Upon magical branches of beasts and spells, for Artie, something is definitely not adding up.
Welcome to the wonderful adventures of Camp Arbor—they’re dying to meet you! When Magic Follows Midnight is a fast paced, easy read with a delightful twist threaded throughout. Every page is filled with relatable characters and charming friendships.
“Dying was horrible.”
– Artie, When Magic Follows Midnight
With those three opening words, Dane’s middle grade fantasy leaps straight into the whodunnit action. Artie is human. Artie is scared. He’s the first human at a magical camp and feels like he might fail or stand out too much. Ironic, if you know how the rest of this story goes! At least we can place the blame on his peers—dwarves and elves—who insist he do the wrong thing, time and again. Ah peer pressure, you are a heartless beast!
It’s lovely to see Artie continually acknowledge and work through various anxiety symptoms. Young readers will recognize and connect with their own struggles, normalising some tough emotions that can be hard to admit in real life. Right from the first night, his anxiety and fear go to war with the burning desire to fit in. Let’s face it folks, who can say they’ve never been there? For this character, every poor choice and disastrous consequence accelerates his growth in confidence and asserts his right to be at camp.
“But I didn’t feel remorse at the decision, instead—for the first time in my life—I felt a part of something, doing what needed to be done because it was right, not because it was safe.”
-Artie, When Magic Follows Midnight
Each character is unique in their personality and recognisable in those we know. The many ups and downs of emotion are laid out in an obvious way, so there’s no chance young readers could miss the cues. The same easy language helps this colourful story dip into a lighthearted commentary on some challenging themes. Elves and dwarves don’t get along, yet their witty banter often lit my smile while simultaneously displaying how racism can be overcome in the simplest relationships—such as the school yard—by getting to know those who are different from you. Dane encourages readers to take the chance; that you never know who might turn out to be your best friend.
“You’re not too bad, for an elf.”
-Murney, When Magic Follows Midnight
I love that grown-up mental health gets a look in with this book. The bad guys aren’t nearly as fantastical as you might expect, and honestly the story is all the better for it. Artie and the gang witness the struggles of adults in various situations. Some of these are your basic good vs evil—quests for power—others throw some light on the sorrow and desperation of loss. Dane portrays that adults don’t always have it together, nor are they always what they seem, and sometimes shouldn’t be trusted. Every one of these messages is simple in its delivery, letting the reader unpack them a bit at a time, along with what a wogle is, and why dwarfs like cherry pie so much.
When Magic Follows Midnight throws us into a fascinating world of magic, beasts and friendships, while ensuring the harder themes are easily digestible for younger audiences. The pages never stop turning. Each chapter drops a mini cliffhanger, artfully designed to make even the big kid in me late to bed! Needless to say, Artie and his tree of unearthly delights will capture your young readers and hold them all the way to the final page.