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An evocative combination of fantasy, history, and Jewish folklore, The Light of the Midnight Stars is fairytale-inspired novel from the author of The Sisters of the Winter Wood. Deep in the Hungarian woods, the sacred magic of King Solomon lives on in his descendants. Gathering under the midnight stars, they pray, sing and perform small miracles - and none are more gifted t An evocative combination of fantasy, history, and Jewish folklore, The Light of the Midnight Stars is fairytale-inspired novel from the author of The Sisters of the Winter Wood. Deep in the Hungarian woods, the sacred magic of King Solomon lives on in his descendants. Gathering under the midnight stars, they pray, sing and perform small miracles - and none are more gifted than the great Rabbi Isaac and his three daughters. Each one is blessed with a unique talent - whether it be coaxing plants to grow, or predicting the future by reading the path of the stars. When a fateful decision to help an outsider ends in an accusation of witchcraft, fire blazes through their village. Rabbi Isaac and his family are forced to flee, to abandon their magic and settle into a new way of life. But a dark fog is making its way across Europe and will, in the end, reach even those who thought they could run from it. Each of the sisters will have to make a choice - and change the future of their family forever. For more from Rena Rossner, check out The Sisters of the Winter Wood.


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An evocative combination of fantasy, history, and Jewish folklore, The Light of the Midnight Stars is fairytale-inspired novel from the author of The Sisters of the Winter Wood. Deep in the Hungarian woods, the sacred magic of King Solomon lives on in his descendants. Gathering under the midnight stars, they pray, sing and perform small miracles - and none are more gifted t An evocative combination of fantasy, history, and Jewish folklore, The Light of the Midnight Stars is fairytale-inspired novel from the author of The Sisters of the Winter Wood. Deep in the Hungarian woods, the sacred magic of King Solomon lives on in his descendants. Gathering under the midnight stars, they pray, sing and perform small miracles - and none are more gifted than the great Rabbi Isaac and his three daughters. Each one is blessed with a unique talent - whether it be coaxing plants to grow, or predicting the future by reading the path of the stars. When a fateful decision to help an outsider ends in an accusation of witchcraft, fire blazes through their village. Rabbi Isaac and his family are forced to flee, to abandon their magic and settle into a new way of life. But a dark fog is making its way across Europe and will, in the end, reach even those who thought they could run from it. Each of the sisters will have to make a choice - and change the future of their family forever. For more from Rena Rossner, check out The Sisters of the Winter Wood.

30 review for The Light of the Midnight Stars

  1. 4 out of 5

    Krista

    I want to bar myself, from the light of the midnight stars. I have no one else to turn to. Perhaps if I step out onto the balcony and fall, a star will catch me. I don’t know if I gave The Light of the Midnight Stars a completely fair shake: I started it just before my life got busy again, and when I realised that it was kind of a YA Fantasy Romance, I wasn’t eager to keep picking it up again; I spent way too long with this and it wasn’t entirely the book’s fault. I didn’t love specific aspects I want to bar myself, from the light of the midnight stars. I have no one else to turn to. Perhaps if I step out onto the balcony and fall, a star will catch me. I don’t know if I gave The Light of the Midnight Stars a completely fair shake: I started it just before my life got busy again, and when I realised that it was kind of a YA Fantasy Romance, I wasn’t eager to keep picking it up again; I spent way too long with this and it wasn’t entirely the book’s fault. I didn’t love specific aspects of the formatting (and especially the repetition of plotpoints, and of motifs from folklore), and being told from the rotating POVs of three very different sisters, I unevenly connected with them and their stories. But when I sat down to finally finish the last two hours of this book, things started coming together, and in the end, I found myself touched by this family and their fates. I can see how this novel would provide amazing representation for the right reader (especially at the intersection of Jewish, queer, and female), and I may well have enjoyed it more if I had had the time to read it more quickly, but for me it’s a three and a half star read, rounded down. (Note: I read an ARC through NetGalley and passages quoted may not be in their final forms.) I have begun to write my own story in these pages. The story I will tell my children. About a girl who fell in love with a star. About a girl whose heart was made of fire. About a girl who found a way to plant herself in the earth and grow. Set in the Kingdom of Hungary in the fourteenth century, we first meet the three adolescent sisters — Hannah, Sarah, and Levana — as they negotiate fairly ordinary lives as the daughters of a respected Rabbi in their multiethnic town of Trnava. Each of the daughters enjoys a special, magical gift (based on the kabbalah and Jewish folklore), and while Hannah is a healer, Sarah can control fire, and Levana can read the stars, they are careful to hide these powers from their gentile neighbours and avoid accusations of witchcraft. When a killing Black Mist descends on first the surrounding forest and then the town itself, Trnava’s Jewish population finds itself scapegoated and persecuted, and the sisters flee with their parents to nearby Wallachia; a region famous for its freedom of religion, but where the Rabbi decides to keep his family safe by posing as Christians. Hidden gifts, hidden desires, hidden identities: the second half of this book is about three scared and broken young women (and to a lesser extent, their peripheral parents) and their efforts to learn to live and love again. Some evil is so unspeakable that the only way we can fight it is by telling a story. Over and over again, until history stops repeating itself. As for the formatting: Author Rena Rossner explains in an afterword that while researching her own grandmother’s ancestry, she came across numerous legends, fairy tales, and authentic historical records from the medieval Kingdom of Hungary and she pretty much used all of it in this novel, as stories she’s telling us and as stories that characters tell each other. Events will occur in one of the sister’s lives, and then at some later point, that sister will recount the events to someone else with a “Once upon a time” telling, and the details repeat over and over. And as for the repeating motifs: There are so many twins and dragons and foxes eating grapes, sentient stars falling from the sky and pregnant women walled up in monasteries, and I truly didn’t understand why everything repeats in this way (unless it’s commentary on the repetition of violent antisemitism throughout history? The creeping Black Mist from Part One can be read as a magical dragon attack from local folklore, the Black Death, or antisemitism; in any case, the Jews are certain to be blamed and purged; be forewarned about some shocking violence in this tale.) There is no good and evil, no light and dark, no man or woman. Every one of us contains multitudes. Every one of us contains a spark of God. But this isn’t a totally bleak novel, and as I said, I ultimately found the story touching. I feel like maybe Rossner tried to put too much of her research into her final effort — it felt, for sure, like far too much was going on in Sarah’s story (some from folklore, some from the historical record; a weird, unconvincing mashup) — but again, maybe I just didn’t give this book the chance to carry me away. Definitely, I can see how this will appeal to the right readers.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Miriasha

