Review: Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne

Posted July 16, 2014 by Jessica in Fantasy, Jessica, Reviews, Young Adult / 84 Comments

Review: Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne
Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne
Series: Midnight Thief #1
Published by Disney Hyperion
Published on: July 8 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
One StarOne Star
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Growing up on Forge’s streets has taught Kyra how to stretch a coin. And when that’s not enough, her uncanny ability to scale walls and bypass guards helps her take what she needs.

But when the leader of the Assassins Guild offers Kyra a lucrative job, she hesitates. She knows how to get by on her own, and she’s not sure she wants to play by his rules. But he’s persistent—and darkly attractive—and Kyra can’t quite resist his pull.

Tristam of Brancel is a young Palace knight on a mission. After his best friend is brutally murdered by Demon Riders, a clan of vicious warriors who ride bloodthirsty wildcats, Tristam vows to take them down. But as his investigation deepens, he finds his efforts thwarted by a talented thief, one who sneaks past Palace defenses with uncanny ease.

When a fateful raid throws Kyra and Tristam together, the two enemies realize that their best chance at survival—and vengeance—might be to join forces. And as their loyalties are tested to the breaking point, they learn a startling secret about Kyra’s past that threatens to reshape both their lives.


Before I read Midnight Thief, I took the advice of various and sundry others, and read the prequel, Poison Dance, and I really liked it. Having since read the book, I’m going to hazard a guess that the point of the prequel was to, if not make a sympathetic character out of Midnight Thief‘s villain, then to at least explain why he was the way he was.

But it didn’t quite work that way for me.

I feel like I’ve said this recently, so if I’m repeating myself, I apologize, but in real life, we make allowances for people based on their life experiences—what they’ve been through, how they’ve suffered, etc.

In a book . . . maybe it’s all the same for you, but . . . I’m not much interested in the characters who have turned into meek, little mouse-things, b/c they can’t handle what life has dealt them, or in this case, the character who has turned into a bitter and manipulative, cold bastard, b/c someone from the upper classes did him wrong.

For a character to be redeemable, he has to show that he possesses (<——present tense) the tiniest shred of humanity. Who cares that he used to be an okay guy, but then life happened, and here we are?

Not me. #sorryimnotsorry *shrugs*

Kyra is a thief. She’s a thief who gets recruited by the Master of the Assassins’ Guild (James) to . . . well, she doesn’t need to worry her pretty, little head about that. He’ll tell her when she needs to know.


Initially, I didn’t think it was strange for the Assassins’ Guild to headhunt a thief—they’re all criminals, right?—but by the end . . . I felt I should have been more suspicious. I can’t decide if I should fault Kyra for making the same mistake, BUT you’d expect someone who grew up on the streets to be a bit more savvy.

And she is reluctant.

Ultimately the decision to join the Guild is made after a series of events, that even as they were happening, I couldn’t help but wonder, if James had set the whole thing up. Or at the very least, laid in wait until an opportunity presented itself. I still don’t know, but it was carefully orchestrated by someone—James or Blackburne, take your pick.

In fact, the entire story felt carefully orchestrated.

Kyra is an orphan, and doesn’t have much in the way of even an adopted family: Bella is a mother figure who lost her only child at sea, and Flick, the several-years-older-than-her bastard son of a nobleman, who inexplicably took an interest in her when she was child. There are also two street children she’s bonded with, b/c they remind her of herself at that age.

But there is no gang of rough and tumble we-grew-up-on-the-streets-together friends for life.

And that’s not really surprising, b/c Kyra is the most noble of thieves . . . so noble that it’s hard to imagine her having any friends at all. I can’t see her moral high ground being a crowd favorite when they’re all hanging out in their street rat clubhouse.

She’s also painstakingly crafted to be a victim of circumstance—Kyra is only a thief, b/c 1. she was starving and had to do something to feed herself, and 2. her almost unbelievable cat-like reflexes, balance, fearlessness, etc. It’s almost like thievery was her only option, so who could possibly blame her?

Carefully. Orchestrated.

