minutes.” Dark, immersive, and bloodstained, The Helm of Midnight provides an emotionally manipulative reading experience that I enjoyed. Although this is the first book in a trilogy, it worked nicely as a standalone. I have a difficult time classifying what kind of sub-genre this novel belongs in; it’s a novel with a lot of ideas implemented, and I’m curious to find out how the author will improve on these ideas in the sequels. The Helm of Midnight is partly urban fantasy, high fantasy, thriller, and mystery with a touch of steampunk, and Lostetter combined them into one package with frightening accuracy. It’s different from the kind of epic/high fantasy books I usually read, and I know this won’t work for everyone, but it really did for me and I hope it will for you as well. Last but not least, I’ll close this review with an important message from the author herself: “And thank you to everyone who picked up this book, especially the readers who are struggling—whether it be through external battles or internal ones. As krona pointed out, despair always lies, and no one should be expected to work through depression, anxiety, or a catastrophe alone.”—Marina J. Lostetter Official release date: 13th April 2021 You can pre-order the book from: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Book Depository (Free shipping) | Bookshop (Support Local Bookstores!) The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication. You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions Special thanks to my Patrons on Patreon for giving me extra support towards my passion for reading and reviewing! My Patrons: Alfred, Alya, Annabeth, Ben, Blaise, Devin, Diana, Edward, Hamad, Helen, Jimmy Nutts, Joie, Lufi, Melinda, Mike, Miracle, Nicholas, Saunders, Shaad, Summer, Zoe.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Chelsea Humphrey

    "The Rules of the Valley are as harsh as they are pure. The gods sacrificed much for humanity, and require us to sacrifice for each other in return. Beware the Five Penalties." Wow, this was a pretty incredible start to what I assume will be an epic trilogy. A little bit serial killer murder mystery added to an intricate magic system, then sprinkled with a dash of steampunk ingenuity, and you have The Helm of Midnight. This is a really tough book for me to write a review for, because I always fee "The Rules of the Valley are as harsh as they are pure. The gods sacrificed much for humanity, and require us to sacrifice for each other in return. Beware the Five Penalties." Wow, this was a pretty incredible start to what I assume will be an epic trilogy. A little bit serial killer murder mystery added to an intricate magic system, then sprinkled with a dash of steampunk ingenuity, and you have The Helm of Midnight. This is a really tough book for me to write a review for, because I always feel unqualified giving specific recommendations when it comes to adult fantasy. I don't read a substantial amount of books in this genre, but I feel like I've read enough to know at least whether or not said book has substance. It sounds like there's a lot going on in this novel, and there definitely is, but somehow it all works together nicely. Please note that there are quite a few dark and disturbing moments in this book, mainly due to the fact that we get a devious POV from the serial killer the mask stolen is associated with, which I felt was genius and added so much depth to the tale. If you enjoy dark fantasy that really bleeds into many sub-genres, I highly recommend you give this one a try. *Many thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    This was something of a surprise to me because I'm kind of a connoisseur of covers and with a title like that, I HAD to assume the novel was an epic fantasy with standard worldbuilding for such. What it IS, however, is something more like a hybrid Jack-the-Ripper London in a unique fantasy with a Bujold-like 5 Gods setting mixed with a VERY cool external emotions-based magic system (at least early on). In other words, we have a heavy-population fantasy with lots of disparity between the rich and This was something of a surprise to me because I'm kind of a connoisseur of covers and with a title like that, I HAD to assume the novel was an epic fantasy with standard worldbuilding for such. What it IS, however, is something more like a hybrid Jack-the-Ripper London in a unique fantasy with a Bujold-like 5 Gods setting mixed with a VERY cool external emotions-based magic system (at least early on). In other words, we have a heavy-population fantasy with lots of disparity between the rich and the poor, monsters in the streets, and heist-like action that goes a bit deeper. I'm also reminded of Foundryside as I read it. It is, after all, a novel about rather unique ghosts that remind me of cyberpunk fare, magic masks, medical expertise, and a convoluted con game that only touches on a steampunk theme while doubling down on its own thing. In other words, it's quite good. The characters are also pretty memorable, too, although there might have been a little too much meandering. The core fears and hopes were pretty standard and convincing and definitely swum around the main plot in a cool way. I'm looking forward to continuing this pretty vast tapestry of a world. :)

  4. 5 out of 5

    Emma☀️

    I enjoyed this, despite the slow pace and complicated world building. The characters were all properly fleshed out with unique personalities. By the end of the novel, I was stressed out and almost in tears - fun times :D Longer rtc Thank you to Macmillan-Tor/Forge and Netgalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Virginja ↢ 99% imp

    2🌟 I received an ARC (Advanced Read Copy) from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quotes reported may be subject to modifications upon publishing. Order is not easy. Breaking takes less effort than building, that is the way of the world. Uff. I had really high hopes for The Helm of Midnight (THoM), but it ended up being just an okay book, with a lot of wasted potential. And it fills me with sorrow, because this book had all the papers in order to be ground breaking high fa 2🌟 I received an ARC (Advanced Read Copy) from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quotes reported may be subject to modifications upon publishing. Order is not easy. Breaking takes less effort than building, that is the way of the world. Uff. I had really high hopes for The Helm of Midnight (THoM), but it ended up being just an okay book, with a lot of wasted potential. And it fills me with sorrow, because this book had all the papers in order to be ground breaking high fantasy, with an astoundingly original magic system. THoM is set in a world populated by monsters. Long ago, the five gods created humanity an, to preserve it, they enclosed all mankind in a sort of bubble. Surrounded by a magical wall, humanity lives in the Valley, while unspeakably horrible monsters dwell on the outside. Every god has their own tipe of magic, and each of these is used/stored in five different materials: gems for Emotion, wood for Knowledge, sand for Time and iron for Nature. The last god, the Unknown, has made the barrier, but they (they are a non-binary god) didn’t leave humanity any specific magic; no one knows why. Wood is used to store the memories of the dead, and the story starts when someone steals the wooden mask of Luis Chabron, an infamous serial killer that murdered an insane amount of people. Officer Krona is assigned to the investigation, but the theft of Charbon’s mask is way more convoluted than what the young woman thinks, and leads her in a tangle of plots woven directly by the Unknown god themselves. ”We can’t go backward. Time does not unmake what has been made.” As you can see, Lostetter’s world is really immaginative and complex. She did not create one magic system, she created four, all of them extremely original and compelling. And that’s not all. The author build a beautiful and unique world, where the human territory is inspired by 1800s France, but the outside world is populated by Lovecraftian eldritch horrors. The description of the the monsters from the outside was chilling, vivid to the point it gave me chills! There are elements of the occult (like lithomancy and divination) and aspects that reminded me of voodoo, like the enchanted wooded masks and the Thalo puppets — dreadful stuffed mannequins controlled by the Unknown god. Lostetter put together such a mixture of fantastic ideas; if only she had wrote them cohesively... I regret to say the author bit more than she could chew, and ended up creating a massing world of whom she only drew the very basic outlines. The applications of the gods power is described vaguely. We know what they do separately, but when combined together Lostetter fails to explain how they are supposed to work. We are constantly told there are rules, and constantly the author proceeds to break them two chapters after. We are told that doing that thing is impossible, but three chapters after that thing is carried out with like it’s not a big deal. Lostetter clearly put a lot of effort in crafting her world, nonetheless her careful planning is completely useless when the readers can’t understand a damn about how it functions. “All people were ultimately liars, even when they thought they were telling the truth.” The main reasons why I didn’t like this book is the writing style, but that’s totally on me. I have come to the realization that in order to like a book I need an “intimate” writing. The narration has to provide the inner thoughts of characters (possibly through free indirect speech) and give each a distinct voice, otherwise I won’t feel attached to any of them. In THoM that isn’t the case. Lostetter’s writing is very clinical, it narrates the events but never analyzed the thoughts and feelings of the characters. I’m sure that many readers will love this book because of its very clinical tone. It’s a very fluent writing stile with a simple prose, so many will fly through this book in a matter of days. For me that wasn’t the case. “Louis Charbon had been a killer. And he’d liked it. Some variation of ‘Death is art’ was always written next to the bodies.” Another problem I had with this book is that we readers knew too much compared to the characters. This book has three different plot lines: one follows Kron and the robbery investigation; one a woman named Melanie, who is trying to save her mother’s life; the last - and most captivating one - is Charbon’s origin story. By the 35% the readers already knows why Charbon’s mask was stolen, why Melanie is important to story and the masterplan of the Unknown. Krona starts to figure things out at about the 60%, but since we know too much everything she discovers is devoid of any satisfaction. Krona’s arc is the most prominent of the three, it should be the most thrilling, instead it’s slow and redundant. The author should have spaced out the informations to create a sense of suspence. Other readers pointed this out, but this book should be about a hundred pages shorter. The really good parts of THoM are Charbon’s chapters. Being in the head of a serial killer was awesome. Charbon’s story is a tragedy from start to finish, I don’t want to spoil you anything, but, out of all the characters, he is probably the only one with a story to tell. His actions are heinous, if he was a real person everyone would throw him in a prison and destroy the key. But, at the same time, what he did made so much sense! i wish Lostetter had written more chapter from his point of view, or even better, wrote his story only. It could have made a grand horror fantasy! ”Magic isn’t ours, not really. We don’t make it, we don’t control it. We harvest it and refine it and pretend to master it. But it’s a feral power that wants to turn on us.” It saddens me to say so, but I wish this book had been written by another author, more experienced with complicated fantasy worlds. If Sanderson, Kristoff or Jemisin had worked on with these ides, this book would have been a real masterpiece.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dannii Elle

