Review: Magic at Midnight

Fellow author Lyssa Chiavari, who helped me with my book relaunch, recently released a YA fairy tale anthology called Magic at Midnight containing various fairy tale adaptations by her and other authors from Snowy Wings Publishing. Generally, anthologies tend to be a mixed bag. I know some other authors that I follow have contributed to fairy tale anthologies, but I mostly avoid them because I worry I might not like all of the stories if I'm not familiar with most of the contributors. Despite having a multitude of authors, Magic at Midnight was fairly consistent in tone, but I was surprised to learn that the tone was very different from the fantasy image portrayed on the cover of a young woman in a ballgown running into the sunset. Instead, nearly all of the stories contained elements of sci-fi or horror, which is not usually my cup of tea, although I do enjoy my fair share of sci-fi if I'm in the right mood. I am of the personal opinion that princesses do not mix well with vampires or werewolves, but I didn't mind the stories involving robots as much. Those stories would be considered steampunk since they combined modern technology with old-fashioned customs, but I'm far from an expert on steampunk, myself.

I think Magic at Midnight would be a good book for princess fans to read around Halloween season because many of the supernatural beings and chilling surprise endings had more of a horror than a fairy tale feel to them. It never got too graphic, but the concepts portrayed in the stories were often disturbing enough that it was difficult to read more than one tale in a single sitting. I'd like to see Snowy Wings Publishing release a horror anthology in October by the same authors because I think that would work a lot better. Some of the stories in this book bore hardly any resemblance to their intended fairy tales, such as Rapunzel with vampires, Red Riding Hood becoming a werewolf for the umpteenth time in a modern adaptation, or the LGBT "Little Mermaid" unrequited romance that had no mention of mermaids and read more like an original short story. Most of my favorites were the ones that stayed closer to their roots, such as the story based on "The Goose Girl," which essentially told the same fairy tale with robots or the one based on "The Pied Piper," which gave an emotional recount of the classic story, presenting the titular character as an antihero being interviewed by a young lawyer.

In general, I tend to stray away from the horror genre, but I have nothing against science fiction. For that reason, I enjoyed the stories that I refer to as "steampunk." Lyssa Chiavari's "CinderellA.I." presented a futuristic Disneyland-like setting in which the animatronics who put on shows for the guests are sentient and begin to question their purpose. I also enjoyed "The Forest of Carterhaugh" by Karissa Laurel about a crippled teen who escaped her insecurities by playing a virtual reality video game that made her feel empowered. "Leo 6" by Melanie McFarlane was another emotional sci-fi drama about a girl who would do anything to save her sister. I would have preferred the story without the "Rumpelstiltskin" reference because it was so vague and unnecessary. "Dance of Deception" by Clara Kensie was an interesting take on "The Twelve Dancing Princesses" with an X-Men style twist. Another one I really liked was "The False Nightingale" by Mary Fan since Hans Christian Andersen's "The Nightingale" already had a robot in it, so it wasn't much of a stretch to make the story more sci-fi. The characters felt very real to me in Mary Fan's version, and I loved how it ended.

Overall, I think that the cover of Magic at Midnight is a bit misleading. It's more of a sci-fi and horror anthology with slight fairy tale influences than it is an actual book of fairy tales. If you're into sci-fi and horror, you should definitely check it out. If you're more of a fairy tale princess lover like me, it would be better to wait until October when you're in the Halloween spirit. It's not a fast read. Some of the stories are mildly disturbing or emotionally heavy. For the best enjoyment, I would recommend only reading one story a day instead of trying to finish it quickly like I did.


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