Burning Midnight | Will McIntosh | 2016 | Delacorte Press/Macmillan | 320p | Review copy | Buy the book
In the near future life is very different for some. Spheres of all colours have been found scattered across the planet and each has the power to do something for the person who finds it – or most likely buys it – and holds it to their temple. Some might enable the user to sing, or to become beautiful, taller, shorter, wiser, faster, stronger. Each colour of sphere has a difference value and, the more valuable and useful they are, the more the rich will seek them out. Alex Holliday is such a collector. He will pay millions to buy the best of the spheres, controlling the market, using many on himself. A man like that is hard to fight. The divide between rich and poor has never been greater.
David Sullivan knows all about Holliday. Seventeen-year-old resourceful Sully is a hunter, selling spheres at a bargain price on a market stall, and he once thought all his dreams were about to come true when Holliday made him a millionaire in return for a peerless Cherry Red. All of Sully’s many money worries, and those of his mother, disappeared in an instant. But Sully’s dreams were dashed when Holliday found out what the Cherry Red did and tore up the cheque. As Holliday continues to blight his life, Sully wants vengeance. It seems that he might have a chance when he meets Hunter, a girl with a wildness about her who knows far more about poverty and deprivation that Sully ever can. She is also a far better hunter of spheres. Both find it difficult to trust the other but together they might just find something unusual. And it’s not too long before they find a sphere no one has seen before – a large gold sphere of unknown power and it is worth millions. If only Sully and Hunter can stay alive long enough to reap the reward.
I am a huge fan of Will McIntosh, having loved his adult SF thrillers Love Minus Eighty and the outstanding Defenders, which was one of my top books of 2014. Burning Midnight is Will’s first Young Adult novel and I could not have been keener to read it.
Burning Midnight, like Will McIntosh’s other novels, has a fantastic premise and a plot that lives up to it. The spheres are a wonderful idea and are used to reveal the very best and worst of this near-future society. The action is full on from the beginning and moved along by some appealing young characters – brave and troubled – Sully and Hunter. While Sully is the main character and the principal hero, I would argue, though, that Hunter is the star of the novel. I really enjoyed getting to know her and her world on the fringes of society, her hours spent hiding and searching in all of its darkest corners. She’s a great character and Sully has his hands full in competing with her for our attention.
The spheres themselves are fascinating and I couldn’t wait to find out more about them and where they’re from and what they’re for. The answers are slow to come but when they do, it’s a gobsmacking moment. You can almost feel the Earth standing still as the penny drops. The novel, especially its thrilling second half, thoroughly entertains with the thrill of a quest for a beautiful prize of unknown origin and power. Halliday, or big business, or those who have had their rarified lives made even more glorious thanks to the gifts of the spheres, make for worthy enemies. The chase is on. The fact that nobody seems to know where it will end up adds another edge.
Burning Midnight is very entertaining with a great premise and I think that, while it has an appeal for all ages, younger teens in particular will love it.