    Actual rating 4.5/5 stars. This is the first instalment in The Five Penalties series. There are some books that make me shake my head, whilst reading them, in sheer bewilderment at the innovation of story design and unique constructions, in terms of magic system and world building, that it contains. This is a shining example of one of them. The Helm of Midnight features a famed serial killer, whose crimes are being replicated through a stolen artefact, a healer, who has risen in station and has mo Actual rating 4.5/5 stars. This is the first instalment in The Five Penalties series. There are some books that make me shake my head, whilst reading them, in sheer bewilderment at the innovation of story design and unique constructions, in terms of magic system and world building, that it contains. This is a shining example of one of them. The Helm of Midnight features a famed serial killer, whose crimes are being replicated through a stolen artefact, a healer, who has risen in station and has more secrets than just her knowledge for herbs that she keeping close to her, and a Regulator, tasked with restoring order to a place plagued by fears from both within and without. What immediately captivated me was how magic was constructed in this world. Death masks were fashioned to retain some of each individual's essence after their passing. Through new individuals later donning these masks, they would be able to harness the skillset of the former. Sometimes though, far more sinister elements of the deceased's character also clung to this last semblance of life. There was a multitude of perspectives, from a variety of different timelines, used to narrate this tale. It ensured mysteries were continually appearing and all were solved at various junctures before new ones arose in their place. I loved exploring them all, as well as casting my suspicions over each character, who all had something they hid from both the reader and each other. Despite the grittiness and darkness these elements brought to the book, there were also many protruding moments of hope and faith, life and light. This was a story with veins of blood running entirely through, yet it retained a core of goodness, or at least hopeful goodness, despite it all. I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author, Marina J. Lostetter, and the publisher, Tor Books, for this opportunity.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Chris Berko

    This is a book of fantastic ideas populated by some memorable characters but the story lacked a sense of urgency and seemed kind of repetitive until about 85% in. The ending was fun, if abrupt, and left enough unanswered questions and dangling carrots hanging around to where I'm looking forward to see where the next installment goes. One of my gripes, and I hardly ever say this as a lover of long books, is that this is too long. Two hundred pages easily could have been chopped out without losing This is a book of fantastic ideas populated by some memorable characters but the story lacked a sense of urgency and seemed kind of repetitive until about 85% in. The ending was fun, if abrupt, and left enough unanswered questions and dangling carrots hanging around to where I'm looking forward to see where the next installment goes. One of my gripes, and I hardly ever say this as a lover of long books, is that this is too long. Two hundred pages easily could have been chopped out without losing anything narratively and made things a little more exciting. That being said, this is definitely an expansive story with much of the worldbuilding and background history only hinted at and leaving lots to explore in future books. It took me a while to get used to the author's writing style and some passages seemed disjointed until things clicked at around 20% on my Kindle and then went down much more smoothly from there. I connected with the characters pretty early on and it was that connection that kept me going through the slower parts. The characters deal with loss, guilt, and redemption, and a lot of the motivations seem to stem from holding onto things from the past and trying to make things right. Multiple characters deal with this as well as experiencing what we now know as PTSD and this is what made the characters real for me, I have had those thoughts, I've had those feelings and I know how crippling anxiety and trauma from the past can impact present decision making. The magic system is original and thoroughly explained, and there is plenty the author comes up with to marvel at but these were background things and did not add to the story. I think I was expecting more of a murder mystery that just happened to take place in a fantasy environment and yes the fantasy elements are there and are way cool, it's just that the other elements were not as engrossing and the momentum I usually feel when reading a whodunnit was not there. There were times I was totally stoked to read this and couldn't wait to get to reading (damn real life) but there were equal times where I wished things moved quicker and more was going on. Three stars from me along with a dash of excited anticipation for where future books will take us. I want to thank Tor Books, Netgalley, and Marina Lostetter for the advance copy but that in no way shape or form impacted my opinion or review.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rachel (TheShadesofOrange)

    4.0 Stars This was such a unique fantasy with compelling characters and an interesting magic system. I particularly appreciated the city setting, rather than the usual sprawling worldbuilding of traditional epic fantasy. Even though the story was told over three perspectives and timelines, the novel felt wonderfully intimate.  As an avid reader of horror and thrillers, I personally did not find this book particularly dark or gruesome, but I can imagine that it would feel more intense for readers w 4.0 Stars This was such a unique fantasy with compelling characters and an interesting magic system. I particularly appreciated the city setting, rather than the usual sprawling worldbuilding of traditional epic fantasy. Even though the story was told over three perspectives and timelines, the novel felt wonderfully intimate.  As an avid reader of horror and thrillers, I personally did not find this book particularly dark or gruesome, but I can imagine that it would feel more intense for readers who normally avoid dark fiction. I was a little underwhelmed by the reveals surrounding the serial killer, but still overall enjoyed this narrative. This book had some good setup with potential to build in future installments. I am looking forward to reading the next book in this series.  I would recommend this one to fantasy readers looking for a well plotted, dark story with a creative magic system. 