    Thank you to NetGalley and Redhook Books for the ARC! Queer Rep: bisexual woman POV character, lesbian love interest Major Trigger Warnings: sexual violence, sexism/misogyny, violent antisemitism, sexual content involving minors/with adults, grief, death generally, and more specific very visceral acts of violence/execution that are spoilers I really wanted to love this book, and there are parts I did love! The grounded, complex and messy portrayal of Jewish identity and belief and history and mytho Thank you to NetGalley and Redhook Books for the ARC! Queer Rep: bisexual woman POV character, lesbian love interest Major Trigger Warnings: sexual violence, sexism/misogyny, violent antisemitism, sexual content involving minors/with adults, grief, death generally, and more specific very visceral acts of violence/execution that are spoilers I really wanted to love this book, and there are parts I did love! The grounded, complex and messy portrayal of Jewish identity and belief and history and mythology in this book was excellent. I love that the author brought these lesser known (at least outside of specific communities) Jewish folktales to life. Each sister felt like a unique character with very different approaches to the world around them, and they all, especially Sarah, changed in interesting ways over the course of the book. I am so glad to see a f/f relationship in a Jewish fairytale book. I was engrossed the whole time – I stayed up until 5am reading this book at one point. I wanted to like it, and spent my whole experience reading it feeling very conflicted. I didn’t hate this book, but I don’t think I can say I liked it either. The word that feels most fitting is “conflicted.” I struggled with how young the sisters were at many points (specifically around marriage and sex). I know this is likely what was happening at the time, but I would have had a much more positive experience with this book if they were all aged up even two years. The characters’ lives also seemed to revolve almost entirely around marriage and sex – desperately wanting to have sex, therefore desperately wanting to get married immediately, despite being, for example, thirteen years old. This seemed to be what their whole selves revolved around. Not a single character had a completely platonic friendship outside of their family. The characters didn’t seem to have wider lives outside of their tragic fairytale romances, which makes sense when trying to fit so many fairytales into the lives of a single family. The romances themselves all started so quick and so strong and desperate that they felt almost unreal, especially as that kept happening over and over and over again. I felt the heavy hand of the author while reading this – that in order to weave all of these different tales together, she had to maneuver the characters into encounters that just felt absolutely unreal, even in a fairytale, to imagine happening to the same person. It’s as if Cinderella also experienced the story of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty and Little Red Riding Hood. At some point, the woods feel too full of princes and you have to wonder how the princess could still fall ever again, why she wouldn’t just sit down right there and refuse to budge. And if, like with this book, we’re using the gritty, original, haunting version of the fairytales, the amount of trauma and pain the character has to go through to live through all of these stories is too much. I think it’s the author’s choice to weave all these stories into the life of one family of sisters that made this book not work for me. I think I could have loved this book as a short story collection happening to different people, or if the second half of the book happened to the Solomonars’ cousins, for example. Actually, the moment I most thought I would turn out to love the book was when I mistakenly thought that a transformation that happens midway through the book was a permanent and complete one, down to memories, and identities, and origin stories. I think going in that direction could have been so fascinating, and made a big difference for me. I saw the way that the first part of the book was almost a prequel to the rest of it, and I just wish that the sequel had differed more from its predecessor. I kept hoping for an ending to pull enough of the strings of the stories to feel satisfying, to bring meaning to it all, for something to click, and I just kept waiting. I feel like I'm still waiting. This book seemed to be made for me, as an Ashkenazi queer Jewish person who has a niche interest in queer fairytales. Ultimately, although I was engrossed, I spent just as much time and energy being concerned about the book as a book as I did about the characters and story while reading. I absolutely want to see more from this author and want to see more Jewish fairytales especially with queer representation, but this was not my book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lois Young

    Whoa! I need some time to process this story. It was a beautiful and a poignant historical fantasy. FYI: The tone is VERY DIFFERENT from the author's previous novel. Add this book to your TBR! You can read my review of this novel here: https://mistyaquavenatus.com/2021/04/... Whoa! I need some time to process this story. It was a beautiful and a poignant historical fantasy. FYI: The tone is VERY DIFFERENT from the author's previous novel. Add this book to your TBR! You can read my review of this novel here: https://mistyaquavenatus.com/2021/04/...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jordan

    This was so beautiful and timeless. Find this review at Forever Lost in Literature! The Light of the Midnight Stars is a beautiful and meaningful story that I didn't expect to love as much as I did. It's a difficult story that is full of loss, displacement, sorrow, but it's also filled with hope, family, beauty, magic, and love. This story follows the three sisters Hannah, Sarah, and Levana and we get perspectives from all three of them. Hannah is the eldest and has a closeness with nature that c This was so beautiful and timeless. Find this review at Forever Lost in Literature! The Light of the Midnight Stars is a beautiful and meaningful story that I didn't expect to love as much as I did. It's a difficult story that is full of loss, displacement, sorrow, but it's also filled with hope, family, beauty, magic, and love. This story follows the three sisters Hannah, Sarah, and Levana and we get perspectives from all three of them. Hannah is the eldest and has a closeness with nature that comes out in a magic that helps things grow; Sarah is the middle daughter and is probably the most outspoken of all the daughters; Levana is of course the youngest and is the most devout of the three who also finds herself most captivated by the stars up above, which plays strongly into her own story later on. I really enjoyed all three of these POVs and found each story equally compelling--and equally devastating at times. This story hurt my heart a lot because everything these three sisters went through was so difficult and heartbreaking, but their courage throughout was also really inspiring and hopeful. The entire family is forced to flee their home at one point, and this is also when a large plot point occurs involving displacement and major identity struggles. I can't really say more about that because of spoilers, but I found this entire plot development a really interesting choice that sort of took me a little while to fully understand (no joke, I definitely felt entirely confused for a couple minutes after a certain plot shift and had no idea what was happening). This might be completely obvious to most people, but I was pretty jarred by the shift--but it wasn't a bad jarring, if that makes any sense. I really enjoyed how Rossner chose to play with the story and its narrative to fully convey just how impacting and poignant their need to flee because of who they were was. Rossner has a very poetic prose and is able to convey plot points and character developments through even just the style of her prose, which is hard to describe without simply showing it in the books. Her writing is very flowing and there's a weird level of detachment at times that I think could throw some people off, but that I found worked really well with the flow of the story and the narrative itself. The thing that most stood out to me about this book was the timeless feel it had. You know how when you read old classics or books of folktales and they just that special ability to fit into any time period? They don't feel exceptionally old, but they are full of wisdom and mature writing; but they also don't feel exceptionally modern? That's how this book felt to me, and I mean that as the highest compliment (in case my poor attempts to convey my meaning don't make sense). This messages are so important and fitting for all times, and the characters also felt as though anyone could connect with them for at least one reason. Rossner's books always feel as though they have so much heart and that they really come from a personal place. Her bio states that "her grandparents and great grandparents immigrated to the USA from Hungary, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, and Moldova - their stories, together with her love of Jewish mythology and fantasy, inspire her work," and I feel as though that really comes through in her work. This is more than Rossner just telling a story, this is her sharing something personal and meaningful with her readers, and I really appreciate that. Overall, it was an easy five stars from me for The Light of the Midnight Stars! I was captivated by this enchanting story and highly recommend it. If you read The Sisters of the Winter Wood and are now hesitant to try this one, I'd encourage you to give this one a shot still--I think you might enjoy it more!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Amber Kozawick

