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The front cover for At Midnight. The cover is dark blue with the name of the contributors running down the middle. Around the side are decorative displays of flowers and fauna, bottles of potion and needles and threads.

At Midnight

At Midnight edited by Dahlia Adler from @TitanBooks #BookReview #Fantasy #FairyTales #Retellings

At Midnight edited by Dahlia Adler

Titan Books, paperback, £7.99

Reviewed by Melody Bowles

The front cover for At Midnight. The cover is dark blue with the name of the contributors running down the middle. Around the side are decorative displays of flowers and fauna.

At Midnight is a collection of short stories inspired by popular fairy tales like Cinderella and Snow White and a few more obscure ones, like The Robber Bridegroom. The collection also boasts an original story by Melissa Albert, author of the Hazel Wood series. I especially like that the text of the original fairy tales is included in the back, which is very handy for tales I wasn’t familiar with.

The intended audience for the stories is squarely young adults or YA, evident in the themes, writing styles and mostly teenage protagonists. The collection includes a diverse set of characters along both the gender and sexuality spectrums, as well as from different cultures. The stories vary in tone, from comedic romance to sombre horror. This keeps each story fresh and distinct and means you never know what to expect going in. 

Some of the stories stick closely to expanding or adapting the original text, such as Tracy Deonn’s beautifully written version of The Nightingale. Others become unrecognisable – the Rumpelstiltskin-based tale is about a computer coding contest, Snow White becomes a trans-coming-out narrative, and Puss in Boots becomes a talking coyote.

The Melissa Albert original story, The Sister Switch, really stood out for me. It has a great premise, a teenage love quadrangle attending a theatre experience that becomes a little too real. It’s clever, layered and filled with tension.

Another standout tale was The Emperor and the Eversong. It brings the Emperor character from the Hans Christian Andersen original to life as a compelling villain-protagonist. I loved the twist in the tale and that the ending made the story feel like a prologue to a larger narrative. I must also mention the whimsical Coyote in High Top Sneakers by Darcie Little Badger. The framing narrative, the farcical humour and the story’s ending were all brilliantly creative and thoroughly entertaining.

An enjoyable, cohesive collection with plenty of suspense and surprises. The sheer variety on offer means you’ll probably find something to like. Read this if you’re a fairytale lover seeking novel spins on old favourites.

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