I didn’t have a much higher regard for Beatrice’s sister, though I would hope that most of her bad judgment comes from her youth and not from a darker, sadistic streak. The way she holds Beatrice’s secret over her head, ready to divulge it for any reason, so that she can force Beatrice to dress and act a certain way – sounding a little familiar? The only Clayborn family member that deserves any loyalty is Beatrice’s mother. Beatrice may have a few of the same problems as the rest of her family because if she thinks of her mother at all, it tends to be with apathy. That is until her mother’s problems might become her own. The misplaced loyalty, lack of repercussions, or even acknowledgment of wrongdoing rubbed me the wrong way and took some of the shine off of The Midnight Bargain.
With that all out of the way now, I loved Nadi. From the first ball, Nadi was fun, impulsive, and a much-needed breath of lightness and spontaneity. Beatrice got a little wound up in her goals and her purpose and would’ve talked herself into spirals for days if someone wasn’t around to break the cycle and redirect her focus. For this, I also appreciated Ysbeta.
The romance was a little too heavy on the instalove and had some good aspects that shouldn’t have had to be good aspects. Respecting women as people and allowing them to have aspirations and education should not be as remarkable as it was in The Midnight Bargain (and sadly in our own world). Ianthe may have been a bit of a dud, in my opinion, but at least he falls on the right side of history. Ysbeta was a much more aspirational character. Her fire to be free and independent, to learn and to educate others, to seek knowledge and spread awareness rang true and spoke volumes. Yes, coming from a position of privilege (she owns a freaking ship), it’s a much easier goal, but it shouldn’t discount her very difficult journey.
I appreciated the ‘realistic’ ending (I mean, it is Regency fiction masquerading as high fantasy – most of the last fifty pages or so wouldn’t have happened), even if it was a little rushed. Overall The Midnight Bargain was incredibly well written. This world and its magic system never seemed to be fully explained, but Polk has a talent for giving just enough detail to allow for comprehension.