    3.5 Stars Thank you so much Goodreads & Rena Rossner for the ARC of this book. “But life has a way of surprising us all, I suppose. And even though some destinies are written in the stars, or rooted in the ground—it doesn’t mean we don’t get a chance on this earth to try and change them.” Wow. This book is a lot. Sometimes in wonderful ways, sometimes just in that it was completely overwhelming. I can tell you with confidence that the stories told in The Light of the Midnight Stars will stick with 3.5 Stars Thank you so much Goodreads & Rena Rossner for the ARC of this book. “But life has a way of surprising us all, I suppose. And even though some destinies are written in the stars, or rooted in the ground—it doesn’t mean we don’t get a chance on this earth to try and change them.” Wow. This book is a lot. Sometimes in wonderful ways, sometimes just in that it was completely overwhelming. I can tell you with confidence that the stories told in The Light of the Midnight Stars will stick with me. They were heartbreaking and hopeful stories of survival, tradition, and the struggle to hold a sense of self in a world that is screaming at you “NO!” There is so much magic here, and it had moments of absolute beauty. The moments where I was most in the story’s thrall all happened while I was connecting with the characters, and while there were a good handful of moments like this in the middle and end, there were many missed opportunities early on that could help hook readers in. It is completely unique in its genre- fantasy pulled from Jewish & regional folklore, with some historical fiction mixed in. This aspect was a draw for me, because these are all genres that I am so thrilled to spend time in. I personally wish I had a better understanding of Jewish religion, culture, and folklore heading into this because I know it could have drastically raised the ease with which I could have enjoyed this story. I think my biggest hurdles with getting lost in the magic of this book were: -The choice of presentation. The changes in POV and delivery (ie one MC’s chapters are delivered via journal entries, while the other two are simply written in first person perspective) and the layout of the storytelling- sometimes felt like it was meandering -The language and cultural aspects could also become a hurdle for a non-Jewish reader if they were to get hung up on words/names/references that were unknown to them. Some of my favorite stories of all time have been based in cultures that I’ve had no previous understanding of, so I choose to take them in stride and learn as I go, but I can see how it could be alienating to someone less willing to let the storytelling carry them without complete understanding of references. I also feel that it is important to note several trigger warnings for this book, including rape and hate crimes. I don’t feel that they detract from the value of the book, but important to note for those who would prefer to avoid those topics. Overall, I felt like this book was a beautiful, if not specific, feat of storytelling that will settle into the hearts of some readers but will not be for everybody.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Larissa Z

    Thank you so much to Orbit books and Netgalley. I am so incredibly grateful for being given the opportunity to review this book. As someone raised in a Jewish family, this novel spoke directly to my heart. Every page was filled with beauty, magic, heartache and hope; both fairy tale and history interwoven into an unforgettable tale. The Light of the Midnight Stars tells the story of three sisters: Hannah, the eldest, with her affinity for the natural world; Sarah, the middle daughter with her fie Thank you so much to Orbit books and Netgalley. I am so incredibly grateful for being given the opportunity to review this book. As someone raised in a Jewish family, this novel spoke directly to my heart. Every page was filled with beauty, magic, heartache and hope; both fairy tale and history interwoven into an unforgettable tale. The Light of the Midnight Stars tells the story of three sisters: Hannah, the eldest, with her affinity for the natural world; Sarah, the middle daughter with her fiery heart; and Levana, the youngest, transfixed by the stars. The narrative follows the family's story from each sister's point of view, with each sister making choices that alter their fate, resulting in the family needing to hide their magic and their faith, as well as questioning who they truly are. What I loved most about the book was that each sister's story was equally compelling. Often in books where there are multiple narrative points of view, I find that I am eager to return to a particular character and not as interested in others. That was not the case with the Solomonar sisters. I loved all of them. I also loved how well researched this books was. The author's note at the end discusses many of the stories, myths and historical events that influenced the tale which was fascinating to read in of itself. This book has inspired me to research more of my family's own history and to reconnect with faith in my own way. I would recommend this to fans of historical, cultural and literary fantasy and can't wait to share it with more people!

  7. 4 out of 5

    The Starry Library

    'The Light of the Midnight Stars' weaves a mystical tale about the space between light and dark where self-discovery is illuminated. Part folklore, part legend, part history- this fairytale is an intricate melding of Jewish heritage and Eastern European mythology. The love, heartbreak, faith, and courage experienced by all of the characters constellate a tale about the stories we keep, the stories we create, and the stories that we believe. It follows the tale of three sisters each with a story 'The Light of the Midnight Stars' weaves a mystical tale about the space between light and dark where self-discovery is illuminated. Part folklore, part legend, part history- this fairytale is an intricate melding of Jewish heritage and Eastern European mythology. The love, heartbreak, faith, and courage experienced by all of the characters constellate a tale about the stories we keep, the stories we create, and the stories that we believe. It follows the tale of three sisters each with a story to tell via special magical gifts whose powers lead to fated events and encounters. Perilous journeys burned by love, tests the sisters faith and resilience, in lands where their faith is viewed as dark and dangerous. Each sister must learn to forge her own path in life where her luminescence can be found. It is this hidden light that contains their destiny and divine wisdom. Set against the backdrop of the starry night sky, each sister’s soul ponders the stars in her own unique way, leading to surprising revelations and difficult truths. This story is entangled with folklore, legend, and history that creates a rich tapestry of complex characters and lyrical prose that is moving and enchanting. It is a fantasy book that contains mythical creatures, shapeshifters, starmen, and beguiling forests, but its magical facade hides a much darker, sinister, and draconic story that is painful and tragic. There is something metaphysical and sacred contained within this story that is able to connect the reader to the characters in a much deeper way. Perhaps it was the author’s exploration of her family heritage that brought a soul and passion to this elaborate tale? Or maybe it was the religious texts and epigraphs woven throughout that infused wisdom and inspiration into my reading experience? One thing is for certain...we can only see the stars when it’s dark.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Phoebe E

    The Light of the Midnight Stars is a beautiful book that weaves stories and folklore with history, fantasy and Jewish tradition to create compelling story of three sisters facing down an ever changing world. I was immediately drawn into this world and the community at the heart of the story, following the joys and tragedies of Hannah, Sarah and Levana's lives. I absolutely loved the way fantasy was woven into this story, particularly because so little fantasy exists that also pulls from Jewish f The Light of the Midnight Stars is a beautiful book that weaves stories and folklore with history, fantasy and Jewish tradition to create compelling story of three sisters facing down an ever changing world. I was immediately drawn into this world and the community at the heart of the story, following the joys and tragedies of Hannah, Sarah and Levana's lives. I absolutely loved the way fantasy was woven into this story, particularly because so little fantasy exists that also pulls from Jewish folklore and tradition. I also loved the shifting perspectives of the sisters and their evolving sense of selves as time went on. Ultimately, I found the book to be altogether beautiful and heartbreaking and really loved it. ** Thank you to the publisher for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kayla Brown

