Queer fantasy that features snow and witches? Yes please! This was like if you took the snowy landscape of Westeros and blended it with Salem Witch Trials... I adored every page of this story, and I've no doubt you will too.
Alicia Jasinska is now my go-to for sapphic enemies-to-lovers!
After her atmospheric retelling of Tan Lin, Jasinska brings us to a fantasy world full of bitter cold snow and witches that lurk in the woods. Zosia and Marynka have been fighting since they were young, eager to appease their respective witch mentors with the pure hearts of princes. Unknown to the Kingdom of Lechija, still fraught from a recent war, the two monster girls have made the kingdom the setting of their next competition: Steal the heart of the prince and gain incredible magic, or die by the clawed hands of Baba Yaga and her sister.
Jasinska succeeds in building a captivating world. It's beautiful to picture the glow of holy candles dripping hot wax, the sleigh parties lit with torches, the onion-shaped domes frosted over with ice... The thin line between divinity and magic is played with by Jasinska cleverly drawing on real practices from Muslim and Jewish history in Eastern Europe, diversifying a world where the Church has a stronghold over the general population. This is something I wish more fantasy books would do.
More importantly, I appreciate the absolute joy Jasinska had with writing Zosia and Marynka, the witch heirs to Night and Midday. The writing turns vivid, almost breathtaking, with descriptions of their powers and conflicts. Marynka can summon fire; she carries a small scythe and is the embodiment of heatstroke. Zosia can command the cold shadows and grow iron claws. The contrasts between these girls create such amazing imagery.
However, even though this is a stand-alone, I wish there was another chapter or even ten more pages about their growing romance; At the same time, The Dark Tide wasn't as open-ended as The Midnight Girls; there is a strong potential for a companion novel or an extended epilogue as a short story.
Netgalley provided me with an ARC. All opinions are my own.
When I read THE DARK TIDE last year (Jasinska’s sapphic Tam Lin with witches) I loved the eerie and claustrophobic atmosphere oven throughout and the incredibly realistic feeling relationships between all the different characters.
THE MIDNIGHT GIRLS hits those same high notes and is perhaps even better!
It’s a tad less dark and eerie – even with the heart-stealing plotline – and instead reveals in the magical depiction of its snow-draped setting (influenced heavily by the historical Kingdom of Poland). The world the girls are racing through is vivid, with sleigh-rides, winter carnivals, and masked balls.
The plot is fast-paced and fun, a quick push-and-pull as the three girls try to outdo each other and retrieve the prince’s heart for their respective (cruel and dangerous) patron (White, Red and Black Jaga).
The girls -- Beata, Marynka, and Zosia -- themselves are also each a pleasure to experience. Jasinska has made each of them a complete unique personality driven by different goals (freedom, security, or respect) and different outlooks, but all understandable in their own ways. In their monstrous aspects of Morning, Midday, and Midnight they’re so fun to read about, wielding different powers and causing utter havoc.
After all this, perhaps my favourite thing about THE MIDNIGHT GIRLS is that all three are totally unrepentant. You want monster girls revealing in doing whatever they have to achieve their goal, while also showing incredibly strong female friendships? This book is for you.
THE MIDNIGHT GIRLS is an utter delight.
This is a great story for any YA/fantasy fan. It has a fun playfulness between the characters. I really like that the main characters are the villains but Alicia does a great job of giving them enviable qualities so you want them to succeed. They unabashedly stay true to themselves. You want Zosia, Marynka, Josef, Beata and Kajetan, all chained to a path not chosen for themselves, to be free to choose a path of their own.
It took me a bit to get into the book because I didn’t personally like the premise of the Prince’s heart to be ripped out and eaten. Getting through the initial backstory made me think I would not like the book. In the end it just become part of the story and a little play on words that there was love/hate playfulness between Midnight and the Prince and Sozia and Marynka.
That being said, once I got past the beginning and into the real story line I did enjoy this book very much. It seems like there is some unfinished business left out there for a second book to follow which would be pretty cool. She has set up a base for a few future books actually.
The book flowed well and follows the historical timeline of 18th century Poland. I did not do any research or looking up to understand any true historical details though.
