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The Midnight Front
by David Mack
Tor, QPB, $15.99, 480 pages
Published: January 2018

War casts a shadow;
Demons delight in the dark.
Who conjures power?

It’s 1939, and Cade Martin, an American who has been studying history at Oxford for three years, is pulled from school by his parents to flee England’s war with Germany. Cade doesn’t realize, but his parents know, that he is innately magickally talented, and they think to protect him from being targeted by keeping him ignorant. Unfortunately, interested parties are intent on finding Cade, either to recruit him or eliminate him. The Germans are openly employing Magick in their war efforts; the British more subtly. When Cade is the sole survivor of an act of supernatural terrorism, conceived and executed for the sole purpose of killing him, he has very little left in the way of options. He can give up and die of despair, or join the severely undermanned British Midnight Front, which has been losing every magick-wielding agent sent on every mission.

Cade becomes an apprentice, and the few surviving adepts become his instructors under the tutelage of England’s last master of magic. They are desperately needed in the field, however, so it is not long before one is sent to Poland to rescue the Jewish Kabbalists who could turn the tide of the war, and another is sent to France to support the flagging Resistance. The only adept left to help train Cade is one who hates his guts, and it is uncertain where her ultimate loyalties lie: with the British who rescued and trained her, or her countrymen the Soviets, who are about to get reamed.

One of the most intriguing components of this book (and new series) is that everyone has a rational, convincing motive for their actions. Enemies are antagonists, not one-dimensional bad guys in black hats. The author understands that we are all human, and we find ourselves in opposition when our understandings, interests, and goals come into conflict.

If you grew up reading and rereading the Harry Potter books, The Midnight Front is right up your alley, for it is serious magic for adult sensibilities and adult appreciation of the lessons and legacies of recent history. Alternatively, if you love the supernatural thriller series by Weston Ochse that started with Seal Team 666, this is a different era but a similarly-fought war. Mack has written an adventure that may seem escapist, but which actually faces very real and persisting issues squarely. I am deeply impressed, both by his research and his ability to keep the story vivid and engaging on every page. I absolutely cared about these characters, wanting them to survive, or at least die well. Thriller-paced action, believable relationships, and appealing characterizations make this the sort of book you do not want to put down once you start reading.~~ Chris Wozney

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