Marina Lostetter's The Helm of Midnight launches an exciting trilogy that combines the engrossing worldbuilding of epic fantasy with the disturbing thrill of hunting a serial killer. The novel opens with an intricately plotted heist--the theft of the death mask of the legendary murderer Louis Charbon. In one of Lostetter's many ingenious concepts, masks have the power to impart the skills and even the personality of the deceased to the mask's wearer. When victims are found carved into Charbon's signature "blooms," Krona Hirvath and her fellow Regulators must hunt down whoever is putting Charbon's mask to horrific use.
The Helm of Midnight shines in the way it plays with the traditional beats of a more conventional detective story. Krona plays the role of the investigator, hunting down clues and gradually piecing together a larger conspiracy. While Lostetter makes use of satisfying conventions, she shapes them to her highly idiosyncratic world full of enchanted stones, religious cults and the all-important masks. Lostetter also regularly leaves Krona to explore the central mystery from multiple angles and time periods, revealing the truth behind the murders to be far beyond a simple battle between good and evil.
The Helm of Midnight excels because the genre elements it borrows fit together organically. As the mystery unfolds, every reveal draws readers further into a highly original world, exposing secrets and injustice that go back to the mythical founding of their society. Lostetter has crafted an ingenious genre hybrid to introduce readers to her singular world. --Hank Stephenson, the Sun magazine, manuscript reader