Nov 17, 2022

ARC Review--At Midnight edited by Dahlia Adler


Fairy tales have been spun for thousands of years and remain among our most treasured stories. Weaving fresh tales with unexpected reimaginings, At Midnight brings together a diverse group of acclaimed YA writers to breathe new life into a storied tradition.

Fifteen celebrated authors reclaim classic fairy tales for a new generation:

Dahlia Adler, “Rumplestiltskin”
Tracy Deonn, “The Nightingale”
H.E. Edgmon, “Snow White”
Hafsah Faizal, “Little Red Riding Hood”
Stacey Lee, “The Little Matchstick Girl”
Roselle Lim, “Hansel and Gretel”
Darcie Little Badger, “Puss in Boots”
Malinda Lo, “Frau Trude”
Alex London, “Cinderella”
Anna-Marie McLemore, “The Nutcracker”
Rebecca Podos, “The Robber Bridegroom”
Rory Power, “Sleeping Beauty”
Meredith Russo, “The Little Mermaid”
Gita Trelease, “Fitcher’s Bird”
and an all-new fairy tale by Melissa Albert

Once upon a time . . .


I received this ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest and voluntary review. I was in no way compensated for this review.


I grew up on fairy tales and have loved them all, from the darkest Grimm to the over-cheery Disney! So I was beyond excited to read At Midnight edited by Dahlia Adler with 15 authors contributing to the anthology. I was hoping it was going to be something like the anthology I read many years ago with a similar theme. However, I found that this anthology was much more on the lighter side of fairy tales instead of being like the truly sinister tales that they once were.

Its always hard to review anthologies, do I review the book as a whole? Break down each story into one/two sentence reviews? I've done both versions over my blogging years and always struggle with deciding what to do when there's an anthology that caught my eye and made me pick it up. I guess in this one I will break it down by stories.

I do want to put a bit of a forewarning before getting into the bulk of this review. Since I read it as an ebook, I did not realize that all the original fairy tales were also included in this the very back. Now since I was familiar with most of these stories, it wasn't a huge deal but I did have a handful that I wasn't at all familiar with and wished there was some insight into what the original fairy tale was about. By having these fairy tales tucked away in the back I feel like you lose something as the reader. Why after reading 15 tales would you want to go back and "re-read" the original version...and not remember at all what the retelling was about? I feel like these original tales should have been placed before their retelling if that was their ultimate remind you of what this new tale was based upon. Since this is an ARC, I can only hope that maybe the formatting and placement of these stories will be changed for the finished copy as I think it would flow better that way. 

All in all, though I would say that this anthology was just okay. It wasn't all what I was expecting, I was hoping for something a bit darker in fairy tale tone I guess. What I got instead were more contemporary retellings that just left me feeling wanting. I felt like the magic and "grimness" of the original fairy tales just wasn't all there. Some of the tales did have that "grimness," but not all. Though I suppose if you enjoy fairy tales and contemporary reads then this would be a perfect read for you.

Sugarplum by Anna-Marie McLemore

This was a story inspired by The Nutcracker. Though I was somewhat familiar with the story, I wasn't really feeling those vibes from this story itself. Yes, it was Christmas and there was a ballerina involved though she hated dancing. Oddly, the story was told in second person point of view. It's very rare that I come across this point of view type and I'm reminded why it's rarely seen, as it makes for awkward reading.

In the Forests of the Night by Gita Trelease

This was a retelling of Fitcher's Bird. This was a story I knew nothing about sadly. It involved a young girl who was trying to discover the mystery behind the missing girls of her village. Everyone thinks it was tigers who were taking them into the forest. She though suspects the enigmatic teacher may have something to do with the disappearances.

Say My Name by Dahlia Adler

This was a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin. I quite enjoyed this one! It definitely did what I was hoping to find within the anthology, took a well-known fairy tale and let it play out basically the same way but differently. Needless to say, this one has a modern twist involving a girl with a very unique name--one that had me rolling over with laughter once revealed--who is trying to impress her crush by getting back at the girl who took her place on a coding team. Our Rumpelstiltskin virtually blackmails the nemesis, and promises everything will all go away if she can only guess her name.

Fire and Rhinestone by Stacey Lee

This was a retelling of The Little Matchstick Girl. This was pretty different from the original tale if memory serves me correct. This one, oddly, seems less dark, but still pretty dark. This involved a young girl known as Firefly, who with her grandmother, sells matches and later drawings outside a theater. Along the way, Firefly learns some shocking news about her parentage. It was a little bit of an odd tale to be honest. I mean it was interesting for the most part, but felt like it was lacking something as well. There was an interesting historical note at the end that helped to tie things together.

Mother's Mirror by H.E. Edgman

This was a retelling of Snow White. This was a very different kind of retelling and it was heartbreaking all the same. Not exactly the vibe I was looking for, the sadness part. Yes, fairy tales were meant to be dark and grim, but not this depressing kind of sadness. This was a story about a teenager who was born a girl, but identified as a boy. He soon called himself Hunter and changed his lifestyle, much to his mother's dismay. His mother just could not accept her son for who he was. So Hunter found himself a new family of sorts. He joined a chat group, met 7 other friends dealing with the same thing and fell in love with performer who went by the name of Charming. It was sweet in some respect, but still very, very sad.

Sharp As Any Thorn by Rory Poer

This was a Sleeping Beauty retelling. Here we find the darkness of fairy tales that I was looking for, yet it was still done very differently. Two sisters grew up on the edge of forest with their parents. Though Aurora looked up to her older sister, Mel, Mel didn't always feel the same way. When Mel turned 17 she ran away and for years Aurora wondered what happened to her. She thinks the forest took her and it's not until she turns 13 that she learns just what the dark forest was hiding.

