Book Review: Laurell K. Hamilton’s A Stroke of Midnight

Posted January 18, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
Book Review: Laurell K. Hamilton’s A Stroke of Midnight

A Stroke of Midnight


Laurell K. Hamilton

erotic romance, urban fantasy in Hardcover edition that was published by Ballantine Books on November 28, 2006 and has 385 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Hit List, Bloody Bones, Killing Dance, Burnt Offerings, Narcissus in Chains, Obsidian Butterfly, Bite, Incubus Dreams, Micah, Danse Macabre, The Harlequin, Blood Noir, Skin Trade, Flirt, Bullet, Never After, Kiss the Dead, The First Death, Affliction, Guilty Pleasures, The Laughing Corpse, Circus of the Damned, "Shutdown", A Kiss of Shadows, Lunatic Café, A Caress of Twilight, Seduced by Moonlight, Mistral’s Kiss, A Lick of Frost, Blue Moon, Dead Ice, Jason, Crimson Death

Fourth in the Meredith Gentry erotic horror/urban fantasy series revolving around an Unseelie faerie princess who is part-human, part-brownie, and half fae. And the contested heir to the throne.

My Take

It’s a matter of choice and interpretation: the magic is returning to the Unseelie Court through Merry’s actions. Even the sithen is coming alive, twisting time, nature, and décor. If Merry took the prudent course to placate her aunt and stay alive, what would happen to the artifacts, the magic? Would it stay or leave? Would it be gone for good?

As always, stepping into any fae court is like walking onto a minefield. It’s also Hamilton’s opportunity to poke fun and question our perspective on sexuality. To wonder why we as a society continue to believe that sex is dirty, wrong…and it is pretty funny what happens at the press conference.

It’s personal growth and change from signs of the goddess approving Merry, learning from whence comes Frost’s arrogance, the truth of Merry’s father’s judgement on Galen even as he’s growing up, Kitto’s discovery that life is not a bed of roses (at least not one without thorns) no matter which court you are a member of, the true difficulty in polyamorous relationships. Change includes conflict for the arrogant pure sidhe who believe they are the upper rung of the Fae. A power that has been diminishing until this weak, half-human shows them up. Their own pride has brought them an heir who values humans, those who are considered less. And I do love how Merry rubs that one in! For it’s sex with Merry that brings each man into his former power, that makes the sithen begin to return to life.

“…be nice, be nice until it’s time to stop being nice, then destroy them…”

It’s also loss. A loss of childish dreams and a fear of loss for those who despise Merry but need her blessing as well as that experienced by those who adore her.

It’s both more dangerous for Merry and less in a way. The queen is always a terrifying prospect. The more so as she discovers Merry’s increasing powers and despises Merry’s sense of fair play. For the knowledge the queen is gaining on how the fear she has engendered throughout her guards is coming back on her. How much Andais reveals about her own son and his plotting. How much the court reveals publicly and privately. It’s really impressive how very diplomatic Merry can be with the queen.

The queen has never understood that fear is not an aphrodisiac—and the Prince’s and Queen’s guards all notice how much more fun Merry’s men have.

It doesn’t seem to matter how often I re-read this, but I just don’t get what made Frost and Doyle freak out. They’re normally such rational men. Well, Doyle is, anyway.

Hmmm, let me think, save a man who tried to kill me…or save a man who tried to save me…hmmm…

Kieran’s disgust for Merry, his sarcasm causes Merry to remind him that “we are deities of nature” and that the sidhe have forgotten this. As has the queen! But the queen’s anger also causes her to let slip in court, words that condemn Cel.

Ooh, there is definitely something between Doyle and Queen Niceven! And we learn a tremendously important bit about sithens and rulers! That the current status of two courts was not the norm and how the first Unseelie Court came into being. How courts and sithens formed.

The more I learn about the Seelie Court, the Fair and Shining Ones, the more disgusted I am. And Kitto reveals the truth about what happens to goblin-sidhe babies…oh, lord…

The Story

That troubled homecoming is getting worse when a demi-fey and a human are found murdered in the sithen. It can’t be covered up or hushed, and it’s up to Merry to ensure the queen accepts this.

Nor do the assassination attempts stop; they’re simply not directed at Merry anymore.

The Characters

Meredith “Merry Gentry” NicEssus is a beleaguered faerie princess considered a mongrel by those who don’t know her and as a goddess by those who do love her. And that crowd is increasing all the time, LOL. She’s also the Princess of Flesh and Blood, two hands of power, and she has five fertility deities in her lineage. Besaba is Merry’s Seelie mother, the one who hated Merry for being born, for being Besaba’s Bane, for looking more Seelie than herself. Prince Essus is Merry’s sixteen-years-dead Unseelie father, a former god.

Merry’s Merry Men now includes:
The originals are Doyle, the Darkness, once known as Nodens, the god of healing; Frost is the arrogant Killing Frost gaining powers he never had; Rhys, the Lord of Death, has regained his powers as Cromm Cruach, “Red Claw”, and it’s not his oldest or only name; Galen is Merry’s first love and the friend of her childhood, the green man; Nicca, who has sprouted real wings from those tattooed onto his back; and, Kitto, the snake goblin who is part of Merry’s alliance with Kurag, is anticipating her needs.