I had to keep reminding myself that Kyra was a thief, not an assassin, when her adamant refusals to expand her criminal repertoire started making my eyes twitch (don’t misunderstand, it’s not like I wanted her to go on a killing spree or something, but her protests were so . . . self-righteous—“I don’t mind hanging out and working with assassins, and I desperately want their respect and acceptance, but don’t you dare ask me to be one, b/c I’m better than that”), View Spoiler »

The further I got into the book, the more it felt like it was following a predetermined formula. Kyra, who I initially liked, became more and more two dimensional. She was like one of Nimue’s paintings that lacked life from Hunting Ground, Alpha and Omega #2 by Patricia Briggs. The other characters were the same.

I saw every plot twist a mile away, and the ending was laughably maudlin.

I really wanted to like this book, and for the first 150-200 pages, I thought that I did. But the world-building was superficial—I still have no idea why the Demon Riders migrated to Forge beyond a vague reference to humans poisoning their land. I know that the Head of the Counsel is a stock Noble of the bad variety, but is there a King or a Queen? And the characters . . . I couldn’t connect with them. The end.

However, I have been increasingly unimpressed with YA fantasy’s recent offerings, and MANY respected friends and bloggers have had a decidedly different take on Midnight Thief. Check out Marcela’s review at  The Bookaholic Cat or Tabitha’s review at Not Yet Read for compelling reasons to try this book. Just b/c I didn’t like it, doesn’t mean you won’t. I have been known to be a crankypants.<——true story.

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My name is Jessica and I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I’m trying my hand at writing, but mostly I read. My favorite genres are Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, and the YA versions of those genres, but if there is a book of a different color getting lots of buzz, I’ll read it too, just to be informed. If I’m not reading or writing, I’m probably on Goodreads or Pinterest or baking blueberry pies because I love them.


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84 responses to “Review: Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne

  1. Crap.
    Yours is the first not so great review for Midnight Thief and i had had my head set on reading this one but now i’m not a hundred percent sure it’ll like it. I’m good with guesing twists and stuff so if you saw it a mile a way i mostly likely will too and i hate when that happens. 🙁
    Lily recently posted…Dissonance(Dissonance#1):Review

    • I can handle predictability better than I can handle good and moral criminals. If you’re a criminal, best case scenario, you live in a gray area, the end. Kyra . . . yeah, like I said, self-righteous. But if you’re problem is predictable plots, then I don’t recommend this one. If you’re craving YA fantasy, try Half a King by Joe Abercrombie. I just finished it a couple of days ago, and it has a seriously twisty plot 😉

  2. Nathan ( from reviewbarn)  

    Always nice to get an opinion validated. I still want to try to finish this book but I lagged out at 30% and just couldn’t go on at the time. And it was for two reasons. Nothing flowed naturally, it felt that everything was there because damn it, the story needs it.

    But mostly I hated that this crazy assassin guild was ran by people in their late teens or twenties. Where is the grizzled old guild leader? BAH. Maybe I wont finish it.
    Nathan ( recently posted…Fantasy Review: ‘Carpe Jugulum’ by Terry Pratchett

    • I was under the impression that James, etc. were 30ish at least. Still young, but not teenagers. After I read the book, I saw that the author is a graduate from MIT who studied something about the brain’s corollary response to reading, and that made the book’s template-feel make more sense . . .

  3. Great review & I appreciate your honesty. This book is on my list & I really enjoyed the prequel. I’ve actually seen mixed reviews for this book (don’t remember where) & I know everyone is different — but I think I’m going to wait to try this one. I’m coming out of a reading slump so probably not the best time for this one!! Thanks for sharing!!
    Tricia recently posted…How Do You Rate Your Books?