Coyote in High Top Sneakers by Darcie Little Badger

This was a Puss in Boots retelling. This basically was about a boy named Roberto and how he came to meet a coyote who could talk to him. The coyote had him do things that were for the greater good and led to good things happening to Roberto. My little knowledge on the original tale fell line with what was happening here, I just didn't get all that excited about the tale sadly.

The Sister Switch by Melissa Albert

This was Melissa's brand new fairy tale and was probably my favorite of the collection as the ones leading up to this one just didn't meet my fairy tale retelling standards. Though it did make it somewhat more complicated to follow. It was about a boy named Nate who was in a dying relationship with Miriam. One night, he, Miriam, their friend Case--who Nate was in love with, and a new boy named Kevin attend this magical party. The party is something of a rarity, never happens the same night/time/place kind of thing, so finding it is a treat. At the party, performers play out a tale much like the fairy tales we know of a king who had two beautiful daughters. When his queen died he was saddened and didn't look upon his daughters until they were of the marrying age...and well, you can guess what he wanted to do. The princesses, aided by their maid were able to escape but had to separate. The partygoers were then enticed to wear masks that made them play a part in the new that was playing out very much like the fairy tale they just witnessed. It was an odd sort of tale, but still very intriguing and definitely had the darker themes I was looking for in my fairy tale retelling.

Once Bitten, Twice Shy by Hafsah Faiza

This was a Little Red Riding Hood retelling. This was perhaps one of the odder of the retellings as I struggled to keep up at times. Red was basically working with a mysterious guy named Wolf, but what she thought was going to be doing something with architecture led to a robbery of sorts. I feel like I got lost along the way with this story. There were still some clear nods to the fairy tale along the way which was nice, but overall I just felt confused with what was going on.

A Flame So Bright by Malinda Lo

This was a retelling of Frau Trude. I virtually knew nothing of this tale and having the later knowledge that the original in back just upset me afterwards because I would've read that one first before reading the retelling. I honestly was confused with this story as it seemed to take place in a Puritan village around the time of the Witch Trials and such. Obedience observes the beautiful new woman in town named Trude who marries off well. But then her husband dies a month later. The whispers start going around shortly afterwards. As I said, I did not know the original tale at all, or that it was within my reach in the same book. The story just didn't really seem to have a focus, but I guess if I knew what the original tale was about I would've made the right connections. Sadly, I did not.

The Emperor and the Eversong by Tracy Deonn

This was a retelling of The Nightingale. Another tale I wasn't too familiar with. This involved a prince who wanted to live forever. He was going to do whatever possible to escape Death. He ends up doing a handful of bad deeds, including taking a mystical woman hostage when she has a beautiful singing voice. Though, naturally, things were not as they appeared to be and the cruel prince learns a very hard lesson.

Hea by Alex London

This was a Cinderella retelling though it was very much turned on its head. For in this one, we have a social media star, Asher who longs to leave the limelight for a time and just be a normal teenager. The elements of the original fairy tale were there, which made it interesting, though it was kind of hard to pinpoint if Asher was meant to be Cinderella or Prince Charming or possibly both. For Asher falls for the handsome barista at a coffee shop and just longs to get the know the boy. Sadly, his stepmother has other plans for him.

The Littlest Mermaid by Meredith Russo

Naturally, a retelling of The Little Mermaid. Though this one was quite different as well. Several times I tripped up wondering if I was following the mermaid or the girl she fell in love with. It wasn't easy to decipher at first, for a story is being told to listeners about the mermaid meeting and falling in love with the human girl. Tragedy follows the story and it's ending, though revealing, didn't really provide me with the shocking answers I was waiting for. Needless to say, that this story too left me a bit confused with what was happening.

Just a Little Bite by Roselle Lim

This was a Hansel and Gretel retelling that was very easy to see and follow! This was yet another example of what I was hoping this anthology would be about. In this modern twist, brother and sister, Hank and Gigi are left on the side of the wintry road while their father and stepmother sped away, leaving them to freeze to death. They take shelter in the first building they see, a very elite and fancy restaurant. You can tell it's the snooty rich people type and when the hostess agrees to let them stay, if they would help the cook out who's shorthanded, they would not only get a hot meal, but a ride to the city where cell phones get reception to make a call to get a ride home. But they find out just why this restaurant caters to the rich and elite and just what's so special with their very expensive menu. This was a dark and sinister story that played out in just the right ways!

A Story About a Girl by Rebecca Podos

This was a retelling of The Robber Bridegroom. After reading this story, I realize I wasn't all that familiar with the original tale. Though it starts off intriguingly enough, I was dismayed when it took on a more of tell, don't show spin. Dani is forced to go on a "meet" with her dad's boss' boss' son. Yup, that complex. When she meets Alexsandr at this parents' house sans parents, she's a bit nervous. They get on a topic of likes, which leads to Dani's love for horror movies and then she tells Alexsandr a story called The Pale of Settlement. In it, she describes how a poor young girl was forced to marry a rich man...who had a terrible secret. She learns from his sister that he was a monster called a strzyga. The girl is able to defeat the monster and then lives happily ever after with the sister where they were said to run away and raise orphans together. It was a very long winded story really, that basically brought us back to the present and a very intense situation. In the end, it was exciting, but it just felt a little off with the story within a story.

Overall Rating 3/5 stars

At Midnight releases November 22, 2022

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