  9. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    The Helm of Midnight is an entertaining and suspenseful fantasy thriller. There’s more than enough cool, innovative ideas and surprising events that kept me coming back for more each night. Connecting with some characters was a bit of an issue for me, but overall this is an exciting start to a new series that raises some interesting questions about legacy and currency, among other fresh angles that haven't been addressed in a lot of recent fantasy I've been reading. The death masks leaving echoes The Helm of Midnight is an entertaining and suspenseful fantasy thriller. There’s more than enough cool, innovative ideas and surprising events that kept me coming back for more each night. Connecting with some characters was a bit of an issue for me, but overall this is an exciting start to a new series that raises some interesting questions about legacy and currency, among other fresh angles that haven't been addressed in a lot of recent fantasy I've been reading. The death masks leaving echoes of their previously alive hosts while retaining their talents is an enticing idea to play around with. How much power do these echoes have over the user, as well as what intelligence should be allowed or guarded, are rich plotlines to mine. Lostetter dives deep into societal, historical, and religious responses to these artifacts, and it sets the table nicely for the upcoming sequels. Rich, thoughtful world, cool ideas, with a dark spin on it all. Some supporting characters felt a bit flat, but outside of that, a recommended read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Books with Brittany

    3.75 after more reflection.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Alena Reading

    Check out my new Booktube channel! This novel is a mix of two of my favorite genres - fantasy and thriller, the premise sounded quite intriguing, and early reviews seemed to be mostly very positive. So what could go wrong? For me, apparently, everything. As we all know, an interesting idea means nothing without proper execution. And this is where everything crumbled because the writing didn't work for me at all. The pacing. Being 464 pages long, this book felt like it had over a 1000 because no ma Check out my new Booktube channel! This novel is a mix of two of my favorite genres - fantasy and thriller, the premise sounded quite intriguing, and early reviews seemed to be mostly very positive. So what could go wrong? For me, apparently, everything. As we all know, an interesting idea means nothing without proper execution. And this is where everything crumbled because the writing didn't work for me at all. The pacing. Being 464 pages long, this book felt like it had over a 1000 because no matter how much I was reading, my progression both in the story and ebook percentage was moving at a snail pace. Many scenes were clearly overwritten and could be cut without losing anything important. The characters. Couldn't care less about any of them. The writing was focused on describing the scene and protagonists' thoughts but never carried any emotional value, being too detached and clinical. I am a character driven reader and need to care about or at least be fascinated by the people I read about. Not here. The plot. Most of the mystery is revealed too early to the reader via different POVs in previous timelines. Why should I care about Krona learning about this serial killer throughout the whole book when I already know him from early chapters? The Worldbuilding. There was at the same time too many info dumps and too little cohesive information given on the world and magic. There were a few interesting ideas but everything else felt too convoluted to form a clear picture in your mind. This eARC was provided by Tor via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mogsy (MMOGC)

    3 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2021/05/02/... The Helm of Midnight is rich, dark, and atmospheric, but everything that made it such an immersive and mysterious read also worked against it at times, leading me to have mixed feelings about the book. The story is told through multiple POVs and timelines, and we first begin with an introduction to Krona Hirvath as she and her fellow Regulators must solve the curious theft of a death mask belonging to Louis Charbon, the mos 3 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2021/05/02/... The Helm of Midnight is rich, dark, and atmospheric, but everything that made it such an immersive and mysterious read also worked against it at times, leading me to have mixed feelings about the book. The story is told through multiple POVs and timelines, and we first begin with an introduction to Krona Hirvath as she and her fellow Regulators must solve the curious theft of a death mask belonging to Louis Charbon, the most notorious serial killer to ever stalked the streets of Lutador. What made it such a powerful and dangerous object is the fact that Charbon’s memories and abilities can be accessed and channeled by someone in possession of the mask, which is a frightening thought indeed. Not only that, another deadly artifact was also stolen during the heist, a jeweled brooch that is said to be steeped in so much negative energy, it would drive a wearer to take their own life. Needless to say, recovering these two items is of the highest priority for the Regulators, and Krona will be racing against the clock to find out who stole them, and why. Meanwhile, in chapters that take place a few years before the present, readers also get to meet Melanie, a young girl from the country has recently arrived in the city to track down an enchanted mask which she hopes would help heal her mother. However, her plans do not go as she expected at all, and before long, Melanie is in way over her head, dealing with something far beyond her naïve comprehension. And finally, in a surprising twist, we are given a glimpse into the tortured mind of the serial killer himself, Louis Charbon. His perspective is one of the story’s main threads, as chapter by chapter, the horrifying details of his past crimes are revealed. Gradually, these separate threads will eventually come together to form a coherent narrative, but I’m going to be honest here—you’ll need to be patient, because it does take a while. In a style that can be described as sumptuous and detailed—exhaustively so, at times—author Marina Lostetter spends a great deal of attention on world-building as well as explaining the motives of her characters. As much as I appreciate an author who wants to take the time to get everything just right, it was also impossible not to feel a little antsy and bored, wishing she would move it along a little faster and get to the point. Of course, it didn’t help that the story was so damn grim and bleak. Now, I don’t mind an element of darkness in a book, and in fact, I eat it up when it’s written well. But combined with the slow pacing, the forbidding atmosphere of the setting was less advantageous and became more stifling. This effect needed to be offset by more action and initiative by the characters, and to be fair, we saw some of that here and there, but in the end, I did not think it was nearly enough to overcome the general sensation of ennui. The characters themselves were also fascinating, but I felt like I was reading a detached account of individual people going through the motions, reacting to certain events. Any relationships between them felt strangely dispassionate, preventing me from connecting with them on a deeper level, and because of the way the narrative was structured, there wasn’t as much mystery in the plot as I’d expected. That said, there are still plenty of reasons to read The Helm of Midnight if you are a fan of fantasy mysteries. There is a good story here, if you don’t mind not getting as many surprises or action and are content with a book that deals mostly with character motives and conflict, which lets the interest build slowly—but surely—as events unfold. The world-building is sublime too, and that’s where Lostetter’s talent really shines. Granted, maybe there could have been more balance between the different aspects of the novel, because there were times where the prose would get carried away with excessive detail into the magic systems, political and historical lore, as well as the people’s connection to the powers of the five gods that make up the religion of this world. However, no one can deny the sheer originality and creativity of the ideas found here. If the world-building and premise behind The Helm of Midnight appeals to you, I would definitely check it out. Personally, I would have liked a little more mystery and a bit more personality and punch to the characters, but those with a fondness for dark fantasy featuring highly detailed and rich world-building will probably enjoy this a lot more.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Fiona