    Thank you so much to the publisher for sending me an early copy to read! The Light of the Midnight stars is a wonderful story, steeped in history, folklore, and Jewish tradition and folklore. Telling the story of three sisters and the love and heartbreak they each experience. Combining Jewish folklore with real historical roots, Rossner has created a beautiful story, filled with both happiness and stunning heartbreak and a hint of magic. Written in beautiful and often lyrical prose, The Light of Thank you so much to the publisher for sending me an early copy to read! The Light of the Midnight stars is a wonderful story, steeped in history, folklore, and Jewish tradition and folklore. Telling the story of three sisters and the love and heartbreak they each experience. Combining Jewish folklore with real historical roots, Rossner has created a beautiful story, filled with both happiness and stunning heartbreak and a hint of magic. Written in beautiful and often lyrical prose, The Light of The Midnight Stars is a historical fantasy not to be missed.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Raya Smith

    4.75 read a more in-depth review on my blog I received this e-ARC through netgalley I was ecstatic when I was granted access to this ARC because hearing that there would be a sapphic and jewish fantasy novel hitting shelves in April was some of the best news I have ever received. As a jewish person I can get so easily frustrated when I'm looking for a book with good jewish representation. I was ecstatic about this book because I KNEW it would represent my people in a way that displays how much be 4.75 read a more in-depth review on my blog I received this e-ARC through netgalley I was ecstatic when I was granted access to this ARC because hearing that there would be a sapphic and jewish fantasy novel hitting shelves in April was some of the best news I have ever received. As a jewish person I can get so easily frustrated when I'm looking for a book with good jewish representation. I was ecstatic about this book because I KNEW it would represent my people in a way that displays how much beauty is in our culture and religion. Getting into the technical I was so happy to see the use of Hebrew and Yiddish throughout the book, and the writing style was so beautiful, and almost melodic. The characters were all incredibly well developed, and the story itself was so gripping, and held my interest for nearly the whole book. I do think that it is important to inform any jewish readers that this book does feature some violent antisemitism. I did not know this beforehand, and was extremely distressed when I read it. If you would like to know more detail about the event in question feel free to ask me. All in all I really adored this book, and I felt like it was written specifically for me. I felt so lucky to see my people represented in such a breathtaking story.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Caroline Hedges

    This was a tough book to get into and I nearly decided to give up. But I am so glad I didn't as it turned out to be a beautiful, fairy talesque story of three talented daughters who had to hide their greatness for fear of persecution. Woven into the tales of a people who could control the weather and elements and change shape was Jewish culture and faith. The beauty of the traditions was wonderful to read about. So stick with it and enjoy the dose of magic realism, fairy tale and historical ficti This was a tough book to get into and I nearly decided to give up. But I am so glad I didn't as it turned out to be a beautiful, fairy talesque story of three talented daughters who had to hide their greatness for fear of persecution. Woven into the tales of a people who could control the weather and elements and change shape was Jewish culture and faith. The beauty of the traditions was wonderful to read about. So stick with it and enjoy the dose of magic realism, fairy tale and historical fiction, you won't be disappointed. Thank you Netgalley for the ARC, this is my honest review,

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    Free arc for honest review from Netgalley... Dnf at 54%. I will not rate this book because it isn’t published yet, but it wasn’t for me. I

  13. 4 out of 5

    Cara Gores

    This book is beautiful and dreamlike in the best possible way. It is a jewish inspired fairy tale based in Eastern Europe. Filled with both Eastern European and Jewish folklore, it tells the story of three sisters who face tremendous hardships, but rise up to become powerful, glorious, symbols of hope and freedom. The oldest sister holds the magic of making things grow. She is wise and beautiful, but faces a tragedy that forces her whole community to have to flee their town. The middle sister is This book is beautiful and dreamlike in the best possible way. It is a jewish inspired fairy tale based in Eastern Europe. Filled with both Eastern European and Jewish folklore, it tells the story of three sisters who face tremendous hardships, but rise up to become powerful, glorious, symbols of hope and freedom. The oldest sister holds the magic of making things grow. She is wise and beautiful, but faces a tragedy that forces her whole community to have to flee their town. The middle sister is a creature of fire and shapeshifting, who will rise to a place of power to aid her people. The youngest is a dreamer and stargazer who falls in love with a star. Each of these girls holds on to what it means to be jewish in the face of an ugly and oppressive reality. Each of these girls and their stories will stay with you long after you finish reading this gorgeous book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    The Light of the Midnight Stars by Rena Rossner was a captivating read that I could not put down! There are three main characters that are sisters who are from a Jewish descent. It has a fairytale, historical vib to it that leaves you educated and mesmerized. There is magic, love, loss, and heartbreak. The author has a Jewish background and comes from a storytelling family. I really enjoyed this book. I gave it 5 stars, I will definitely think about it for some time. Highly recommend.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kat

