Kate Thompson,
Midnight's Choice
(Bodley Head Children's Books,
1998; Hyperion, 1999)

Kate Thompson continues her trilogy of transformation in Midnight's Choice, the sequel to Switchers.

Now 14, Tess is coming closer to the time when she must decide which form she will take on her 15th birthday, the time when all "Switchers" -- people who can transform themselves into any creature they choose -- must decide whether to remain human or to adopt one animal form. Her friend and companion to the Arctic in the previous book, Kevin, is now a phoenix, and Tess is nearly certain that she will also choose the shape of the phoenix. She has flown in that form with Kevin long enough to appreciate the pure and peaceful calm the form engenders in her.

Any plans Tess may have made change drastically when Kevin is captured and put on display in the local zoo. Worse, an American has purchased the phoenix and will soon be taking Kevin out of Ireland forever. Tess knows that she has very little time to rescue Kevin, and she also knows that she needs help.

While out one night, Tess becomes aware of another Switcher. It is a boy, Martin, charming but with a shadowy sinister edge to him. Tess, however, is so relieved to find another like herself that she decides to overlook her uneasiness in order to gain his help, even when he makes her agree to meet him in the middle of the night -- where he reveals exactly what form he has been exploring as a Switcher. Tess is drawn into his world and finds herself struggling to choose between Martin's dark but alluring world and the golden promise of the phoenix.

The struggle intensifies when Martin, intending to make Tess's choice for her, attacks the phoenix and inadvertently leads to the crisis of decision and prompts a remarkable transformation for Tess, Martin, and Kevin as Tess recognizes her personal power.

Midnight's Blood lacks some of the taut power of Switchers and veers close to melodrama at times. Initially, Martin's character is somewhat two-dimensional, particularly when he is Switched into a malevolent form, but the characterization does develop more as the plot develops.

These weaknesses are minor, however, and are offset by Tess's convincing growth as a character and by the way Thompson sets the stage for the final book of the trilogy without being obvious. Readers who enjoyed Switchers will certainly choose to read Midnight's Choice.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

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