    In a city of magic and masks, Regulators must keep the tightly-guarded peace, preserving the strict laws of the land. Not as easy as you might suspect when under regular attack by beastly varg and a killer recently returned from the dead. But De-Krona and De-Lia Hirvath, sisters by birth as well as by Regulator service, are more than capable of meeting their challenges head-on. In The Helm of Midnight, we meet them as chaos is loosed upon a high-society gathering, resulting in the theft of the Ma In a city of magic and masks, Regulators must keep the tightly-guarded peace, preserving the strict laws of the land. Not as easy as you might suspect when under regular attack by beastly varg and a killer recently returned from the dead. But De-Krona and De-Lia Hirvath, sisters by birth as well as by Regulator service, are more than capable of meeting their challenges head-on. In The Helm of Midnight, we meet them as chaos is loosed upon a high-society gathering, resulting in the theft of the Mayhem Mask of Louis Charbon – better known as the Blooming Butcher. The clue’s in the name, and it’s not long before we get to see his work, grotesque and beautiful sculptures made from the victims that could have been pulled straight from an episode of Hannibal. But this is no simple serial-killer thriller dressed up with a fantasy setting – there’s a lot going on in this book, and murder is only the beginning. It took me time to get into this book – it’s the first in this setting, and the author wasn’t skimping on world-building. For the majority of the book, the chapters are split among three characters, at different points in time, too, pulling the reins a little on the reader as it switches between them. It made for a more leisurely start than the initial heist scene suggested, though I appreciate an author with the confidence to make sure the foundations of a world are stable. Once the initial world-building and scene-setting gave way to the story proper, however, I was SOLD. The author has a knack for little human moments that make her characters solid and real – and brings scenes to life in the reader’s mind. This book features a very diverse range of people, too – main characters and background both, which is something fantasy novels don’t have a tremendous track record on. No such issues here. The world itself wanders off the usual fantasy track, too – this is no medieval world plus magic. Despite the odd cottage, most of the descriptions of the world are more likely to associate with the Brutalists, all clean angles and palettes of red, black, and white. The spare but vivid descriptions of characters and places fit into that aesthetic, reinforcing it with their nature as much as their meaning – this was a book that felt like it was written by one of the characters from the very world it describes. Despite those early issues, the overall experience with The Helm of Midnight is a very exciting one. This reads very well as a stand-alone, but there’s a huge world here, one that I hope to see the author spend more time exploring. This review originally appeared at https://www.mysteryandsuspense.com/th.... Thank you to Mystery and Suspense and the publisher for providing a free copy for review!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    Solid first entry and what is shaping up to me a new favorite setting. 3.9⭐️s

  15. 5 out of 5

    Scott Hitchcock

    Just not for me. I think a lot of my female friends would like this one. There are just too many details about things like comfortable sheets that I really don't care about. Just not for me. I think a lot of my female friends would like this one. There are just too many details about things like comfortable sheets that I really don't care about.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sherry

    Review to come. Tomorrow. When my brain is not sludge. Why do I do this to myself? I’m going to be so bagged tomorrow… ……. So, this went from a 5 star read in the early pages, to a four star in the middle and then a 3 star by the end. A little disappointing and I’m sad to say that I didn’t love it as much as I had thought I would. This was one of three books that I was excited to read for the month of October and so bought immediately before all the reviews were in. Having read her sci-fi book, N Review to come. Tomorrow. When my brain is not sludge. Why do I do this to myself? I’m going to be so bagged tomorrow… ……. So, this went from a 5 star read in the early pages, to a four star in the middle and then a 3 star by the end. A little disappointing and I’m sad to say that I didn’t love it as much as I had thought I would. This was one of three books that I was excited to read for the month of October and so bought immediately before all the reviews were in. Having read her sci-fi book, Noumenon and having really enjoyed it, I felt the lovely buzz of anticipation one gets when one feels confident they got their hands on a promising read. Starting with the positives, the world building was very cool. I had a little trouble grasping the magic system but I was able to catch on and I thought it was well done. Two of the three perspectives, Krona and Charbon’s were real page turners for me, especially in the first half of the book. I loved Krona. She had issues but she wasn’t angsty about them which was something I found refreshing, especially considering the trauma that she had been dealing with. Charbon was weirdly (and very interestingly) a sympathetic and engaging character considering he was a serial killer. I thought the author did an excellent job taking us from where he started to where he ended up in a way that seemed fairly plausible considering the trauma he had been through, and as a theme, well, trauma gets top billing in this book and I thought it was well written from that perspective. As well thought out as the world appeared to be though, there were some significant ways for which the story and its many parts, just didn’t seem to fit. It is written like an eighteenth century world, with the values and technology of that time but discussed gender in a way that was more reflective of our time. I honestly felt it added some confusion as I couldn’t figure out whether some characters were being referred to by their names or their genders. It also added confusion for setting as it was jarring when compared to Melanie’s storyline, where the characters were so careful and correct to the point of absurdity as one would find in eighteenth century values. The two aspects of the narratives just didn’t fit together and it would take me out of the story when I tried to understand setting, which can be challenging when reading fantasy. I couldn’t help but wonder if the book wouldn’t have been better served by not including the storyline of Melanie at all, which contributed a lot to the setting of the eighteenth century, uptight, Victorian vibe of the book that didn’t fit well with the progressive perspective of gender. This perspective, more in keeping with our current understanding, is addressed both with the Gods and with a rather unnecessary fact added into an investigation Krona was undergoing that felt contrived when taken in context of the setting. It felt as though it didn’t quite fit. I understand where the author was going and I appreciate the inclusive narrative but it felt more contrived than fitting. Melanie’s storyline also took away so much of the tension of the story, revealing where the plot was going while leaving the characters in the dark. It was a curious thing, and not at all contributing to the enjoyment of the story, to pretty much understand everything going on and where the book was going while watching the characters in the book stumbling about, not putting together what seemed so obvious. I found towards the end of the book, what had begun as a fairly tight well grounded narrative began to lose it’s way with too convenient plot devices and storylines that didn’t quite come together in any way that felt satisfying or surprising. The narrative lost a lot of it’s pacing, especially towards the finish line, another way in which things just didn’t seem to fit together. So overall, I found it a disappointing read and if not for the interesting world and characters that I found quite engaging it would have rated 3 stars. But the promise of the story and the excellent world building from the early part of the book is still present enough that I will continue on with the series.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lukasz

    This book, guys. This book. How do I rate it? It shines with fascinating and creative ideas, dense and evocative writing, and strong characters. Parts of the story are PHENOMENAL. Unfortunately, all of this gets bogged down by lots of exposition and info-dumping. The end result is uneven - with sky-high ups, but also some downs. 3.5, I guess, is the right score (for and from me) but don't let it detract you from trying this one. I'll preorder book two as soon as it's possible. I just hope it won This book, guys. This book. How do I rate it? It shines with fascinating and creative ideas, dense and evocative writing, and strong characters. Parts of the story are PHENOMENAL. Unfortunately, all of this gets bogged down by lots of exposition and info-dumping. The end result is uneven - with sky-high ups, but also some downs. 3.5, I guess, is the right score (for and from me) but don't let it detract you from trying this one. I'll preorder book two as soon as it's possible. I just hope it won't contain as much backstory and lore as The Helm of Midnight. Longer review to come. ARC through NetGalley

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sofii♡ (A Book. A Thought.)

