We return to a magical world of music in The Midnight Orchestra: A Mystwick School Novel by Jessica Khoury (Clarion Books, June 2022; audiobook available from Audible Studios, January 2022), which takes place right where the first book (called The Mystwick School of Musicraft) left off. Amelia is officially recognized as a talented Composer after the spell she unintentionally created called her mother’s ghost. Being a Composer is much more difficult than she intended, however, and the newly rescue Mia Jones, as well as a mysterious stranger, seem to be out to get her.
The sequel is much darker than the original novel. There is a dangerous and scary undertone to her story as Amelia is sent to the “Midnight Orchestra” against her will and meets a person thought to be a “necro-muse” who tries to raise the dead. Amelia and her best friend Jai have a number of amusing adventures in the midst of the danger to lighten the tone, and Amelia also must balance her fears and frustrations against regular tween-ager drama. Most tweens and teens would not have an issue with the dark themes of the book, especially after getting to know the loveable main characters in the first book. That said, some sensitive younger children or tweens may not be ready for the intensity and the suggestions of menacing evil, even (or maybe especially) when the resolution completes the storyline and solves the mysterious questions.
Listening to the audiobook was once again a delight. A musical soundtrack seems essential to the magical musical world. Some songs are familiar as spells are learned and completed, while others are created just for this world. With a variety of solo instruments and whole orchestral productions, the musical interludes seemed to bring the magic to life. The narration is done by Suzy Jackson, and the unique voices are so well done that my daughter initially thought it was narrated by a full cast. Altogether, the second Mystwick book is a fantastically done yet intense audiobook that kept us on the edge of our seats as Amelia’s story played out.