The Midnight Front by David Mack Review

The First Avenger meets American Craftsmen in this deftly-told tale of sorcerer soldiers during World War II.

From the mind of prolific Star Trek writer David Mack comes an imaginative new fantasy series about an American student thrown into a world of mystery, magic, and the macabre on the eve of World War II.

Meet Cade Martin, a young man just finished his education at Oxford and perfectly comfortable (or at least mostly comfortable) with his decision to flee back to America with his parents as another great war looms in the distance.

But fate has other plans for Cade. When his parents are killed by a sea monster during their voyage home, Cade learns not only that there is “magick” in the world, but that, if the Axis powers are to be defeated, he will have to learn the ways of sorcery—and fast.

Cade’s life is saved from the clutches of the aforementioned sea monster by Adair Macrae, a 357-year-old Scot who also happens to be the leader of the Midnight Front, a band of sorcerers working on the side of the Allied powers. 

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The members of the Midnight Front are called “karcists,” and they harness the abilities of demons to wield their magic—power that comes at a steep price. The Midnight Front are the last and only line of defense against Hitler’s own cadre of karcists, led by the nefarious Kein Engel.

That may seem like a lot of worldbuilding and terminology for a novel’s introduction, but The Midnight Front reads like your favorite summer blockbuster or genre TV binge-watch, moving the reader tidily along with well-crafted action, witty banter, and a narrative that knows exactly where it’s going structurally.

It’s not surprising that The Midnight Front‘s prose has a cinematic quality to it, given that Mack has cut his teeth in the world of Star Trek, where the author has written several tie-in novels and co-written two episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (one of which was “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” one of Den of Geek’s 50 Best Star Trek Episodes).

While Mack’s story of a rich, white, male protagonist revealed to be The Chosen One may not be challenging many archetypes, there’s a familiar fun to Mack’s writing (even when things get gruesome) that makes for an enjoyable read. It helps that the stakes are set almost immediately, and boy are they high—both personally and, you know, in terms of world domination. You can’t help but root for Cade from his first, doomed ocean voyage.

What The Midnight Front may lack in archetypal ambitions, it makes up for with the sheer temporal scope of its story. The first book in the Dark Arts series encompasses all of World War II, starting in 1939, ending in 1945, and checking in with many of the most important moments of the war—and making it look easy.

Some may find this use of war as backdrop uncomfortable, but for those who enjoy the use of supernatural elements as a way to explore historical horror—think Captain America: The First Avenger—then this is the series for you.

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The Dark Arts series’ second installments is slated for a January 2019 release, and with The Midnight Front already hinting at some Cold War themes in its final pages, this promises to keep up the pace of its supernatural retelling of 20th-century history. Whatever happens next, The Midnight Front is a page-turning start to an exciting new historical supernatural series.