Top 5 Reasons to Read Midnight at the Houdini by Delilah S. Dawson
Review,  Fantasy,  YA

Top 5 Reasons to Read Midnight at the Houdini

It’s my stop during the blog tour for Midnight at the Houdini by Delilah S. Dawson. Check out my Top 5 Reasons to Read Midnight at the Houdini in this post.

5 Reasons to Read Midnight at the Houdini

Midnight at the Houdini by Delilah S. Dawson

Publication Date : September 5, 2023

Publisher : Delacorte

Read Date : September 5, 2023

Genre : Urban Fantasy / Magical realism / YA

Pages : 368

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Disclaimer – Many thanks to Tbr and Beyond for tour invite and publisher/author for eARC via NetGalley.


A girl discovers a surreal hotel where no one ever leaves. When the clock strikes midnight she’ll be trapped there forever unless she’s able to break free from magic that in turn breaks all her rules. Perfect for fans of Caraval and The Starless Sea!

The night is perfect and glorious and sparkling, too beautiful to be real. Like magic.

Anna may have grown up in glitzy Las Vegas, but she’s determined that no one will ever call her shallow. While her older sister Emily is the star of the family, Anna is the diligent stage manager, making sure that both their lives go perfectly to plan. But when Emily reveals a startling betrayal, Anna flees in the middle of a raging storm and takes shelter in a boutique establishment she’s never seen before: The Houdini.  

Inside, Anna discovers a magic hotel . . . and a magical boy. Earnest, curious Max has lived his entire life inside the Houdini. Over the course of one surreal evening, he becomes Anna’s guide to the curious building. For the first time in her life, Anna is center stage, in a place that anticipates her every desire, with a boy who only has eyes for her.  

But that’s because the Houdini has no other guests. No one ever enters the Houdini . . . and no one ever leaves. When the clock strikes midnight, Anna will be trapped in the Houdini forever. If Anna’s ever going to find out who she is on her own in the real world, she’ll first have to make an impossible escape. But will she be able to do it if it means leaving Max behind?

Top 5 Reasons to Read Midnight at the Houdini

Midnight at the Houdini is an atmospheric and mysterious YA urban fantasy with magical realism that revolves around Anna who has to take shelter from the storm in one of her father’s hotels, The Houdini, but nothing in the hotel is of the modern world and everything works by magic. When she meets Max who was born in the Houdini and has been stuck there ever since she discovers no one can ever leave Houdini and any guest that arrives turns into a ghost on the next midnight. And so Anna’s impossible race to escape begins. But can she outsmart Max’s mother, Phoebe, who is in control of the Houdini?

1. Amazing concept

I loved the concept of the magical hotel that has a mind and whims of its own, and a magical clock ticking making the characters race against time that keeps readers on the edge and the plot interesting.

As Anna explores The Houdini and tries to find answers to questions it raises more questions, making the mystery and the plot that looks obvious and simple in the climax more complicated.

2. Retelling of Tempest

I didn’t know until I read in reviews that Midnight at the Houdini is a retelling of Tempest. After reading the summary of the Tempest I could see many similarities here- The creation of the storm that leads Anna, her father and his friends in Houdini; Houdini’s magic and its connection to Phoebe; Phoebe’s revenge and the reason behind it… and many other small things.

3. Setting of Houdini

Houdini is a character in itself and it is the best part of the book. The inside of the hotels feels much bigger than the actual hotel size in the real world. I love the magical theme in the hotel and its ambiance of the historical era from hotel lobbies to paintings, rooms, wardrobes, elevators, music, and even the accent of the people alive in the hotel.

There are hundreds of rooms, circuitous lobbies, trap doors, and secret labyrinthine passages that make the plot adventurous and also give a claustrophobic feel. I was excited to see what next room Anna would find and where the trapdoor or the passage would take her.

It was amazing how Houdini could magic food and clothes and play music appropriate to the situation showing its playful nature. The way it helped Anna and Max show it’s kind and loving nature to good people but very scary for those who hurt it and people under its protection.