    I want to thank NetGalley & Tor Books very much for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. I loved this book! I think it deserves its own credit for taking a dark mystery and a murder story, and blending it perfectly with this fantasy world where magic also plays a supremely interesting role. I especially like the vibe that's quite atmospheric, but dense at the same time, I'm not saying this negatively, but the author takes her time to develop everything in a very I want to thank NetGalley & Tor Books very much for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. I loved this book! I think it deserves its own credit for taking a dark mystery and a murder story, and blending it perfectly with this fantasy world where magic also plays a supremely interesting role. I especially like the vibe that's quite atmospheric, but dense at the same time, I'm not saying this negatively, but the author takes her time to develop everything in a very detailed way, which gives a lot of depth and context to everything that happens. .Although confusing at one point, the construction of the world is super intriguing and fascinating to discover 4/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐ You can find more of my reviews & fun content on my blog A Book. A Thought. On the other hand, the magical or cursed objects, and the story behind them is great, as well as it's a book that relies heavily on the history of each object and how it impacts today's society. Also has a very complex and interesting look at society and its different social classes. I also want to emphasize that this book is very easy to read as a standalone so I love that, even so in a world that's clearly very complex and gigantic, it's to be hoped that the author has decided to continue a little more and explore more of it. I should mention that it's not an easy book to read at all, in fact, it's quite slow-paced and the beginning can be confusing to understand, but once you go through it and understand better where you are located, then it unfolds wonderfully. One of my favorite factors is that the book is divided between several POVs and not only that, but we jump in time between the past and the prest. Another point that has been super refreshing for me wasn't only the characters, which I tell you are very complex and realistic but also the book itself has a perfect mix between the mystery that we follow as the main theme and the fantasy elements, which are highlighted and explained but almost to a lesser extent. I feel that this will not be for everyone, but I liked the idea that the fictional world such as the fantasy and magic aspects are put in the background since it gives it a new and original vibe where it focuses on more mundane things, but always with that paranormal vibe that I love, it's a great touch that, although it seems minimal, gives the book a lot of character. Firt Toughts 04/15/21 This book has really surprised me, it proved to be even more incredible than I thought it would be. A super solid adult-fantasy plot with elements of thriller and horror that are a perfect addiction to create a great atmosphere. I also think it's extremely unique and somewhat refreshing to read. I loved it and am excited to tell you more about it in my full review. Obviously I can't wait for the next books!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kes

    I'M NOT CRYING, YOU'RE CRYING I loved this and I have been betrayed. Full review soon! 4.5 stars rounded up to 5! ____ The Helm of Midnight by Marina J Lostetter is the first novel in a brand new fantasy series. It is out April 13th and I definitely recommend checking it out! Thank you to Tor and Netgalley for the e-arc. All opinions are my own (as we all know from looking at my negative reviews) The Helm of Midnight follows Krona, her sister De-Lia, and their team of Regulators. They've been I'M NOT CRYING, YOU'RE CRYING I loved this and I have been betrayed. Full review soon! 4.5 stars rounded up to 5! ____ The Helm of Midnight by Marina J Lostetter is the first novel in a brand new fantasy series. It is out April 13th and I definitely recommend checking it out! Thank you to Tor and Netgalley for the e-arc. All opinions are my own (as we all know from looking at my negative reviews) The Helm of Midnight follows Krona, her sister De-Lia, and their team of Regulators. They've been tasked with tracking down a serial killer. There's just one catch - the serial killer is long dead, and it's their team's fault that he is on the loose again! There are three points of view, by Krona's feels like the main POV as it drives the current plotline of the book. The other two POVs are in the past. One takes place two years before the present story, and another takes place 11 years prior. The story's come together fantastically. There is no waiting for them to come together in future books! I'll be focusing on Krona's POV to summarize the story. The story opens with Krona and her team at a politician's event. Their job is to guard a series of dangerous magical artifacts that the councilor borrows for his rich guests to ogle over. But, when a seemingly random attack turns out to be an elaborate heist, the thieves get away with Louis Charbon (the aforementioned serial killer)'s death mask! We are also confronted with some of Krona's weaknesses right out of of the gate, which I appreciated. No overly qualified characters who never mess up here. As the story unfurls, we see that things and people aren't as simple as they seem on the surface. Lostetter provides a real sense depth to the morality of the world and the characters. Things are not simple, but heinous acts aren't forgivable even with good intentions or when done under duress. One of my favourite parts was the magical system. There are several different dominions of magic based on the elements of their pantheon of gods. Combining the different magics together is illegal. One sphere imbues emotions into gems. Another of many focuses on creating magical death masks. While everyone gets a death mask when they die, only some imbue their essence into the mask. These masks are highly regulated, but can be used to gain the knowledge and expertise of those who wore them. But, it's not as simple as just slipping on a mask and receiving their breadth of knowledge. The masks fight for control and if you aren't careful, you might find yourself slipping away. Louis Charbon's death mask is one such magical mask. This is a fast paced story with a wonderfully diverse cast of characters and a delightfully eerie ambiance. Beyond being a fantasy novel it also has all of the necessary elements of a mystery and a thriller. It is well-plotted with a well developed world that is vivid as has depth (both literally and figuratively). I really enjoyed this one! Like a lot, a lot. The Helm of Midnight was also more emotionally devastating than I had predicted. I loved the book, but I was also openly sobbing at one point. I am quick to tears though. Because this is a book about a serial killer, it might not be for those of you who are squeamish. There are daring sword/dagger fights that leave characters hurt and bleeding. But, worse than that are the elaborate arrangement of Louis Charbon's victims. I wouldn't really call it gory as the language and the arrangements are quite metaphorical and most of the characters don't try to look them in too much detail. But is can be thematically dark, and it might be something to watch out for! It's also a fantastic queernorm world. There are they/them and neopronouns galore! Krona is also possibly bi (mentions a first kiss with a girl) and I'm always here for that. I highly recommend this book! I had a lot of fun with the characters and the world. I'm really looking forward to the next books in the series!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tana 🌻 Cozyreadings

    19/03/2021 Book 14/52 ------------------------------------------------------ genre: Fantasy age: Adult Main Character: Krona Favourite Character: Thibaut Plot: 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 gra 19/03/2021 Book 14/52 ------------------------------------------------------ genre: Fantasy age: Adult Main Character: Krona Favourite Character: Thibaut Plot: 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. How far will he go? Review: This blew me away! I can't wait until this gets published and I can buy my own copy. The worldbuilding, the characters, the magic system. All are amazing. I know this hasn't even been published yet, but I can't wait for the next one. Trigger warnings: death of a family member, death of a parent, death of a child, lots of stabbing and shooting with needles, extreme gore, body mutilation, detailed description of murder and mutilation of murder victims , murder of pregnant women 17/12/2020 I got an e-arc!!!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    I absolutely loved The Helm of Midnight. It is essentially a mystery/thriller with fantasy elements set in a world where people’s talents and personalities can be imbued into masks and whoever wears the mask gains access to them. Exploding out of the gates with a heist, a notorious serial killer’s mask has been stolen and a team of Regulators must investigate as the bodies start piling up in an even more gruesome fashion than before. Told in alternating perspectives from three different character I absolutely loved The Helm of Midnight. It is essentially a mystery/thriller with fantasy elements set in a world where people’s talents and personalities can be imbued into masks and whoever wears the mask gains access to them. Exploding out of the gates with a heist, a notorious serial killer’s mask has been stolen and a team of Regulators must investigate as the bodies start piling up in an even more gruesome fashion than before. Told in alternating perspectives from three different characters and timelines, Marina Lostetter builds an intricate and intriguing mystery that blends together the magic systems I love in fantasy and the intensity and creepy atmosphere of thrillers. It is slow to tell the story, but as each piece of the puzzle is revealed, we start to see the wide tapestry the author has so skillfully weaved that brings together each timeline into a shocking finale that satisfyingly solves the mystery while leaving enough threads to pick in future installments. Loved it. Recommend it. Check it out!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rhiannon

