This review was originally posted to The Geeky Waffle, and has been reposted here with permission.
The story of Cinderella has been told time and time again, but in Dhonielle Clayton’s Shattered Midnight, the second in a series of four interconnected novels in the Mirror series, the classic tale is given a heartbreaking twist.
Following a tragedy back home in New York, Zora Broussard is sent to New Orleans to live with her aunt and cousins. It’s not just a fresh start in a new city that her parents wish for her, but a chance to start a fresh life as a normal young woman. Because like her mother and grandmother before her, Zora can do magic.
While the powers of the other women in her family manifest differently, Zora’s manifests through song. She lives and breathes music, meaning New Orleans at the height of the Jazz Age is exactly the place to be. Maintaining the facade of quiet young woman at home, she sneaks out at night to play the clubs, and it is there one night that she meets Philip Devereaux, a young man with a secret of his own.
In Shattered Midnight, Clayton infuses the magic and more fairy tale side of the story with the realities of what it means for Zora as a young, Black girl in 1920’s New Orleans. Unlike Disney’s The Princess and the Frog, which was set in the same time and place and had a Black protagonist, they do not talk around the issue of race. Indeed, it fuels much of the conflict that surrounds Zora. Because who needs a fictional, supernatural villain when the real world does it so much better (or worse, I suppose).
Though this is part of a series, Clayton’s work stands wholly on its own, telling a very vivid tale of embracing every part of yourself and your desires unapologetically, even when the world around you tries to suggest otherwise. Even though it can be heavy in places, Shattered Midnight balances in the magic and romance so well that it is nearly impossible to envision one aspect without the other. Even after finishing it, I am still swimming in the story. Always a good sign in my view.
It is worth noting, as I fell into this trap with the first book, Julie C. Dao’s Broken Wish, that the four novels in this series are telling one, large story alongside the smaller plots confined to each book. As a result, I initially found the ending of Broken Wish to be unsatisfying, and generally callous for what was supposed to be a fairy tale. However, with Shattered Midnight it has become clear that if the happy ever after is coming at all, it will be at the very end of the series. I encourage readers to keep that in mind, and not let it deter them from losing themselves in so enchanting a story.
Shattered Midnight is available January 18, 2022. Special thanks to Disney Books and Hyperion for an advance copy for review purposes.