  4. This book has me so curious Jessica because the reviews for it seem to be all over the place, and of course, that only makes me want to know what I’ll think. Like you, I read Poison Dance and enjoyed it, but I didn’t realize James was going to be a villain character in this story. Interesting. It sounds like there are some very frustrating aspects to this story overall, particularly when Kyra gets a little self righteous about being a thief and not an assassin, which I think will bother me for sure. Hope your next read is AMAZING:)

    • James is not only a villain, but he’s a IRREDEEMABLE villain. He does absolutely inexcusable things that made me resent the novella for making me think he was an okay guy. And thanks, Jenny. I’m rereading Kate Daniels, so I’m in a much happier book place 😉

  5. I had a hard time getting into this one but once I did I was fine. I do however agree with you on a lot of things you pointed out. I read the prequel hoping to at least like James (because I really think the author wanted us to) and sadly, it didn’t’ change my mind about him at all.

    Wonderful honest review Jessica!
    kindlemom1 recently posted…WoW Pick of the Week

    • Thank you! It’s funny that I was the opposite though, b/c really, in the beginning, I loved it, and then . . . MEH. I’m glad you enjoyed it despite the issues—it was obvious to me too that the author wanted James to a redeemable character, but yeah, not even a little bit. I have since found a YA fantasy that I REALLY liked, so yay for that 😉

  6. I’ve also read the prequel Poison Dance, and I really liked it as well. I’ve been excited to get my hands on a copy of Midnight Thief in hopes of being immersed into a great YA fantasy world with assassins and thieves. After reading your review, I went back and read Tabitha’s to see what she felt. I love how you both make valid points for this story, and I can see where you coming from as far as Kyra and the predictable plot/twist. LOL, I just might be even more intrigued about this story now. Nothing gets me more curious about a story than mixed reviews. Thanks for the honest and thoughtful review, Jessica! 🙂
    kim { Book Swoon } recently posted…Waiting On Wednesday: Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier and The Legend of Me by Rebekah L. Purdy

    • I’m the same way, Kim. I might not even been really interested in a book, but if it starts getting mixed reviews, all over the place, I get curious, LOL. And as is usually the case with these kinds of books, you’ll have to read it yourself. That’s what makes us curious, I think. Too many good points, all conflicting with other good points. Regardless, if you do decide to read it, I hope you like it 😉

  7. Ahh!! This was one of my most anticipated YA debuts of 2014. I’m sorry it didn’t work for you. Good YA fantasy is hard to find. I’ll be sure to check out the other reviews to see different opinions, but you give compelling arguments on the believability of elements that are important for my enjoyment of a novel. I might check this one out later when I have time because I’m still kind of interested in the story though.
    Kris recently posted…Review: The Half Life of Molly Pierce by Katrina Leno

  8. Yeah? I wasn’t aware that you should read the prequel first. OH YESSS!!! I’m reading Sins & Needles right now and even though I like it, I’m having so much trouble with the MCs. They’re just so bitter and revenge-y and annoying at times *headdesk* I mean, the story as a whole seems like something I’d like to read, but then again it’s not really my thing *shrugs* I think I’ll skip this. And self-righteous indeed O_____O Sorry you didn’t really love this one, Jess! *hugs*
    Siiri recently posted…Tour & Giveaway: Thrive by Krista & Becca Ritchie

    • Yeah, bitter and revengey characters are NOT my favorite. I had that same problem with the Sins & Needles books, so you’d probably have the same problem with this one 🙁 Thanks, Siiri! *hugs back*

  9. Haha to Crankypants! I think it’s awesome that you acknowledge that just because something isn’t your cup of tea, doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be something someone else loved. It doesn’t really sound like my cup of tea, either…but my TBR list is ridiculously long anyway!

    • Thanks, Stephanie! And yeah, I’m well aware that my opinion isn’t undeniable fact, LOL. But I agree—too many other books out there to waste time on one that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, and this certainly was NOT my cup of tea either 😉

    • You still might like it. LOTS of people have. But if you’re like me, and you like your criminals to OWN their criminalness, then yeah . . . maybe skip this one. At least until the series is further along. It could get better 😉

  10. Crankypants? :)) I think not 😉

    I think one of the most annoying things in YA, for me, is the “giving lessons” ie preaching vibe. You know, like this thief has morals and principles and… are you kidding me? She’s a thief! :)) The least she could do is be a good one, that’s all that’s gonna make her remotely likable imo. Joining a guild of assassins? Become the best freaking one! But then again, I find goodies highly irritating, so I’d think that way, lol. Some YA feel the need to present the world with goodie-goods characters, especially MCs. Meh.