    “The rules of the Valley are as harsh as they are pure.” I don’t always love a little introductory epigraph, but this one slapped. Such an intriguing introduction to a book that I had high hopes for! The Helm of Midnight really had everything going for it that I love in a fantasy: a dark tone, a complex main character, intrigue, a unique magic and religious system, genre-bendy, and queernorm on top? I was fascinated. The Helm of Midnight quickly became one of those books that end up riddled wi “The rules of the Valley are as harsh as they are pure.” I don’t always love a little introductory epigraph, but this one slapped. Such an intriguing introduction to a book that I had high hopes for! The Helm of Midnight really had everything going for it that I love in a fantasy: a dark tone, a complex main character, intrigue, a unique magic and religious system, genre-bendy, and queernorm on top? I was fascinated. The Helm of Midnight quickly became one of those books that end up riddled with notes, and which I can’t wait to write a review for. I wish I could say that was a good thing, but honestly, I’m just a little disappointed. Technically, the story follows Krona Hirvath, a “Regulator” charged with the protection of enchanted objects. The magic system in this story is rich, expansive, and highly controlled, with the most common manifestations being enchanted jewels and death masks, as well as the use of bottled time as currency. When the death mask of Louis Charbon — Lutador’s most notorious murderer — is stolen, Krona and her team of fellow Regulators (including her sister and captain, De-Lia) are spurred to track it down. I think my second biggest disappointment (the first is going to be a veritable tome of complaints later in the review) and takeaway in this book is:there’s just too much going on, too many disparate plotlines that don’t feel tied together so much as kind of fumblingly tangled. There are a ton of amazing ideas in this book, the magic system is unique, the writing is gorgeous — I have so many notes that are basically just different iterations of ”This is so fucking cool! — but the combination and the execution isn’t... really something I enjoyed all that much. The pacing was strange and I felt like there were a lot of contradictions and plotholes (most of them minor, but still enough to catch) which really brought me out of the book. The pacing is just. Kind of brutal, honestly. It’s so slow to get through, and then when something happens it’s kind of like, in a dizzying burst of energy. The writing is beautiful, though. Lostetter has some great turns of phrase throughout the book. Occasionally repetitive — sometimes it feels like we’re getting hammered with a concept over and over again, which is annoying even with the most beautiful of words — but still, very readable. I think it is a little impersonal though, which is probably part of why I wasn’t really in love with a lot of the characters. I also think that Lostetter really nails the banter and dialogue between a lot of the characters, especially the relationships she cares the most about. I felt kind of lukewarm about a lot of the characters, the only one that really stood out to me (and I can’t believe this either) being Thibaut. I just felt that any scene he was in was entertaining, and while I was (and still am!) skeptical of his relationship with Krona, I think there are some really good moments of chemistry between them that had me kind of rooting for them despite myself. Now, what really, really, REALLY , irked me, AKA the deciding factor between me rounding down to 2 instead of up to 3 stars, the biggest disappointment of the book: I do NOT understand the purpose of having a society with multiple gender identities and corresponding widely used pronouns (from what I can tell, they distinguish between male, female, intersex, nonbinary, and agender identities, and with transitioning also an option) and just??? Not utilizing it?? At all?? There is one(1) named character who is not male/female and who uses zhe/zhur pronouns, and that character is extremely minor. Like, I think one or two lines of dialogue and is mentioned in maybe seven or eight pages across the entire book? Every prominent character is he/him or she/her, none of them are implied by the text be to anything other than cisgender. All of the prominent relationships are male/female. The full tally of queer representation is basically: • One named nonbinary individual, who is an extremely minor character • Scattered agender/nonbinary background characters, mostly like. Priests and prostitutes and maids and other random background noise • Bi/pan/otherwise multisexual representation in the form of: a male criminal/escort, a joke about a cop’s son having a husband, and then a passing remark about a female character’s first kiss having been another girl. That’s basically it? I’m not going to interrogate the author’s identity or why she wrote this story the way she did based on personal details, but I think it’s really disappointing. On the representation level, what does it say that a queernorm world with a five-pronged gender system is only focused around cisgender characters and the only prominent ones relationships shown are male/female ones? There isn’t a single nonbinary/agender/intersex character who is part of a relationship or who is a parent. I don’t say this out of a shipping mindset, but more because it just reflects that this wasn’t necessarily a thought-out system. In a world of five genders, doesn’t it make sense that there would be different combinations in relationships, different familial structures, maybe even normalized polyamory or other communal living situations? Why don’t we see any relevant characters who fall outside of the traditional gender binary (a gender binary that doesn’t even exist??? In this world???)? Also, why does it seem like the expectations of propriety are based around, like, antiquated Victorian gender roles even though it’s technically a queernorm world? I kept hoping that there would be something, that I would turn the page and there would be a new character that was introduced would reflect one of the other identities. I think I realized that it just. Definitely wasn’t going to happen about 50% of the way through. And that’s so disappointing. It’s cisnormative and heternormative, if not outright transphobic, and it’s also just... bad writing in my opinion, like the author clearly did not do due diligence and really think this out and incorporate it into the world. I am a cis woman and this frustrated me so much, I can only imagine how a trans reader would feel. Piggybacking off of that little tangent, another thing that irks me (spoiler city ahead)(view spoiler)[is that in some ways one of the bigger plot twists is....kind of bio-essentialist, revolving around whether or not a character has a womb. And each of those characters who have a womb who are referenced are women. Like!!!!!!!!! What are you doing!!!!!!!!!!! (hide spoiler)] I like that the author included multiple genders. I like that she used blunt terminology, referring to pronouns and using terms like “cis woman” in the book, because I think a lot of authors shy away from it and so it isn’t normalized in fantasy. I absolutely hated the execution. There was really no reason that the author couldn’t have utilized more characters of different genders, or couldn’t have introduced more queer couples, or even had trans characters. There were so many options for groundbreaking representations and I think it’s just really sad that the author didn’t take them. Nonbinary and agender people, people under the transgender umbrella and outside the gender binary, intersex people, all of them deserve better representation. At least to be characters with names and with roles outside of like. Priests. Prostitutes. Servants. (I could go on another rant about the depiction of sex workers but like, I’m losing steam.) The more I think about it, the more I just. Can’t believe that this went through editors and presumably ARC readers and this didn’t come up??? And so many reviewers on here haven’t mentioned it either??? It’s disappointing and honestly I feel like it’s kind of lazy writing. It feels like the five gender thing was just to continue the motif of five rather than to like, build a world that feels real. I also don’t think I’m being harsh in this assessment and letting this affect my rating so much, because............it’s a book with a magic system and society that is predicated on being outside of the gender binary. Do better!! Very much felt like a hollow promise with no follow through. Yeah, 2 stars is definitely it for me. I can’t get over the lacking potential with the gender system and the treatment of those characters, but even aside from that, I felt like the story really didn’t land for me. The writing was very beautiful, there were some interesting ideas. Certain reveals at the end intrigued me enough that I would still consider reading the next in the series, but I desperately, desperately hope that the author steps it up next time with regard to representation. EDIT: 08/26/21 Can’t stop editing this review. It also occurred to me that while this book was clearly setting up more in the series, I just feel like. It didn’t do a great job and took super long for anything to happen, like there were almost no revelations and by the end, Krona barely knows what is going on?? Like the ending didn’t feel like one that is going to be the jumping point for another book. Also, like. I would like some revolution!!! I think the overarching plot is gonna be big but I just don’t think this story was the right introduction for it. It felt like the author wanted to write three different books and mashed them into one.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mpauli