Thank you Alicia Jasinska and Sourcebooks Fire for allowing me to read and review this book.
This was such a fun standalone! Marynka and Zosia were such great characters, and I loved their enemies-to-lovers romance! They were both unapologetically brutal and competitive, and while they weren’t the heroes of the story, they were very compelling. The ending was absolutely spectacular; I loved how it left things a bit open-ended without me feeling as if things weren’t resolved enough.
4/5 stars. To be released December 2021.
3 girls, Morning, Midday, and Midnight, each seek to steal the hearts of princes for the witches they work for. I loved that the main characters were not set up as heroes, but as villains. They were monsters that people feared. Midday and Midnight have a fierce rivalry that is pushed to the limit as they clash during 18th century Poland. It was a great mix of fantasy world building intertwined with historical fiction.
There was not a dull moment in this book that was jam packed with action. The only part that turned me off a bit was the consistent questioning of that character's as they mulled over if they were doing the right thing or not. It got a bit repetitive at times and I feel deterred from the storyline a bit.
It was also set up for a possible sequel (I hope!) at the end.
I had a few days off and was able to read this book.
Thanks to Netgalley and those who were behind this book ♥️.
This was actually really good, the mythology well tackled by the author, as well as her descriptions.
We have two sorceresses vying for the literal heart of a prince, each giving her best effort. The evolution of their romance didn't quite convince me, but don't get me wrong, it's not bad, I was just hoping for more development between the protagonists.
Is there an Enemies to Lovers plot? Yes, there is.
I liked the twist in the story where they both realise that the prince is not the one they really love and I appreciated this plow twist, a very novel LGBT book.
Maybe my problem is that I was expecting more about the relationship of the sorceresses and the denouement was so quick.
Would I read Alice books again?
Of course I would, this book is good.
The Midnight Girls tells the story of a dangerous, high stakes rivalry between two girls after the same prince’s heart (literally). The story explores the intimate nature of competition and wanting. Lush, grounded worldbuilding makes this a fun read with witches, parties, dark and divine magic, and more. The characters leap off the page with distinct voices for both Midnight and Midday. I found myself relating to both of their struggles--the feeling of wanting more for yourself and needing validation of what you already have. The sexual tension between Midday and Midnight is so deliciously high, that at several points, I was screaming “just kiss already!” This book has everything I love in it: queers, unrequited love, secrets, political drama, and twists. I literally couldn’t stop reading! 100% would recommend.
This was a fun well written book, from start to finish. I loved the mix of myth and fantasy, making a rich world for the characters to interact in. A fun read all the way through.
Overall, this was really good and a well crafted fantasy, I just had trouble getting into it. The premise of this book, two enchantresses competing for the literal heart of a prince, had me hooked, but once I started actually reading it, I was never completely sold. Don’t get me wrong, the plot and world building were incredibly crafted, and the rivals-to-lovers wlw romance was cute and had some really strong moments, I just don’t think this was the book for me. This book doesn’t have any glaring issues, the only small complaint I had was just that it wrapped up pretty quickly, and I can totally see this being a five star book for many other readers, it just wasn’t my favourite. I feel like it would be unfair to give this anything less than a four star rating, as it is a good book, just personally, it didn't have me super invested. I’d definitely still recommend it though. Specifically, if you are looking for a wlw fantasy, like the rivals-to-lovers trope, or are a fan of the world building in the Shadow and Bone series (it has a similar gritty and Eastern-European inspired setting to this), I’d definitely recommend The Midnight Girls to you!
Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for the eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire and NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review!
The Midnight Girls by Alicia Jasinska is an amazing YA fantasy set in a magical version of 18th century Poland and starring LGBT characters. It made me think of what would happen if Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone series met Alexandra Cristo's To Kill a Kingdom. The story revolves around three girls, Marynka, Beata, and Zosia, each of whom has been adopted by a witch that they call Grandmother, The witches have given them magical powers in order to steal princes' hearts for them. Marynka works for the Red Jaga while Zosia works for the Red Jaga's eldest sister, the Black Jaga. Because they are in direct competition for princes' hearts, they have built up a rivalry over the years. But what happens when they finally meet face to face? Will they still be enemies or is it possible for them to develop a friendship - or something more than friendship?