    I do like the cover and the authors’s first name though xD
    Livia recently posted…Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen

  11. It really is a rather shallow book, but I think I enjoyed it more than you in the end because I shifted my perceptions of this from a YA novel to more of a higher Middle Grade novel. It made the discrepancies easier to take. And I guess reading Poison Dance first didn’t work for you, eh? I admit I enjoyed the “origin” story for James, but was sort of disappointed too that he turned out to be such a grade-A dick in Midnight Thief.
    Mogsy recently posted…Book Review: Tower Lord by Anthony Ryan

    • Exactly. The further James dug himself into a hole, the more I resented the novella for making me like him in the first place. And I don’t know if thinking of it as MG would have helped me or not, b/c I like what I like, and well . . . I’ve never liked holier-than-thou criminals. I’m glad you were able to enjoy it though 😉

  12. Michele from A Belle's Tales  

    I just love when you let your cranky pants hang out. lol I have Poison Dance, but have yet to start it. I have heard amazing things about Midnight Thief, but I COMPLETELY get where you’re coming from. Predictable plot twists and the schmaltzy ending have me nervous. I’ll get to this one eventually and see which side of the reviewing coin I land on. I’m so sorry this one didn’t float your reading boat, but I love the honest and informative review!
    Michele recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday (43): Atlantia by Ally Condie

    • You are very welcome, Michele, and THANKS. I hope you do read it. I’m interested in your take. And even if you do like this book more than I do, generally speaking, I REALLY want to know what you think of that ending, LOL. GAH.

    • They really are. Some of my favorite YA fantasy books have been Disney Hyperion (Cinda Williams Chima’s Seven Realms series), but then again . . . I’ve had a few misses too. Maybe you’d have more luck with it than I did 😉

  13. Yikes! That’s a bit disappointing. It definitely is a bit iffy when a book seems so carefully put together. Cliches and shallow, stereotyped characters definitely aren’t going to be winning any points :/
    The lack of world building worries me as well, as a huge world building reader (although I have been known to enjoy a book despite a complete lack of world building *cough* Death Sworn *cough*)

    I still might give this book a go, since I’ve seen a fair few positive reviews of this too- but definitely grabbing it from the library rather than buying it 🙂
    Nara recently posted…Half Bad: Drowning in a Sea of Feels

    • I can enjoy a book without great world-building too, but this one just didn’t have enough other good things to make up for the lack (IMO). I hope you have better luck with it than I did! *crosses fingers*

  14. Oh it’s sad to see that you had a good time with the prequel but not the full book. I confess I was curious about this one after seeing it everywhere but I totally understand why it didn’t work, I would have had a problem with the characters if they’re like that… I’ll pass.

    • Yeah, if you would have the same problems that I did—squeaking clean criminals especially, then I don’t blame you for passing. And hey, you can always come back to it later if the series improves 😉

  15. It quite a bad feeling when you get very different opinions about a book from bloggers whose taste you really trust, and that’s what’s happening with this book for me! Some of my “canaries” are loving it to bits, and others think it’s boring and totally meh!

    I’m gonna be reading it cause I’m in a total fantasy quick, but now I don’t know if I should the prequel novella before or after?? Damn it!

    Great review, Jessica!
    Pili recently posted…First Chapter, First Paragraph #3: ARC of Crushed by Eliza Crewe!!

    • Thanks, Pili! I think you should read the novella regardless. If the book works for you, then the novella adds rich detail, and if you aren’t going to like it, you aren’t going to like it. The novella is told in a completely different style, and it’s actually quite good. I hope you have better luck with the book than I did 😉

    • Yeah, it could really got either way, but I’m like you—when I’m interested in a book, and then that book gets a myriad of conflicting reviews, all it does is make me even MORE interested. Here’s hoping you like it more than I did 😉

  16. Jessica, this sounds like it was a ‘carefully orchestrated’ mess. The formulaic delivery, flimsy plot, and characters you couldn’t connect with have me turned off to Midnight Thief. I haven’t read other reviews but I do value your opinion, Ms Crankypants. 😉 So I think I’ll take a pass…

    • Yeah . . . carefully orchestrated only works well . . . NEVER. Not in books at least. Throw in farfetched situations and unlikeable characters, and “mess” is a pretty good summation . . .