    One Sentence Summary: In 14th century Eastern Europe, three Jewish sisters face change, persecution, and love and loss. Honestly, I stopped reading the description after I saw this is Jewish-inspired. I don't know much about the religion and culture, so I thought The Light of the Midnight Stars would be a wonderful, informative read. It was initially kind of bewildering to be dropped in the Jewish world, but there's a handy glossary at the end and Rossner did an amazing job of weaving the transla One Sentence Summary: In 14th century Eastern Europe, three Jewish sisters face change, persecution, and love and loss. Honestly, I stopped reading the description after I saw this is Jewish-inspired. I don't know much about the religion and culture, so I thought The Light of the Midnight Stars would be a wonderful, informative read. It was initially kind of bewildering to be dropped in the Jewish world, but there's a handy glossary at the end and Rossner did an amazing job of weaving the translations in throughout the book so it was easy to figure out. Overall, this was an incredible delight to read, very informative, and astoundingly beautiful. Something of a cross between being an historical and a fairy tale, it was magical. The Plot: The Stories of Three Sisters The Light of the Midnight Stars follows three sisters: Hannah, Sarah, and Levana. They're each devout to their own degrees and have a somewhat prickly, yet loving relationship with their father, Rabbi Isaac. Throughout the story, they constantly seek their futures while a darkness looms overhead and they practice their secret magic. Hannah has a way with plants and healing, which takes her into the duchess's home as she fights a mysterious illness. There, she meets the duchess's son, and their relationship has the power to ripple through Hannah's entire family. Sarah is a daughter of fire, a daughter who wishes she were the son her father wanted. Always treated as a daughter, she's rebellious and meets a man who gives her both spiritual happiness and a future. Levana is the daughter of stars. She watches the sky night after night, looking for her star, but is also a dutiful daughter who clings to her religion. The Light of the Midnight Stars is an incredibly beautiful read. It felt like a cross between a fairy tale and a series of journals kept over the years. There was something magical and beautiful in the writing that created a dreamy experience. Based on historical fact and stories, it blends history and myth. I loved that it focuses on the three sisters, that each sister was given her own unique voice. I did get confused from time to time, but their consistency shone through. It helped that each sister's story was based on one story or another. It was easy to keep their stories separate and to see how they spiraled together and apart. Of course, Rossner noted she took some liberties, but it all worked flawlessly together. But it also feels like there are two distinct stories in this book. It opens with one, where the family is happily living their lives in Trnava, keeping to themselves and staving off what seems like the black plague. Everything seems quite set for the three sisters, and their lives seem fairly predictable. But then the terrible turning point happens and they flee through the forest in what felt something like a flight through fire, coming out on the other side as a completely different family. The about turn felt expected, but sudden at the same time. In many ways, the sisters felt exactly the same, but their parents and their lives had flipped. There was less of a focus on the Jewish religion and culture and it felt like the fairy tale took over. Still, this is an incredibly beautiful read with a lot of depth and a lot of elements pulled together to form one amazing story. The Characters: Sisters The Light of the Midnight Stars is told by Hannah, Sarah, and Levana. They each see the world in their own unique ways, and it came out in how their chapters were told. Sometimes it was hard to tell if I was reading journal entries or not, but I think they each had their own unique way of telling their story. The one thing that always struck me was how young they are throughout the book. They're all in their teens, getting married and preparing to have their own families, so I always had to remind myself that times were different and it was quite normal for a thirteen-year-old to have her own family. Hannah, as the oldest, felt the most mature, the most settled. She's eager to prove herself and use her powers to help. But she's also a girl with yearnings and desires. I loved everything about her, probably because she felt the most rooted. It was easy for her to take charge when she needed to, but she could always rely on her family to support her when she needed it. Sarah felt very much like the fiery, rebellious middle child. Not quite as dutiful as her sisters, she feels the disappointment of their father the most. But all she wants to do is be treated like a son, to learn everything a son would because it might actually be for the benefit of her growing powers. I loved that she took life in both hands and worked to create her own destiny. Levana came across as quite a dreamy child, but that could be because she spent so much of the book staring up at the stars, finding messages hidden in them. She was actually a bit harder to get to know as many of her chapters were short and focused mostly on her obsession with the stars. But she felt the most devout, the most rooted in her religion. I wished to have gotten to know her better, but she and her story absolutely broke my heart. The Setting: 14th Century Eastern Europe Set mostly in the town of Trnava and in Wallachia, The Light of the Midnight Stars has a strong Eastern European feel to it. It also definitely felt nothing like modern times in any way, so it was quite easy to believe I was stepping into 14th century Bohemia. Trnava was actually a little difficult to imagine, but I got a general medieval European feeling about it. Most of their time in Trnava, though, seemed to be either at home or in the surrounding forest. As a lot of the story also happens at night, it felt a little dark with a forbidding, magical essence around it, but I also really liked how quaint it felt. I definitely got a feeling of a forest hiding something extraordinary and magical. Wallachia wasn't too different, but I liked the duality of it being a home for anyone of any religious background while also being permeated with the fear of persecution. It also felt suitably medieval European with a nearby forest. What really set the two main locations apart, though, was the family itself and how their behaved in both. Somehow Wallachia felt brighter, probably because more of it felt like it was occurring during the day and the sisters were looking for a new, brighter future after the pain and suffering they had endured. Overall: A Historical Fairy Tale The Light of the Midnight Stars was such a beautiful book. I loved how history and tales were effortlessly wound together to create an amazing historical fairy tale. I loved how well and how deeply it delved into Jewish stories and Eastern European tales because it created such a rich fabric for the sisters. Everything about this book was well-crafted, though I wish it hadn't had such a strong pre- and post- feel to it when the family fled. Still, I really enjoyed the sisters. They were unique, but still had a strong sisterly bond and family ties. Overall, an incredible story. Thank you to Angela Man and Redhook for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sophie "Beware Of The Reader"

    5 atmospheric stars   “We are the children of Solomon, children of the light.”   Author’s note: “This is a fantasy novel, and much license was taken in order to weave all these various legends, myths, tales and historical events together into the story I wanted to tell. It is a story entirely my own, but based on an incredible history of stories and storytellers that have come before me. I never figured out where my grandmother actually came from or why she lit can 5 atmospheric stars   “We are the children of Solomon, children of the light.”   Author’s note: “This is a fantasy novel, and much license was taken in order to weave all these various legends, myths, tales and historical events together into the story I wanted to tell. It is a story entirely my own, but based on an incredible history of stories and storytellers that have come before me. I never figured out where my grandmother actually came from or why she lit candles in a closet - but perhaps the story I was able to tell as a result is more important than the truth.”   Why do I begin my review with part of the author’s note? Because I think this is the best way to convey what this book is: a tapestry of legends, tales, myths and folklore, centered around Jewish folklore that embarked me on a hauntingly beautiful journey. This book was the one I never expected.   I am a romance reader turned all-genres reader but had never thought of reading a story about Jewish folklore. When the UK editor of The Light of the Midnight Star reached out to me to offer a copy of the book after she read my comment on a post, I was surprised, intrigued and curious about that book. This turned out one of the best surprises from my reader’s life! And I must add that being gifted that book didn’t affect my rating nor my review in any way. I swore to always be honest in my reviews because I write them for YOU, the readers, and not for the publishers or authors. And that’s what I’m doing here.   But let’s backtrack; what is the Light of the Midnight Star about? To make it short, this is about the lives of three sisters, daughter of a Rabbi living in Hungary centuries ago. The family is descendant of King Solomon, known for his magic. As the synopsis said: “Gathering under the midnight stars, they pray, sing and perform small miracles - and none are more gifted than the great Rabbi Isaac and his three daughters.” Every daughter has her own unique gift but one day, tragedy will strike after they helped a stranger and the family will be forced to flee Hungary, seeking shelter in Wallachia.   We learn so much about Jewish traditions and folklore! And I realized that I knew so little about their beauty. All along, we also see how Jews have been chased and accused of evil every time a disaster struck a country. This is not written in a patronizing way. This is not told to you but rather shown to you. I am no writer and it’s sometimes difficult to convey my thoughts and feelings. But reading that book, written from three POV, one for each sister, alternating short chapters, between poetry and prose, following them from tragedy to tragedy, from sacrifice to sacrifice, opened my eyes like no history book has done before. That people have suffered so much throughout centuries. It stopped being an abstract albeit awful concept to become MY reality while reading that story. How soul crushing it must be to hide your true identity, your faith, your beliefs and to pretend just because you want to survive. I was hurting, my soul was screaming alongside Sarah’s, Hanna’s, Levana’s and their people. “Some evil is so unspeakable that the only way we can fight it is by telling a story. Over and over again, until history stops repeating itself.” I think books like this one should be read by everyone, in every school. To stop that circle of hate and fear of whom is different than us. To stop history from ever repeating itself.   But make no mistake, if there is tragedy in that book, there also is beauty. And light. And wisdom. It’s also an ode to acceptance, to the uniqueness of every man and woman on earth. “There is no good and evil, no light and dark, no man or woman. Every one of us contains multitudes. Every one of us contains a spark of God.” The fantastical element and poetry added an ethereal quality to that story, making you feel like walking in a dream. It was beautiful, poignant, haunting.    “I always wanted to find someone who would be kind and gentle with my heart.”   I know this is a story that will stay with me for a long time thanks to its uniqueness.   Thanks for reading!   Sophie

