The Helm of Midnight by Marina J. LostetterThe Helm of Midnight by Marina J. Lostetter
Narrator: Nicholas Khan, Shala Nyx, Vera Chok
Series: The Five Penalties #1
Published by Macmillan Audio on April 13, 2021
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Mystery
Length: 22 hrs 15 mins
Pages: 464
Format: Audiobook
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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 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.

The Helm of Midnight is a fantasy novel, but it’s also horror and mystery. The book opens with a daring and deadly heist. The thieves stole a dangerous artifact of terrible power: the death mask of Louis Charbon. Charbon was once a serial killer and the theft of the death mask means that someone might have the power to channel Louis Charbon’s abilities when they wear it. Krona, her sister De-Lia, and the other Regulators need to find the thieves and discover the truth behind this heist.

The story is told through the perspective of three main characters, each in a different time frame. The three viewpoints have different narrators which worked well by keeping it clear whose portion of the story we were listening to. And each read with appropriate emotion and helped flesh out the characters’ personalities. Krona is in the present time, trying to solve the mystery and stop more killings. Melanie’s chapters take place about two years ago and it takes a while for them to tie together with Krona’s timeline. The third portion is told by Louis Chabon himself ten years ago. It’s surprising how well Lostetter made us care about the killer and understand his motives.

The mystery portion is well done. A new serial killer, following Chabon’s methods, is loose in the city. Krona has several suspects and the clues slowly point her in the right direction. I typically don’t read serial killer books. They tend to be more gruesome than I’m usually comfortable with, and this one is no exception. The murders are horrific and seeing them from Chabon’s point of view is disturbing. So, while I did enjoy the book, there were times I had to set it aside for a break.

There is a lot of magic here too. There are gods and monsters. There are the death masks which can allow people wearing them to borrow the skills of the deceased. The currency is time which is drawn from every citizen when they are a baby. The vials are used to purchase everything from information to tea. There are gemstones infused with emotions. There are other enchantments too and to be honest, I’m not quite sure how it all goes together. I imagine we’ll learn more about the magic and the gods and their puppets in the next book.

The Helm of Midnight was dark and engrossing. I’m looking forward to see where the story goes in The Cage of Dark Hours,

About Marina J. Lostetter

The open skies and dense forests of the Pacific Northwest are ideal for growing speculative fiction authors–or, at least, Marina would like to think so. Originally from Oregon, she now resides in Arkansas with her spouse, Alex. In her spare time, she enjoys globetrotting, board games, and all things art-related. Her original short fiction has appeared in venues such as LightspeedUncanny, and Shimmer Magazine.  Her second fantasy novel, The Cage of Dark Hours, is out from Tor.

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