Amy reviews: Scott Westerfeld – "Touching Darkness" (Midnighters #2)


A lot of the time, the second book in a trilogy has a tendency to stagnate. That’s not the case here – the second book in the Midnighters series speeds along nicely, throwing the spotlight on Melissa, Rex and Dess rather than Jessica and Jonathan.

Of all the midnighter talents, Melissa’s mindcasting is the most intriguing. Throughout the first book, The Secret Hour, Melissa needs to wear headphones during the school day to avoid being driven completely insane by the babble of minds she’s unable to shut out. The second book sees her begin to work on this, and her relationship with Rex develops as a result.

Dess, meanwhile, has found her father’s GPS coordinate-recording device, and using her polymath skills she discovers another midnighter – one older, wiser and more fearful than the five main characters.

Jessica’s main issue in the second book is one common to a lot of YA readers – her little sister, Beth, is becoming more and more suspicious of Jessica’s after-dark antics. This goes on to become a major problem in the last book of the trilogy, but for now it’s just an amusing look at the irritation caused by younger siblings.

Jessica’s sister isn’t the only family member we meet – it’s revealed that Rex’s father is very mentally handicapped as a result of an ‘accident’. We don’t learn for quite a while what that accident was, but it turns out to be another intriguing facet to the midnighters’ world.

The main plot of Touching Darkness revolves around Rex. After Jonathan and Jessica notice a man frozen at midnight, in the middle of taking photographs of her bedroom window, Rex utilises Melissa’s mindcasting powers to track him down. They discover that the darklings are communicating with certain humans by use of the runes used in midnighter lore – the runes that Rex, as a seer, knows how to read.

The story takes a very dark turn, and one that I inadvertently spoiled myself for, while double-checking something for my review of the first book on Wikipedia (damn you, all-knowing Internet!). Even so, when I got to that part of the book, it prompted me to say aloud, “Dude, that’s awesome!” Yes. I was talking to a book. And yes, I’m English, and therefore should never say the word ‘dude’. And potentially not ‘awesome’, either. Anyway… I won’t ruin the surprise, but it’s not something your average midnighter would be happy witnessing or experiencing…

The involvement of normal humans in the secrets of the twenty-fifth hour didn’t seem at first to be too threatening. When that hour falls, every non-midnighter human is frozen solid and unaware of what’s going on, after all. However, when you take into account that the darklings are using the humans to reach the midnighters in ‘normal’ time, things get a little more serious. And when Rex is kidnapped, things get very serious indeed.

I mentioned in my review of the first book that I was a bit underwhelmed by Jessica’s unique midnighter talent. It seems to make a bit more sense in Touching Darkness, and comes in useful when it comes to rescuing Rex, but it still feels a little lacking. Having already finished the third book, I can tell you to keep suspending that disbelief, though. The payoff is worth it.

Touching Darkness – Scott Westerfeld

1 March, 2005, by Harper Teen

Paperback, 336 Pages

  • ISBN-10: 190423383X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1904233831

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