Delilah S. Dawson‘s Midnight Houdini is a brilliant and complex novel featuring struggling parent-child relationships, a hotel filled with magic (both good and evil), and a bit of romance. The overall story feels like a metaphor for the cages we sometimes put ourselves in when we’re trying to protect ourselves and the ones we love.
This book is such a fun read. It’s a page-turner. As Anna makes her way through the hotel, she soon comes upon a boy who appears close to her age. His name is Max and when he meets her, he freezes. She doesn’t know why, but soon, he becomes her companion and the person who tells her exactly what this hotel is. Together, Max shows Anna the magical, secret, and ever-changing rooms of the Houdini Hotel.
But the hotel is not the only thing that isn’t as it seems. Max has never lived outside the hotel and he’s not as young as he looks
And Anna and Max are not the only people inside the hotel. Max’s mother Anna’s father and his gross friends are also inside. But while Anna is having an interesting time with Max, her father, and his friends are being tortured by Max’s mother. And they kind of deserve it (no spoilers!).
Midnight at the Houdini features magic, romance, and plenty of mystery
But most of the story focuses on Anna and Max and their quest to figure out how to get Anna out of the hotel before midnight. The hotel will not allow her to leave and when time runs out, she will turn into one of the ghosts that haunts the hotel.
As Anna and Max travel through the different magical hotel rooms, we discover more about who Anna is as well as who Max is and the secrets he’s hiding. Anna also has a few unfortunate meetings with Max’s mom and falls a couple of rabbit holes as she figures out the rules of the hotel.
This was such an enjoyable read. We get the point of view of Anna, Max, Max’s mom, Anna’s dad, and his friends as the story goes on. It was so fun to get inside the head of all these characters and learn their motivation. It was especially fun to see the motivations of the less-than-good characters who had revenge on their minds (looking at you Max’s mom!).
I also really loved the relationship between Anna and Max. They work well together and their bond is strong despite only meeting that night. And while I don’t usually like Insta-love, this didn’t feel like that. Because the story only takes place a night and the stress levels are high, it felt natural that they would connect quickly.
It also doesn’t hurt that they seem perfect for each other. Max, the boy who has been locked in a hotel for his whole life and been manipulated by his mother, and Anna, the anxious girl who hides her real self away from people and does everything for other people and not much for herself.
The number and different kinds of magical rooms in the hotel are also way more fun than it has any right being. I would never want to be stuck in this hotel, but I wouldn’t mind having a day or two in some of these magical rooms. The level of detail is amazing and while the stress of getting Anna out of the hotel is still there, these rooms give some reprieve from that panic.
And I can’t say enough good things about the cage metaphor. As someone with anxiety, I am very familiar with the cages we put ourselves in that may not be doing what we think they’re doing. I appreciated how well that feeling is shown within the hotel both with Anna and with Max’s mother.
If you’re looking for a complex fantasy and mystery all rolled into one, you need to read Midnight at the Houdini by Delilah S. Dawson. Just like the hotel itself, it’s filled with surprises you’d never expect.
Midnight at the Houdini is available now in ebook, audiobook, and hardcover formats.