    What is hidden behind a mask is normally the intrigue when it comes to them. With Helm of Midnight it's more about what's stored in them and pffered to the wearer. Marina J. Lostetter, author of the Noumenon books, introduces us to a new and exciting fantasy world. The setting is really unique with some Renaissance vibes, where the essence of the deceased can be captured within death masks and emotions can be added, enhanced and detracted by stones and magic. In addition to the emotional tax -yes, What is hidden behind a mask is normally the intrigue when it comes to them. With Helm of Midnight it's more about what's stored in them and pffered to the wearer. Marina J. Lostetter, author of the Noumenon books, introduces us to a new and exciting fantasy world. The setting is really unique with some Renaissance vibes, where the essence of the deceased can be captured within death masks and emotions can be added, enhanced and detracted by stones and magic. In addition to the emotional tax -yes, there are literally emotional tax collectors- children have to pay a small amount of their lives' time early on to the tax collectors as well. Time is magically bound to money, so you always pay the groceries with 15 seconds of time. Only the rich can afford, towards the end of their life, to release some time from their money to extend their life spans. As you can see, there are a lot of cool world-building concepts going on in the city of Lutador, one of 5 city state empires that are located in the Valley, the only place humans can live and that is surrounded by a magical wall. No less intriguing are characters and plot. It all starts out, when the death mask of Louis Charbon, basically the Jack the Ripper of this world, is stolen from an exhibition. To this we are introduced by Krona, a regulator of the city watch, who tries to solve the case with her team, which also includes her own sister as the commanding officer. Krona's timeline is the present timeline. We're also introduced to Melanie, an apprentice healer in Krona's timeline, whose story starts off two years prior to the theft of the mask. The final pov is Louis Charbon himself, 11 years prior to the theft, whom we're following to see what let him to become the famous serial killer. I really enjoyed my time with all three characters and each plotline added a lot to the overall enjoyment of the book. Regarding theme, family, sisterhood, duty and emotional distress are very prominent within the novel. Overall, I was really captivated by the characters and the setting and would have loved to stay in this world for longer. Thankfully this is the first book in a series and I'm eagerly awaiting the second book next year. For those of you weary of unfinished series, this can be perfectly read as a standalone and the mystery is solved. There are hints of an overarching plotline which will be prominent in later books, but the loose ends distract nothing from the satisfying conclusion Helm of Midnight delivers.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Craig

    “Nothing can stop a man who thinks his violence is not only justified, but the epitome of virtue.” What we have here are two law enforcement badass sisters that must stop a serial killer on the loose due to a stolen artifact. A serial killer's POV and a girl just trying to save her mother. We follow along with these three different POVs that eventually tie the whole story together. The plot itself was just okay for me... What really got my interest peaked in this book was the world-building. I'm “Nothing can stop a man who thinks his violence is not only justified, but the epitome of virtue.” What we have here are two law enforcement badass sisters that must stop a serial killer on the loose due to a stolen artifact. A serial killer's POV and a girl just trying to save her mother. We follow along with these three different POVs that eventually tie the whole story together. The plot itself was just okay for me... What really got my interest peaked in this book was the world-building. I'm more interested in what future stories can be told from it. This book could really use an appendix in the back for explaining some of these things to help the reader. We have a complex, original magic system like no other I've seen. We also get a deep dive into the deities worshipped in this world. You get a sense the people are living in false comfort. It's as if one bad thing could cause complete destruction. Overall this novel reminds me of a mix between Mistborn (Toned down), Goosebumps The Mask and Silence of the Lambs. Be warned that this book has some really dark descriptions. Looking forward to if the second book expands on this world. 3.8 out of 5. 4 stars rounded up.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mia

    A murder mystery set in a dark world with vicious monsters, gods and enchanted items. There are three point of views set in different parts of the timeline, and I just love that we take a dip into Louis Charbons head, the Jack the Ripper-esc murderer on a mission. The three point of views feed you clues and information of the same mystery bit by bit, and it's so frustrating not knowing how it's going to go... that you just have to read on! And on. And on. One of the main things in this world is A murder mystery set in a dark world with vicious monsters, gods and enchanted items. There are three point of views set in different parts of the timeline, and I just love that we take a dip into Louis Charbons head, the Jack the Ripper-esc murderer on a mission. The three point of views feed you clues and information of the same mystery bit by bit, and it's so frustrating not knowing how it's going to go... that you just have to read on! And on. And on. One of the main things in this world is the enchantments of masks, where the "skill" of a person gets transferred into a mask when they die. Then people can borrow or buy the mask and use the skill of the dead person. IT'S SO COOL! I can't wait for the next book!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Anj✨

    The Helm of Midnight kicks off when a mask that once belonged to a notorious serial killer gets stolen and soon after, the killing starts again. Now, it’s up to Krona and her fellow regulators to race against time to catch the killer and retrieve the mask. ----- Marina Lostetter’s The Helm of Midnight is the first book in a series: The Five Penalties. It’s a genre-busting novel combining crime procedural, horror, epic fantasy, and steampunk. It thrust the readers into a complex and imagina The Helm of Midnight kicks off when a mask that once belonged to a notorious serial killer gets stolen and soon after, the killing starts again. Now, it’s up to Krona and her fellow regulators to race against time to catch the killer and retrieve the mask. ----- Marina Lostetter’s The Helm of Midnight is the first book in a series: The Five Penalties. It’s a genre-busting novel combining crime procedural, horror, epic fantasy, and steampunk. It thrust the readers into a complex and imaginative world. There are enchanted items, cults, conspiracy, and monsters. Told in three perspectives, Krona, a regulator; Melanie, a healer; and Louis Charbon, a serial killer. This book is a character-driven story so all the narrators are well fleshed out including the supporting characters. I like the dynamic and realistic relationship between Krona and her sister and the potential love interest, Thibaut. One of my favorite things about this book was the detailed and creative religion and unique magic system. Time is a currency, enchanted death masks imbued with the abilities of the owners, and enchanted stones that contain emotions. The characters are diverse, THoM contains 5 different genders, each with their exclusive pronouns. This is the first in a trilogy and it did very much feel like an introduction. It took a while before I became absorbed with the story. The pacing was uneven, either it’s too slow or too fast that sometimes I felt nothing was really happening and connecting with the characters became an issue to me. I can’t empathize with them at first. It began to drag a bit as the murder mystery component of the plot gets lost at times. The last 25% was what really drew me in as the world building had been done for the most part and the pace finally picked up. It was satisfying seeing how everything ends up together in the end! I still found it enjoyable as the world and lore created was unique and the premise is interesting and I love how the author flawlessly blended genres. The Helm of Midnight is a unique and refreshing read. It has a lot of potential and I enjoyed reading it. I am excited for the next books! Thank you Marina Lostetter, Macmillan-Tor/Forge, and Netgalley for the opportunity to read The Helm of Midnight.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Amy Imogene Reads

