Phew. Ok, that was a tough read, and boy am I glad it’s over! I really can’t think of many more ways that The Midnight Dance could have let me down.
It’s only 320 pages long and took me a month to read, and I’ve got to admit, from the 40% mark I was skimming it. The lingering question I was left with was ultimately, why? I don’t understand why anything in this book happened? And I must warn you, that if you proceed to read from here there will be spoilers.
Ok, let us proceed.
The setting of Nikki Katz’s The Midnight Dance is a manor house where a whole lot of girls live and learn ballet. This brings us to our first why.
Why Ballet? Ballet is totally pointless to the narrative. The girls could have been in a regular boarding school, a workhouse, a brothel, the International Space Station; the narrative would have been exactly the same. I got the feeling that Katz just liked the idea (and has probably seen Coppélia a few times) and thought it would be a cool plot device. But it ultimately serves no purpose.
Why is the Master trying to control people’s minds? No seriously, I have no idea. Maybe it’s because I skim read it, but I really am not sure what the villain’s motivations were other than Penny was a special snowflake and he was totally in love, (which again, why?). There was an intro about a boy with a missing leg who grows up to be the master but because he was teased by his sister, he wants revenge, gets a robotic prosthetic, and experiments with mind control on a whole bunch of young girls who are ballet students. Confused? Yeah, me too. But seriously, why?
Penny (our protagonist) has a grandfather, who’s not her grandfather, who wants to help her (but not the other girls, because they are obviously not as special as special, special Penny), but is also the medical mastermind behind all these experiments in the first place. But why? For the love of God and all that is holy, why, why, WHY?? There is no plausible reason given for his agreement to carry out the experiments to begin with. He can apparently create artificial limbs and perform medical miracles unknown at the time, but instead of doing something useful he lives in a cottage by a manor house for ballerinas catering to the whim of a madman who has no good reason to want to control the minds of all these girls in the first place.
God, this plot was just such a hot mess of different ideas that just went y nowhere. The narrative was batshit crazy from the start, so there were no surprises anywhere along the way. Nothing that happened was shocking. There was a bit of a romance that was just ‘meh’, an attempt at a love triangle that was just a bit gross and creepy, a lot of other characters who I forgot almost as soon as they graced the page or who appeared for the first time a few minutes before they were conveniently needed, and loads of Italicised Italian thrown in just to prove that the book was, in fact, set in Italy. If there hadn’t been a date at the beginning of each chapter to tell me when it was set I wouldn’t have had any idea. The way the characters spoke wasn’t believable, the setting didn’t give a sense of time, or place, and where the plot device was discussed it was, in fact, historically wrong. (Ballet dancers used to be stocky and muscular, and pointe shoes at the time that this was set were not used for long periods as they were nothing more than regular satin shoes with some extra darning reinforcement at the toe and sides for the sake of occasional balances rather than prolonged dancing).
The Midnight Dance was just a really mediocre read with a less than mediocre story. The plot was nonsensical and the characters forgettable. Do yourself a favour. Read something else. But hey, at least the cover is great.