I loved Houdini’s story as well, how it came to existence gives answers to many questions like- where the magic comes from, why no one can escape, why it is helping Anna, and how Anna and anyone else can escape to the real world.

There are many book reference – Harry Potter, Narnia, Alice in The Wonderland, The Circus- and part of the setting is compared with books

4. Interesting theme and layers

The main theme of the story is revenge and forgiveness. There is layers of mother’s love, secrets, greed, deceptions, and betrayal. I like the message in the book about how people are prisoners of their own emotions and they can be free of them by letting them go by forgiving and moving on in life.

5. Dark, and whimsical atmosphere with light Romance

Houdini’s dark passages and whimsical magic make it creepy and atmospheric. Moast of the characters in this are creepy and sinister. Colin, the janitor who wants to hurt Anna, Phoebe who is determined to keep Anna and Max apart, and Anna’s father David’s friends- Sebastian and Toni- are plotting against him. The past of Houdini and Phoebe is dark and touching.

However, the romantic angle keeps the plot light enough to make it perfect for Young adults and even middle-grade readers. Both Anna and Max are different from each other in many aspects and they know each other for only a few hours and yet they feel the connection between them. It was interesting how both want different things- Anna wants to escape Houdini and Max wants to stay with Anna- but with the same end purpose, they both don’t want Anna to turn into a ghost. It adds tension to their relationship and distraction from their goals.

Why 4 Stars –

Characters are two-dimensional. They are either good or bad, there is no in-between. Both Anna and Max stay good throughout the book while Phoebe, Colin, and Sebastian and Toni, stay bad. As for Daniel I don’t think he changed, he sure is business-minded and has no time for family in the beginning but it never said he was the bad person like his friends. We see his caring side only once he enters the Houdini but he doesn’t act on it except saying, “I need to find my daughter”.

I don’t think Anna really understands the real reason why Emily chose the house far from their family home or the part about growing independently her father said in the beginning. Sometimes it was frustrating to read Anna’s frustration over not having control and logic in the Houdini.

Max was cute and adorable there is no question but I feel he kept insisting Anna not to find a way out too often for my liking rather than helping her find a way out and what help he did was in defeated manner like it’s-useless-and-he-knows-she-won’t-find-escape-but-he-would-do-anything-to-be-with-her. He wasn’t selfish by nature but in this instance, he sure looked selfish and clingy which I didn’t like.

Writing is simple. Third-person multiple perspectives was good here showing what each character is thinking and going through but sometimes it didn’t feel like perspectives aligned with the timeline seamlessly. We have a proper clock ticking for Anna but not for David and his friends which makes it a bit hazy how much time they spent where.

Overall, Midnight at the Houdini is enjoyable, atmospheric, and adventurous YA urban fantasy with magical realism.

I recommend Midnight at the Houdini if you like,
Retelling of classic
YA fantasy
Portal fantasy
magical realism
magical hotel
dark often claustrophobic atmosphere
Theme of revenge and forgiveness

Book Links

Goodreads | | | | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

About Author

Delilah S. Dawson is the New York Times-bestselling author of Star Wars: Phasma, Black Spire: Galaxy’s Edge, and The Perfect Weapon. With Kevin Hearne, she writes the Tales of Pell. As Lila Bowen, she writes the Shadow series, beginning with Wake of Vultures. Her other books include the Blud series, the Hit series, and Servants of the Storm.

She’s written comics in the worlds of Marvel Action: Spider-Man, Lore’s Wellington, Star Wars Adventures, Star Wars Forces of Destiny, The X-Files Case Files, Adventure Time, Rick and Morty, and her creator-owned comics include Star Pig, Ladycastle, and Sparrowhawk.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

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This post is a part of Blogchatter Half Marathon 2023 

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Hi, I'm Yesha, an Indian book blogger. Avid and eclectic reader who loves to read with a cup of tea. Not born reader but I don't think I’m going to stop reading books in this life. “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”


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