The plant and vegetable deity guards sent from Seduced by Moonlight, 3, include Abeloec, a drunken addict, was once the greatest libertine of the Seelie Court; Carrow was one of the great hunters and taught Merry the ways of bird and beast; Amatheon with his flower petal eyes and shoulder-length copper hair who despises Merry’s blood; Onilwyn, a bootlicking toady of a tree lord who hates Merry with all the arrogance of a sidhe; Usna is a cat-like sidhe; Ivi with his entrapping hair that looks like leaves blowing in the wind; Hawthorne; Adair, an oak lord, who now claims Merry as ameraudur, finally succumbs; and, Briac.

The new ones include Mistral, once a storm god and now the new captain of the Queen’s Ravens; Crystall with a voice like chimes in the wind with hair that seemed a prism as it throws light into the colors of the rainbow; Arzhel; Aisling, a.k.a., Terrible Beauty, is the most beautiful man in the world, able to make women instantly besotted with him.

The new ones from Prince Cel’s Cranes include Biddy, half-human and half-Unseelie sidhe, had been one of Prince Essus’ Cranes until his death, and she was given over to Prince Cel’s guards; Cathbodua, a former goddess of battle, a battle scald crow with a cloak of black feathers; and, Dogmaela, nicknamed Cel’s dog and forced to do his dirtiest work because she refused sex with him.

Beatrice, the pastry chef, was a demi-fey, cursed into her current size and cast out of the Seelie Court, and one of Merry’s friends. Harry Hob is a hob with drinking problems and one of Beatrice’s lovers. Maggie May, a brownie, is the chief cook for the Court and Merry’s great-aunt by way of being her great-grandmother’s sister on Merry’s mother’s side. Dulcie is one of Maggie May’s faerie terriers—and pregnant. Peasblossom is a tiny demi-fey who is friends with Beatrice. Mug is a demi-fey enthralled with the sidhe; she now works in the kitchens.

Andais, Queen of Air and Darkness, is Merry’s sadistic aunt who loves to torture people into fearing her. Eamon is her consort; Tyler is her human boy toy. Prince Cel, the last pureblood sidhe of a house that has ruled for 3,000 years, is her imprisoned son, beyond psychopathic, who has been hunting Merry since her birth, to kill her. Madeline Phelps is human and the court publicist, paying attention to fads, fashions, and how the court is seen by the outside world. Christine is the queen’s human secretary. Whisper is one of the few guards remaining in the Queen’s Ravens, her bodyguards. Too many leapt at the queen’s offer.

Kieran is the Lord of Knives with a hand of power to match; Madenn is his wife, once a goddess of youth. Lord Innis is the Conjuror of Phantoms. Cel’s guards are in on the assassination attempt: Hafwyn, a sidhe healer forbidden to practice who had been part of Essus’ guard; Melangell, a.k.a., Sweet Poison, is the temporary captain of the guard while Siobhan is imprisoned for her attempt to kill Merry; and, Kanna.

Lord Leri notes that the ring lives again. Afagu is head of one of very few truly neutral houses. Dilys is head of one of the sixteen and has never liked Merry. Elen is a survivor of Nerys’ house and notes that children would be a blessing in Faerie. Maelgwn, the wolf lord, questions the queen. Brave man! Blodewedd, created from spring flowers of oak, broom, and meadowsweet, is the head of the house to which Kieran belongs. Dormath, the door of death, is the head of the house to which Siobhan and Innis belong. Gwennin is the white lord, thrown out of the Seelie Court who still thinks he may return to it.

The sluagh are the least human-looking of the fae, nightmares that even the Unseelie fear. And the court of the last wild hunt. Sholto, their king, the Lord of That Which Passes Between, is half-sidhe, half-nightflyer.

Queen Niceven is ruler of the demi-fey and made a bargain of blood in an alliance with Merry. One she regrets, for she has pulled Sage from Merry’s side. Nor does she feel respected…with reason. Penny and Royal are two of the demi-fey, twins, who have no wings, and Royal is willing to chance a miracle for himself.

Kurag is the Goblin King who regrets his alliance with Merry. Holly and Ash are two goblin-sidhe with a reputation among the goblins for fierceness who want Merry to bring them into their powers; they have laid challenge to any other goblin.

Major Walters is the fae liaison with the St. Louis Police Department; his volunteering is simply a career move. Dr. Caroline Polaski is the head medical examiner for St. Louis County—she doesn’t like Marquez either. Jeanine Carmichael is one of Polaski’s assistants and susceptible.

Special Agent Raymond Gillett was one of the federal agents who investigated Prince Essus’ murder. And now a betrayer. Special Agent John Marquez is too arrogant for words. Joanne Billings is the wife of the president of the United States and a friend of Merry’s.

An ameraudur is a person, a war leader, chosen for love, not bloodline. A person for whom another would give his life gladly. The chalice was the cauldron of plenty in another age. It has returned to faerie through one of Merry’s dreams. The sithen is both living and not. It will respond or not, and not always in the way you wish. The Goddess and her Consort are the life of Faerie and its magic. The Goddess claims that she didn’t stop speaking to the fae, but that they stopped listening to her.

The Cover and Title

The cover is shades of purple with what appear to be an aroused Meredith in a low-cut gown and wearing a silver barbed wire necklace, caressing the top of one breast with her head thrown back in passion.

Myth says that midnight is when bad things happen, and both evil and blessed events are leading up to A Stroke of Midnight.