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Bunker

    "The Light of the Midnight Stars", by Rena Rossner, was incredibly interesting. The foundation of this novel is packed full of Romanian history and folklore and Jewish tenets. We follow a family as they are always wandering because home is ever changing. Abba is the father of 3 daughters: Hannah, Levana, and Sarah. Each of them so different, but close to each other. They each end up on their own path, and hopefully find their own purpose. Rossner has the gift for storytelling. I loved how she in "The Light of the Midnight Stars", by Rena Rossner, was incredibly interesting. The foundation of this novel is packed full of Romanian history and folklore and Jewish tenets. We follow a family as they are always wandering because home is ever changing. Abba is the father of 3 daughters: Hannah, Levana, and Sarah. Each of them so different, but close to each other. They each end up on their own path, and hopefully find their own purpose. Rossner has the gift for storytelling. I loved how she incorporated Romanian tales and history with the history of the Jews in the 14th century. The Jews were an easy scapegoat for many things that went wrong such as the Plague. As a result, they fled to many different places, always wandering. The characters were developed well, and the dynamics and dialogue were great! I did feel that the relationship between Theodora and Sarah was not needed, nor was it needing to be implying of certain nature.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Don’tGoBrekkerMyHeart

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. To start off, The Light of the Midnight Stars has just as much beautiful, wondrous prose as The Sisters of the Winter Wood. I am obsessed with so many quotes, and I cannot wait to go back and reread them. Rena has such a way with words. I'm marveled and in love with them. "Every star has memories. Every star burns with the story it has to tell. It is our job to listen to the stories... The stars never forget; they see everything, and they remember, even when it feels like we are in a time of dark To start off, The Light of the Midnight Stars has just as much beautiful, wondrous prose as The Sisters of the Winter Wood. I am obsessed with so many quotes, and I cannot wait to go back and reread them. Rena has such a way with words. I'm marveled and in love with them. "Every star has memories. Every star burns with the story it has to tell. It is our job to listen to the stories... The stars never forget; they see everything, and they remember, even when it feels like we are in a time of darkness." My main critique for this story is that this story tries to encompass so many themes, moments, ideas, and scenes (that are seemingly separate from one another) that it does not come together at the end. The beginning/ first 1/2 of the book does not suffer from this, but once the family leaves their way of life due to persecution, the plot started to ramp up and go in a thousand different directions for each sister. I think if Rena had decreased the amount of allegory and storytelling, at times, then this novel could have flowed smoother. I just felt as if I never had a chance to take my bearings for each scene because none of them felt as connected. I spent mere moments with a sister before being ripped to another in dire circumstances. The worst part is that this leads me to have little connection to each sister, so when big scenes of death or pain happen in the latter half of the novel, I'm left baffled but with no visceral emotion. Plus, there were plenty of characters' endings that I never got confirmation on. The whole family never has confirmation on Guvriel or Isaac's mother. These characters' end happened during the chaos of leaving their home for another, but I still want some sort of clarification because I do not think it is believable that these characters would know nothing. Isaac seemed the type of father/ son to find out what happened to his mother. It just didn't make sense to me. "Some evil is so unspeakable that the only way we can fight it is by telling a story. Over and over again, until history stops repeating itself." Now something this story shined with was representation. Not only for Judaism and Jewish culture (I cannot speak on the rep specifically but many Jewish reviewers have said this is a powerful portrayal) but even LGBTQIAP+ representation. Sarah is attracted to both sexes, and many have termed her bisexual even though that term is never used within the story itself. The start of the book has a heavy focus on the sisters marriage and marriage prospects (which can be a bit uncomfortable in comparison to modern day), but once they escape, Sarah starts a relationship with Theodor/ Theodora. Theo (I'm going to use a nickname, so I don't have to utilize both names every time), in my interpretation, is gender fluid because sometimes they wish to be traditionally feminine and called Theodora while other times Theodor is preferred. Some people on here have labeled Sarah and Theo's relationship lesbian, but I do not think that is correct because Theo basically refers to their identity as gender fluid. These terms are never used (lesbian, gender fluid, etc.) because the time period is the 1500's, so it's not easily discernible to label either. I hate labeling character sexuality/ identity in books when these terms aren't used, but I do want to paint the picture of these characters. A lot of Theo and Sarah's conversations were heart wrenching and powerful, and I really wish this story was more so about them than the sisters. Sarah's lore included both folklore and elements of historical fiction, and I think this unity could have been executed better if the focus solely was on Sarah. I'd love to know more about Sarah Theodora's life than the little portion at the end, especially because her relationship with Ivan is... intense. There's just many questions/ confusion I have about this part of the story, which receives only a few pages at most. "That's the first step towards acquiring wisdom- writing, then learning, and only then, turning words into action." Overall, I'm giving this poetic story a 3/5 rating because while there were things I adored, there were also parts that didn't work for me. I think it's a fair rating, and I still am very happy to have read it. I'm, of course, going to continue to read/ review Rena's books because she's still an auto-buy for me. The Sisters of the Winter Wood is her debut, and I highly recommend it for sister bonding and Jewish representation. It's magical. TW: extreme Antisemitism; sexual assault/ violence (r**pe off-screen); extreme misogyny; sexual content between minors and adults (historically common for 1500's girls but still a point to make); major grief; infanticide; murder: buried alive, burned at the stake, burned while trapped inside buildings; etc. I know there is probably even more triggers, but these are the ones that came to mind.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mogsy (MMOGC)

