Midnight is the Darkest Hour | By Ashley Winstead
Book Review | Mystery thriller
In her small hometown, librarian Ruth Cornier has always felt like an outsider, even as her beloved father rains fire-and-brimstone warnings from the pulpit at Holy Fire Baptist.
Unfortunately for Ruth, the only things the townspeople fear more than the God and the Devil are the myths that haunt the area, like the story of the Low Man, a vampiric figure said to steal into sinners’ bedrooms and kill them on moonless nights. When a skull is found deep in the swamp next to mysterious carved symbols, Bottom Springs is thrown into uproar—and Ruth realizes only she and Everett, an old friend with a dark past, have the power to comb the town’s secret underbelly in search of true evil.
A dark and powerful novel like fans have come to expect from Ashley Winstead, Midnight is the Darkest Hour is an examination of the ways we’ve come to expect love, religion, and stories to save us, the lengths we have to go to in order to take back power, and the monstrous work of being a girl in this world.
Narrative and Plot
Midnight is the Darkest Hour is told from Ruth Cornier’s perspective. It is quite an atmospheric tale. It clearly draws its fluence from Wuthering Heights and Twilight in the setting and theme. While I wasn’t surprised by the Wuthering Heights aspect, the Twilight one did catch me by off guard. One of the themes of the series, that I enjoyed the most was the idea of a monster being born and yet choosing to rise above it and find a way.
This is rather prevalent in New Moon where the debate is all about whether a vampire is redeemable. Here though, the story flips itself and raises the same kind of questions on humans who are probably born innocent but the circumstances turn them into monsters. Once the beast is born though, whether you succumb to it or not?
The story shifts timelines randomly. It reveals a snippet from the past and then reveals how it shaped the present for both Everett and Ruth.
Characters and Conflicts
Bottom Springs is a religious small town. But, with faith comes superstitions too. This is a world of sermons, pagan rituals, and the Low Man at the same time. In the dark, amidst the woods lie the real monsters. Is it Everett and Ruth? Or the people who pushed their limits? Sure, Ruth and Everett are flawed characters, but is that enough to justify their actions?
The story plays with the reader’s psyche. While rooting for certain characters, you get to question your own morals. At least that was the intention. The risk here is that you might end up with no central character to root for because all of them are damaged.
The ending is heavily foreshadowed in the book. You know where it is going, yet you cannot stop reading because the story pulls you in.
If you are looking for an atmospheric gothic thriller with flawed characters set up in a small town, give this one a go. But you will need to check on the trigger warnings beforehand.