by Zeba Shahnaz
(Delacorte Press; $19.99, Ages 14+)
I’m a sucker for Cinderella books, but Zeba Shahnaz’s YA, Midnight Strikes, is so much more than that. Seventeen-year-old Anaïs relives her night at the royal Anniversary Ball again and again but it’s not her glass slipper she loses, it’s her life! At the stroke of midnight, the palace explodes killing the royals and most everyone at the party. Anaïs wasn’t happy to be there in the first place, teased for being a provincial outsider, brought to Ivarea to fulfill her parents’ dream and marry up. Now she’s stuck reliving this nightmare, finally realizing she has to figure out what’s behind it all and that she can’t do it alone. It takes reaching out to those who snub her and maybe even joining forces with the Prince known as Leo the Lush to begin understanding the attack on the palace and why she’s in this time loop.
This clever tale with its many Chapter Ones kept me turning pages, wondering how Anaïs would spend another doomed evening. Her awful predicament was moving yet, as she begins to crack from the stress, we see sides of Anaïs that certainly aren’t the hero she at first seems cast to be. The story’s layers will keep you hooked as you experience the urgency and also the weariness of this repetition. A thrilling modern-day fairy tale set in a kingdom with discontent commoners conspiring a revolution is much more complex than just having two stepsisters and an evil stepmother to contend with. The Fairy Godmother element is creatively reworked as is the happily-ever-after ending with the handsome prince.
- Reviewed by Christine Van Zandt (www.ChristineVanZandt.com), Write for Success (www.WriteforSuccessEditing.com), @ChristineVZ and @WFSediting, Christine@WriteforSuccessEditing.com