    3.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2021/04/12/... Rena Rossner’s debut The Sisters of the Winter Wood was an enchanting read for me, and so when I heard that her sophomore novel will be another historical fantasy and folkloric myth blend, I’d hoped that it would work the same magic. And for the most part, it did! That said, there was also an overwhelming amount of information to take in, and I think that might have had a lot to do with my initial struggle to connect wit 3.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2021/04/12/... Rena Rossner’s debut The Sisters of the Winter Wood was an enchanting read for me, and so when I heard that her sophomore novel will be another historical fantasy and folkloric myth blend, I’d hoped that it would work the same magic. And for the most part, it did! That said, there was also an overwhelming amount of information to take in, and I think that might have had a lot to do with my initial struggle to connect with the story and characters. The Light of the Midnight Stars follows the lives of three sisters growing up with their rabbi father in the Hungarian village of Trnava. As descendants of King Solomon, their family is well respected by the Jewish community, and the girls are each gifted with a magical ability—Hannah, who has the power to heal and make things grow; Sarah, who can command fire and make things burn; and Levana, who can read the secrets of the stars. However, as superstition runs rampant throughout the rest of the village, bringing religious persecution and fear of witchcraft, the sisters don’t dare to make their abilities known. But then a mysterious black mist descends upon Trnava, causing people to fall deathly ill. Despite her misgivings, Hannah, the oldest sister, makes a bold decision to use her healing, setting off a tragic chain of events leading to her own heartbreak and the upheaval of the town’s Jewish population. After fleeing Trnava, the rabbi and his family find themselves settling in a new place, protecting themselves by hiding their true faith and identities. Emotionally damaged and traumatized though, the sisters have a long journey ahead of them until they can feel whole and ready to live and love again. Like I said, there is a lot happening here, and what I’ve provided above is just an extremely truncated synopsis. While the deluge of information made the early parts of the novel slow to take off, I still found myself captivated by many points and took to certain aspects of the story right away. As with The Sisters of the Winter Wood, I was impressed with how Rossner combined magic, myth, and history from her interest and experiences with her own Jewish ancestry. Central to the book is the theme of religious belief and identity, and I feel the author did a wonderful job exploring these topics through the eyes of the three sisters, who are each unique in their own way. Subsequently, they also dealt with their individual conflicts by following their own heart’s desires and motivations, developing along their own paths. As such, it is probably no surprise that characterization was superb. That said, when it comes to books with an information overload at the beginning, my experience is that things typically tend to ease off as the story progresses, gradually dispelling any feelings of confusion or of being swamped. Except, I don’t know if I really got that with this. In part, this was due to the structure of the novel, which cycled between the sisters’ POVs while weaving in the odd interlude. The tricky part comes, however, as some of these chapters are presented differently, as journal entries or in verse, etc., and the frequent injection of side stories and folktales. In fact, the act of storytelling is a very important concept, a key part of the book’s premise and the myriad legends and historical narratives that inspired its foundations. In a way, this does explain how some mythological motifs would pop up again and again, echoing throughout the characters’ past and present. It’s a clear nod to the importance of the oral tradition in preserving heritage and culture, especially where religious parables and folktales are concerned. Still, that doesn’t mean the format was all that conducive to the reading experience, or that it made things any easier to understand. The plot doesn’t follow a conventional roadmap, and despite this providing the book with a distinct feel, there were nonetheless sections I found somewhat convoluted and difficult to follow. In sum, I’m going to reiterate a few of the same conclusions I drew for my review The Sisters of the Winter Wood, because I think a lot of it applies here as well. The Light of the Midnight Stars is beautifully written, but it is also less plot focused, emphasizing the characters and their relationships instead. That along with the irregular structure and flow of the novel means that it’s probably not going to be for everyone, but it’s worth checking out if the story’s description along with its inspiration from Jewish culture and Eastern European history interests you.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Becky'sBookBlog

    I have begun to write my own story in these pages. The story I will tell my children. About a girl who fell in love with a star. About a girl whose heart was made of fire. About a girl who found a way to plant herself in the earth and grow. I had very little idea of what this book was going to be like. I’ve had the authors previous book on my shelf for far too long, but I just couldn’t resist requesting this on Netgalley. What I got was a tale of loss, of love, of the power of stories and how people I have begun to write my own story in these pages. The story I will tell my children. About a girl who fell in love with a star. About a girl whose heart was made of fire. About a girl who found a way to plant herself in the earth and grow. I had very little idea of what this book was going to be like. I’ve had the authors previous book on my shelf for far too long, but I just couldn’t resist requesting this on Netgalley. What I got was a tale of loss, of love, of the power of stories and how people can be blinded by religious differences. Hannah, Sarah and Levana are the three daughters of Rabbi Isaac. Blessed with powers, they each have their own path to take. That is until one fateful night that changes everything, their home, their religion and their names. But some things are not so easy to escape from and before long the sisters must decide whether to stay as they are and ignore their destiny, or to return to the old ways, something that will affect their family forever. The strength of this book undoubtedly comes from it’s three female leads. Hannah is the eldest sister, religious, hard working and capable of making anything grow anywhere. She is also far more resilient than she is aware of, and longs for a life like her mothers, filled with love and children. Sarah feels unknown, her power is volatile and for that reason her father refuses to teach her until she learns to control it. She has never dreamed of love and marriage like Hannah, instead resenting the fact that as a woman she cannot join the Solomonars with her father and take up as his successor. Levana is a dreamer, she can follow the path of the stars and is determined to marry one, no matter how silly that may seem. All three sisters have incredible resilience, even in the direst of times and I found myself relating to every single one in different ways. There is no one character you find yourself reaching for, each of the sisters stories is so heartbreaking and real I found myself flying through the chapters, desperately wanting them to get a happy ending. This is definitely a character driven story and I can see the authors writing style and the fact that the plot doesn’t really have a specific flow may put a lot of people off reading it. The author admits that looking into her Grandfathers past took her down a rabbit hole of Eastern European Jewish history, how they were treated, their legends and folklore, and she relies heavily on this for her story, having the characters act out these tales, and adding little bits of true history with a fantasy flare for those who know it. For that reason the story can seem a little jumpy, interweaving different tales into the story. And yet, despite all this the story does flow, the authors writing style is incredibly lyrical filled with beautiful prose and I found myself highlighting so many passage’s because of how beautifully they were written. The book is told from the three sisters POV’s as well as passages from ‘The Book of Solomonars’, an almost narrator style interlude and stories, stories told from the parents, other characters and the sisters themselves. The stories were used to almost recount the sisters previous lives, and I can see where some people might be put off by the amount of re-telling of events in the book, but telling stories in that way, almost as if they were a fable was very evocative of the time. There was a safety in telling stories instead of outright admitting things, it gives the characters the chance to come out and say things they are too scared to for fear of persecution, but also is a kind of relief, a way of saying the things you needed to admit without fully admitting them, it was a story, nothing more. The Light of the Midnight Stars is set in 14th century Hungary at a time when the Black Death was rife and Jew’s were blamed by many people for causing it. In fact the author shows this by having a black mist follow our characters, which was both evocative of the black death, but also antisemitism. A lot of people would assume that Jew’s were first persecuted in WW2, when in fact it had been happening for centuries before that. Some of the things that happened to these characters come from real stories, which made the book that much more harrowing. I didn’t know until the end what was fact and what was fiction, but learning about the deaths, the persecutions and knowing that they came from true stories gave the book a whole new depth. You mourn with and for these characters, and I can’t tell you how many times my heart broke when reading it. Filled with tragedy, romance, magic and showing the resilience of those being persecuted simply for believing in a different God, The Light of the Midnight Stars took me though a rigmarole of emotions and I had to give myself time once I’d finished to properly process what I had read. I can’t see this becoming an instant favourite for people as I know some will be put off by the way the story is told, but I found it near impossible to put down. The stories told in this book will stay with me for a long time, and I will certainly be picking up anything else the author writes.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Katie (awonderfulbook)

