Review: Princess of Midnight

Did you know that this past Wednesday was National Tell a Fairy Tale Day? That means this is a big week for sales on princess books! I celebrated the joyous occasion by attending another Facebook party with many talented authors. Among those authors, Lucy Tempest released her latest book in the Fairy Tales of Folkshore series promptly time for the holiday. As the newest and shiniest release, Princess of Midnight was the first book I read in honor of National Fairy Tale Day. I had mixed feelings about Lucy Tempest's Thief of Cahraman trilogy and Beast/Beauty of Rosemead duology, so I wasn't sure what to expect from this reimagining of "Cinderella" and the "The Snow Queen." To my delight, I found that it was not only more concise than the other Folkshore novels, but also one of the best adaptations of "Cinderella" that I have ever read.

Princess of Midnight tells the story of Ornella, a minor character from the other books in the Folkshore stories. Though Ornella endured in a life of abuse from her wicked stepmother and stepsisters, this is far from your typical "Cinderella" retelling. Lucy Tempest brilliantly combined various elements of mythology and fairy tales in a creative and engaging way, right down to the often overlooked tree of Cinderella's mother from the Brothers Grimm adaptation. At first, I wasn't sure how "The Snow Queen" could blend with "Cinderella" as the heroines from these tales have very different goals, but when I realized that the cursed ice queen had been gender-swapped with a king who was throwing a ball to find a suitor, it all fell into place like a magical transformation. One of the most common complaints about the story of "Cinderella" is that the prince lacks any defining characteristics or personality. Placing him under an icy curse that makes it difficult for him to warm up to those around him was the perfect way to remedy this. The romance between Ornella and King Yulian based on their similar upbringings was much stronger and more engaging than the previous two love stories from Lucy Tempest's Fairy Tales of Folkshore series.

The book also placed a new spin on Cinderella's abuse. She wasn't exactly forced to obey her stepmother like Ella Enchanted, nor did she do it out of the goodness of her own heart. Ornella was held against her will as a sort of pet for Dolora and her two daughters due to the unusual magical properties that even she was not aware that she had. Her stepfamily of trolls absorbed her powers to make themselves appear more beautiful to the public in an attempt to raise their status in society. Ornella was bound to them by a magic anklet that burned and tortured her if she ever attempted to escape. Of course, that still didn't stop her from trying. She had nearly escaped in the previous book, Beauty of Rosemead, until her stepmother found her and captured her again, this time in the enchanted realm, where she was finally able to uncover the mysterious details of her magical origins. Another thing that made this Cinderella unique was that she had no interest in attending the ball and was instead propositioned by a faery to protect King Yulian from an assassin, which makes this Ella a more proactive character than the one we're more accustomed to seeing.

My biggest caveat with the previous books from the Fairy Tales of Folkshore series was that they spent far too much time on exposition about the protagonists' parents, which forced in unnecessary sequels that revolved around these overly complicated backstories. Princess of Midnight is the strongest book in the series so far because it was written as a standalone novel, culling the exposition of Orenella and Yulian's family histories down to a few tasteful and relevant pages with no arbitrary flashbacks. Unlike Ada and Cyaxares' love story from the Thief of Cahraman trilogy or Bonnie and Leander from the Beast of Rosemead duology, Ella and Yulian were not destined to meet and fall in love based on events that happened to their parents before them, a welcome change from the all-too-convenient trope of theirs predecessors. That's the biggest reason that Ella and Yulian's love story felt so much more genuine. They bonded over shared interests and experiences, not some arbitrary event that took place before they were born.

Lucy Tempest finally got it right with Princess of Midnight. The sixth installment of the Fairy Tales of Folkshore series cleaned up all the issues with the previous books and improved upon the story of "Cinderella," an impressive feat for a tale that has been been retold so many times. Though Ornella's story mirrored Bonnie's in some ways, such as learning that she was a magical being and not the ordinary human girl she grew up as, it also built upon this revelation by making her an outcast who had never experienced love. I recommend Princess of Midnight to anyone who loves princesses, romance, and magic. It was the perfect way to celebration National Fairy Tale Day. The festivities continue today with the Cover Reveal Party on the Facebook page for Kingdom of Fairytales, which I will be participating in today at 6PM PST/7PM MST/8PM CST/9PM EST! Please join me if you can!


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