Book Review: The Mirk and Midnight Hour

The Mirk and Midnight Hour by Jane Nickerson was an atmospheric historical fiction retelling of the Scottish ballad, Tam Lin. I had never heard of the ballad before, which I think really helped me to enjoy the story even more since I was going into it blind.

A Southern girl. A wounded soldier. A chilling force deep in the forest.
All collide at night’s darkest hour.

Seventeen-year-old Violet Dancey has been left at home in Mississippi with a laudanum-addicted stepmother and love-crazed stepsister while her father fights in the war—a war that has already claimed her twin brother.

When she comes across a severely injured Union soldier lying in an abandoned lodge deep in the woods, things begin to change. Thomas is the enemy—one of the men who might have killed her own brother—and yet she’s drawn to him. But Violet isn’t Thomas’s only visitor; someone has been tending to his wounds—keeping him alive—and it becomes chillingly clear that this care hasn’t been out of compassion.

Against the dangers of war and ominous powers of voodoo, Violet must fight to protect her home and the people she loves.

From the author of Strands of Bronze and Gold comes a haunting love story and suspenseful thriller based on the ancient fairy tale of “Tam Lin.”

The Good

  • Atmospheric Setting – I love a good setting that almost feels like a character in the story. Nickerson does such a wonderful job bringing an eerie and almost mystical quality to the Mississippi countryside where the story takes place. I felt myself becoming so interested every time that she would describe the setting of the woods and river where the farm is located. I never thought I’d catch myself saying that I’d want to live in Mississippi, but this had me really close to doing so!
  • Unique Retelling – I had never heard of the Scottish fairy tale, Tam Lin, so this was my first introduction to the story. I always love getting to know fairy tales that differ from the usual retellings of Cinderella, Snow White, etc. The story was very interesting mixing the original idea of faeries with the magic-wielding Africans. I thought that was really interesting, especially with the setting being in the South during the Civil War. I would never have thought to retell Tam Lin during the Civil War, bringing the conflict from that to this story.
  • My Favorite Little Seeley – While I enjoyed Violet as the main character, Seeley is really where my heart lies. I found him to be so precious and interesting. I wouldn’t mind a sequel focusing on him. He was so sweet and I loved how obsessed he was with adventure books. I thought the relationship he built with Violet was very adorable and you could tell how he looked up to her. While Violet was really strong and independent, Seeley was still a young boy who craved attention and for anyone’s love. He must be protected at all costs!!!!
  • Eccentric Side Characters – While Violet is a fun main character, the side characters are who really shined for me. Like the lovable Seeley, the other side characters were all eccentric and interesting. I loved the scary old neighbor, Violet’s new stepmother and stepsister, as well her handsome cousin, Dorian. I felt all of the side characters were fleshed out and each had their own distinctive personality.


The Bad

  • The Romance – While I always enjoy a good romance, I thought this one was just a little too easy. It happened so quickly and with not enough focus on the buildup. I would’ve preferred Nickerson to spend more time showing us the interactions between Violet and Thomas, rather than glossing over it in favor of focusing on random things happening on the farm. I really think there was a missed opportunity there to truly build a believable relationship between the two. Instead, we were basically given an insta-love situation.

Final Verdict: 4/5 Stars

Have you read the original Tam Lin story? Have you read The Mirk and Midnight Hour? If so, what are you thoughts on it? Which character was your favorite?