  17. I read your spoiler part too of course since I’ve already read it – and I have to disagree – they even stated in the book that the blood lust doesn’t start until after you make your first kill – so that would explain why she had what I saw to be a normal abhorrence towards killing before she had done it and then all the dreams of blood and violence after.

    Anyways sorry you didn’t enjoy it as much as I did. I love that we’re interested in the same books but have such varying opinions on them – it always makes for an interesting read of your reviews =) Thanks for the shout out!
    Tabitha (Not Yet Read) recently posted…Review: Dissonance by Erika O’Rourke

    • That whole “no bloodlust until after your first kill” thing was part of the problem. It’s illogical. If you’re able to change shapes from an early age, and prefer to eat raw, bloody things while you’re in cat-form, then why on earth would a predilection for killing not kick in until after your first kill. Or until after any specific event, for that matter. It was one more carefully orchestrated loop hole. Kyra was raised among humans, so she didn’t kill anything as a child, therefore she escaped the bloodlust that is a part of every, single other member of her race. Nice and neat, like paint by numbers.

      And likewise, I’m glad that you did enjoy it. It’d be a lot easier if I could just read something, instead of picking it apart as I go. Damn my detail orientedness 😉

    • Well, if it does come out in audio, and you get it, I hope you like it more than I did. Who knows? Maybe it will be one of those situations where it’s infinitely better listened to vs being read. Or maybe you’ll just love it 😉

  18. Oh well…I’m sorry this didn’t work for you, Jess. Really don’t like books that start out good but then end up feeling ‘orchestrated’ as you say and loses our interest. Sadly, many YA books are like that. Haven’t actually read the prequel but now it’s too late since I’m like 40% into Midnight Thief. And, YEAH, I keep thinking Kyra is ALSO an assassion. XDD It would fit her so well, lol. Fantastic honest review! 😀
    Lola recently posted…Review of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

    • Yay! for no crankypants, LOL. And yeah, I would definitely pass on this one if I were you. Even if you didn’t think it was as bad as I did, it’s no where near as good as ToG or The Grisha, and YEP—TOO many other books 😉

  19. Well, you just told here what I felt was “wrong” or “odd” about the book. I did rate it higher than you, and I did like certain aspects, but it did feel like everything was soo carefully and meticulously orchestrated. Also, that thing with the cat shifters made me want to skim the book. That felt so odd and randomly-placed, like it just didn’t fit with everything else other than to explain her AWEZOME SKILLZ, and it was maddening. Suffice to say, I was glad to be done with that part when it ended.
    Faye recently posted…Random Things in Motion #5: Would You Sacrifice a Loved One for the Greater Good?

    • I hate it when something feels not-quite-right in a book, but I can’t put my finger on it, so HOORAY for helping you out there. I didn’t realize what it was at first either. I just found myself increasingly bored, and yes, it started with the cat-shifters. It really did feel random. But then I read the author bio, and suddenly it made sense. It was a scientist that wrote the book, and having spent a couple (miserable) years studying chemistry, I recognized the similarities between my meticulous, step-by-step lab experiments and the layout of the plot.<------NOT my favorite.

    • Yeah, you’re definitely right. A book that isn’t thoughtfully planned is usually a mess, but this felt more like paint-by-numbers than that. Like someone took a poll about frequently used and popular elements in YA fantasy, and then focused on writing a book that had those things, rather than telling a story. I don’t know it that makes sense, but that’s what it felt like. I don’t know if you’re a Trekkie, but if you’re familiar with Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, you know that he could never pass for human after a more than cursory inspection . . . this book was like creativity’s version of Data.

      And once again, you are correct 😉 SO many good books to move on to!