Here is an excerpt from Chapter 1 after Marynka fails to bring back a prince's heart for her grandmother:
“The prince was dead. They said his chest was empty, but I knew you’d still need a heart.” A witch was only as strong as the number of hearts she’d devoured. “So I—”
“Empty?” Red Jaga’s hand stilled against Marynka’s temple. Her gold eyes were sharp among the hollows and wrinkles of her sun-browned face. “Did you see who took it?”
Marynka shook her head, a panicked tightness building in her chest. “Another girl took his heart for you?”
Red Jaga did not answer at once. She wore a strange expression. “Not for me.” The witch released Marynka and moved away, gnarled hands trailing over a sun-bleached skull. “For my eldest sister. She’s taken a new servant too. A girl a year or two older than you. She calls her Midnight.”
Overall, I had a really enjoyable time reading The Midnight Girls. I was reminded of several other YA fantasy books that have become bestsellers in the genre, and I have no doubt that The Midnight Girls is destined to become a classic as well. One highlight of this book is the developing relationships between the characters. Not only was the main relationship between Marynka and Zosia well-done, the author also spent time developing the relationships of other important side characters. Another highlight was that the fantasy elements of this magical version of 18th-century Poland were creative and innovative, while still harking back to traditional folklore elements. I particularly enjoyed reading about the powers that the witches gave to the three girls and how each girl's powers corresponded with a specific time of day (shadow and darkness-based powers for Zosia, for example). I know this is supposed to be a standalone, but if the author were ever to write another book set in this fantasy world, I would definitely check it out. If you're intrigued by the excerpt above, or if you're a fan of YA fantasy books in general, you won't want to miss this book when it comes out in December!
The two protagonists, Marynka and Zosia, aren't particularly likeable. They're not good witches. Highly competitive in their endeavors to please their mentors, their "Grandmothers", the two young witches perform hideous acts. Marynka strives for acceptance and love from her mentor; Zosia strives to escape from her mentor.
The author's talent shines in how she is able to show the reader why these two young witches are the way they are. As the story progresses, Marynka and Zosia become sympathetic characters, flawed, but not without some merit. They grow from being competitors to being friends, and even coming to love each other. The ending sets itself up for a sequel.
I recommend this book.
There once were three witch sisters who lived in the forests of Lechija. White Jaga who is strongest during the morning, Red Jaga is strongest during the day, and Black Jaga who commands the night. Each sister has a servant apprentice who does their bidding and in exchange the servant is taught magic which slowly turns them into a monster. This is the story of Beata, Marynka, and Zosia otherwise known as Morning, Midday, and Midnight. For years the girls have been sent on missions to bring home the heart of a prince. His real heart to be consumed by the witches that helps to grow their power. Beata and Marynka are raised together as friends and sisters, but Zosia is kept alone in the dark midnight forest. Midday considers Midnight to be her rival because the latter has taken more hearts and she fears that grandmother (Red Jaga) will tire of her coming in second place and either cast her out or eat her and display her bones. Marynka begs Beata to accompany her on her next mission which involves a pure hearted prince. She believes if they work together she can beat Midnight. The girls must travel to Warszów during Karnawał, a festive time in the snow covered kingdom that is filled with wintery balls, sleigh rides, and glittery disguises. Beata and Marynka cross paths with Zosia and must travel together to the Kingdom, not realizing who they each really are. Once they discover their true selves the competition begins and as each attempt on the prince's life is thwarted the girls expose themselves to the dangers of the kingdom. This is an action packed fantasy story with a slow burn lgbtq romance. The writing is hypnotic and keeps you turning page after page. Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.
Firstly - this cover is everything!! The story itself stands out on so many levels - a unique genre niche, fluidity on the gender spectrum and an array of monsters like you've never seen!
Everyone always talks about enemies to lovers but what about enemies AND lovers AND best friends? Like I need more books that fit this niche please. The constant competition between these two main characters had me cracking up at all corners and I genuinely loved this book. Lots of fluidity when it comes to sexuality in all of the characters that I loved, monstrous characters that we loved even though they are awful (in the best ways), and side characters that were intriguing and drove the story along with the mains.