    DNF at page 130ish. This one…. Agh. I could NOT get into it. I found reasons to put it down all the time, and continuously came up with other things to do besides read this book. It was time to admit I wasn’t going to finish it. Nothing against it, besides the fact that it reminded me too much of that (terrible) Justin Timberlake movie called IN TIME. This wasn’t a sci-fi like that movie, but time was used as currency and so my brain kept trying to make me mesh the two ideas. Oh well. Hope others en DNF at page 130ish. This one…. Agh. I could NOT get into it. I found reasons to put it down all the time, and continuously came up with other things to do besides read this book. It was time to admit I wasn’t going to finish it. Nothing against it, besides the fact that it reminded me too much of that (terrible) Justin Timberlake movie called IN TIME. This wasn’t a sci-fi like that movie, but time was used as currency and so my brain kept trying to make me mesh the two ideas. Oh well. Hope others enjoy it!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Lady H

    There is a lot going on in THE HELM OF MIDNIGHT. The plot centers around a murder mystery, which in itself centers around something called a death mask, which relates to magic having to do with five gods, and the mystery of the gods themselves is rooted in why the murders are even happening. There's conspiracy and cults and a very complex magic system and eldtritch monsters and three POVs happening in three different timelines. Honestly, I have to commend the author for managing to balance all o There is a lot going on in THE HELM OF MIDNIGHT. The plot centers around a murder mystery, which in itself centers around something called a death mask, which relates to magic having to do with five gods, and the mystery of the gods themselves is rooted in why the murders are even happening. There's conspiracy and cults and a very complex magic system and eldtritch monsters and three POVs happening in three different timelines. Honestly, I have to commend the author for managing to balance all of these disparate elements so skillfully, because it could have easily become muddled and confusing, but it didn't. I'm still left with plenty of questions, but that is the nature of fantasy trilogies, I suppose. Despite the length of this book, and despite the fact that I think it could have been cut short by at least a hundred pages, and that there was so much unnecessary and bloated description, I was gripped by the narrative from the get-go. Perhaps that's because this is partly a thriller/mystery, so I kept reading because I wanted answers, wanted to find out what was happening. Regardless, something kept me coming back, kept me thinking about this book constantly. Overall I think the mystery was well done, but my questions definitely were not answered in a satisfactory manner. While we find out who the killer is and why is is committing his crimes, we still don't really understand the true underpinnings of his motives. The magic systems -- complex as they are -- play into the overall mystery, but so many questions about this too are left unanswered, as are questions having to do with this world's creation myth (is it real? is it fiction?). Who are the gods, really? What really goes on outside the borders of this little world the characters live in? Again, this is just the nature of fantasy trilogies, but personally I'm getting really frustrated by having to keep reading setups and being forced to come back to a second book in order to have my questions answered. I think objectively speaking the characters were done pretty well, but there was something that kept me from truly loving them, or connecting with them on a deeper level, just as there was something that kept me from truly falling in love with this book, even though on the surface, it had all the elements of everything I should love in a fantasy. Still, I think many fantasy readers will adore this book and its rich worldbuilding, and this is definitely a unique kind of fantasy! As you can see, I rated it pretty highly (probably around a 3.75, I'd say), and I very much enjoyed it; it provided me with some much needed escapism.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kayla (krakentoagoodbook)

    Actual rating: 4.5 stars Wow, this was fabulous. I've seen it described as sort of like The Silence of the Lambs meets Mistborn, and that's fairly accurate I think. There are definitely dark themes here, but it's all just so good! Let's talk about the worldbuilding because WOW. In this world, gems can hold emotions and time can be bottled. There are legal limits for these, and you can actually trade them! Additionally, the personality and skills of individuals can be transferred into masks upon de Actual rating: 4.5 stars Wow, this was fabulous. I've seen it described as sort of like The Silence of the Lambs meets Mistborn, and that's fairly accurate I think. There are definitely dark themes here, but it's all just so good! Let's talk about the worldbuilding because WOW. In this world, gems can hold emotions and time can be bottled. There are legal limits for these, and you can actually trade them! Additionally, the personality and skills of individuals can be transferred into masks upon death so that others can later use these skills. Each mask is rated based on the different skill levels and strength of these echoes (the personalities). There are also a variety of materials (like metals) that can store different aspects corresponding to the 5 different gods. This does feel like a medieval type of setting in some aspects, particularly with how the different humors of the body are mentioned. There are also some interesting (and creepy) creatures in this world. So many cool things here! I loved getting to learn the details about all of these different magical things. Speaking of the gods, there are male, female, intersex, and sexless gods. All of them use different pronouns, so this feels very inclusive and diverse. Characters in this world take care to not improperly address others by the wrong pronoun, so that was great to see. I really liked learning more about each of the gods (and how they are perhaps more involved in matters than people think). I found this to be well paced overall, though the plot does unravel slowly - but not in a bad way at all! It felt like a really rich, engaging build up. Admittedly, I did feel mildly impatient towards the end, but overall, this was a great reading experience. We get 3 different POV sections here - Krona, Charbon, and Melanie. I really liked all of these, especially because it allows us to get inside their heads and learn their stories. Several of our characters are faced with conquering their fears and dealing with some rough situations. Krona has a severe phobia and tries to manage it. She idolizes her sister, and her journey is somewhat about finding her own path. Watching her fight to overcome dark things was fabulous. Charbon was very intriguing, and I liked seeing the reasons why he did certain (murderous) things. At the end of the day, I do think he does evil things, but it's more complex than I initially expected. Melanie is almost in the wrong place at the wrong time, but I like how she tries to heal her mom. It was so cool seeing how everything ends up coming together in the end! I think this had a very satisfying conclusion, though there is definitely more to be told in this world (especially with the gods). I would highly recommend this, and I absolutely cannot wait for the next book! There are dark themes here with content warnings for things like murder, trauma, and despair. I received a copy of this for review from the publisher via NetGalley - thank you! All opinions are my own.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Isabel

    This arc was provided by Tor Books, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. TW: gore, body mutilation and detailed descriptions of mutilation and murder, infanticide, and death of a loved one Worst of all, I am afraid. The Helm of Midnight is a memorable fantasy novel, set in a world whereupon your death, your best ability is transferred into your death mask, and whoever wears it can channel your ability. The story begins with a heist where the mask of Louis Charbon is stolen. Louis Ch This arc was provided by Tor Books, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. TW: gore, body mutilation and detailed descriptions of mutilation and murder, infanticide, and death of a loved one Worst of all, I am afraid. The Helm of Midnight is a memorable fantasy novel, set in a world whereupon your death, your best ability is transferred into your death mask, and whoever wears it can channel your ability. The story begins with a heist where the mask of Louis Charbon is stolen. Louis Charbon was a deadly serial killer and his knowledge went into his death mask, which came into government custody until it was taken. There are three different POVs but I only want to talk about one, Krona, one of the Regulators in charge of investigating the heist. Regulators are the government's elite enforcement, and they focus on high-risk cases. Since Krona's team was in charge of protecting the mask and other charms, and her sister, Lia, is the captain of the team and therefore takes the blame, she is committed to righting the wrongs. I truly enjoyed Krona's perspectives as well as the other characters (read to find out!), Lostetter has created complex characters that intrigue you as the story goes on. The world itself is complex and interesting: there are five deities and each has a story and rules, as well as pronouns; the death masks; the emotion stones, an enchanter can create a joy stone or a despair one (though the latter is illegal); the valley and the vargs, unkillable creatures that stalk the world. There is much to learn and it will only improve with the sequels. The heist mystery that develops into a murder mystery also keeps you hooked, and Krona's emotions as she does her best investigating. I adore mystery stories and mixing them with a fantastical setting is the best thing you could give me as a reader. I will be eagerly waiting for the next book!

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