    ARC provided by the publisher, Little Brown Book Group UK, via NetGalley. All opinions are my own. Rena Rossner’s second book reaches back into her Jewish heritage to tell a tale about survival and endurance, even when all hope is lost. It combines the stories of three sisters - Hannah, Sarah, and Levanna - with history, Jewish teachings, and folklore to tell an ambitious story. Unfortunately, I think it ended up being too ambitious. Rossner weaves several fairy tales together, twining the stories ARC provided by the publisher, Little Brown Book Group UK, via NetGalley. All opinions are my own. Rena Rossner’s second book reaches back into her Jewish heritage to tell a tale about survival and endurance, even when all hope is lost. It combines the stories of three sisters - Hannah, Sarah, and Levanna - with history, Jewish teachings, and folklore to tell an ambitious story. Unfortunately, I think it ended up being too ambitious. Rossner weaves several fairy tales together, twining the stories with the stories of the sisters. It feels like she’s so eager to use these stories that the plots involving the sisters twist in unnatural-feeling ways to fit the fairy tales. One of the issues for me was that the set up of the story felt under developed and lacking in atmosphere. There was some lovely description of the traditions the characters followed, but almost nothing about the town they were living in, or about who the individual family members were or how they related to each other. Important detail about Sarah, in particular, and her relationship with her father and why he wouldn’t teach her were glossed over in order to make the plot with Guvriel work. The story felt light on background and family detail for me. I also felt that the love interests were not well developed. They showed up, fell in love with the sisters, and there was really not much else to them. The brevity and light touch with which Rossner treats these characters and their relationships with the sisters made me not really care about them, except to be annoyed at how quickly the lovers fell in love with the sisters. I didn’t love the writing either, sadly. It did feel, at times, like Rossner was sketching out the bare bones, or that the characters and stories were archetypes, and so weren’t fully fleshed out. That’s certainly something you see in fairy tales, so it’s perhaps not surprising that we see it here. The problem, though, is that such sparsity doesn’t work for a a full-length novel. I feel like she perhaps tried to do too much and the novel would have worked better if she’d focused on one sister. It might also have been better if this had been a series of short stories. Story telling and telling multiple stories is such a feature of this book that I think trying to weave everything into one story made the depth of the story suffer. The writing style aside from its sparsity didn’t really engage me either. I’m used to much more descriptive writing in historical fantasy, and that felt like it was missing here. The choice to tell part of one sister’s story in verse was something I found odd also. I didn’t feel like the circumstances of her story required that. There is, at times, a bleak tone to this story, and I did think that was fitting for the religious persecution Jews have suffered through the centuries. The family’s sacrifices represented real sacrifices made by real Jews through the generations, and the sense of wandering and not belonging anywhere was well captured. I certainly felt that the tone was appropriate for the story, the feeling of endurance, never feeling settled, always looking for safety. I felt that the sisters’ lives and choices represented the need to survive, to endure, even if you have to hide or change to do so. I thought that was very powerful. There is a lot of anti-semitism and violence against Jews (including sexual violence) in this novel. It is balanced by the celebration and endurance of Jewish customs and wisdom, which is nice to read. I do feel like the book is written more for those who would already be familiar with Judaism, though there is a glossary at the back of the book with definitions of terms for the less familiar reader. It’s good that there is a fantasy based on Jewish history and customs, as this isn’t something that’s common in fantasy, and the LGBTQ+ representation was nice to see also. Over all, though, unfortunately, this one just wasn’t my cup of tea. Rating: 4/10 Blog: awonderfulbook.com | Instagram: katiemotenbooks | Twitter: katiemotenbooks

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore

    My thanks to Orbit/Little, Brown Book Co and NetGalley for a review copy of this one. This, like the author’s previous book The Sisters of the Winter Wood combines history, fantasy, Jewish folklore, and fairy tales (the previous book didn’t have a fairy tale but Christina Rossetti’s Gobin Market as its base). In 14th-century Hungary, in the small village of Trnava lives Rabbi Issac with his wife and three daughters, Hannah, Sarah and Levana; also the Rabbi’s old mother. They are Solomonars, desce My thanks to Orbit/Little, Brown Book Co and NetGalley for a review copy of this one. This, like the author’s previous book The Sisters of the Winter Wood combines history, fantasy, Jewish folklore, and fairy tales (the previous book didn’t have a fairy tale but Christina Rossetti’s Gobin Market as its base). In 14th-century Hungary, in the small village of Trnava lives Rabbi Issac with his wife and three daughters, Hannah, Sarah and Levana; also the Rabbi’s old mother. They are Solomonars, descendants of a clan to whom Solomon had handed his secrets. Each of the family possesses certain powers—Rabbi Isaac can change form, his wife has healing powers and knowledge which she is passing on to Hannah who also has a way with making plants grow; Sarah can weave by magic and also can set fire to things, and Levana is absorbed in the stars. The Rabbi and his wife are training each of the girls in certain skills but Sarah in particular feels very dissatisfied and is rebellious for she feels she is not getting the opportunity to do the things she would were she a boy, in particular to study the texts that boys can. The story is told mostly in the narratives of the three girls with folklore and third-person sections tying them together. The family are leading a relatively peaceful, devout life but a dark mist is creeping across the country and into their lives, something each of the girls can sense but don’t seem to share with anyone else. While their father and his students/disciples seem to be taking steps to keep this at bay, it spreads and ultimately brings tragedy into their lives as not only must they suffer personally, they are blamed for bringing the misfortune upon their village and must flee. In a new village, a safe place, they give up their heritage, their names and their past and start anew. But can they really be safe and finally find happiness or will trouble follow them in their new lives as well? This was something of a mixed read for me. Starting out with the story, I found it very easy to get into the three sisters narratives, enjoyed their individual voices, and seeing events proceed from each of their perspectives. (Compared to the Sisters of the Winter Wood, where I felt I needed to get my head around some of the plotlines, and reading the basic story of Goblin Market made it easier to follow, in this book I didn’t face that problem). I felt for the family, for all that they lost, and that they had (as many other have) to live in constant fear, constant uncertainty, not knowing when they would have to give up their home, become unwanted again. Of the three girls themselves, I liked Hannah and Levana better than Sarah somehow (though Levana was rather strange compared to the other two). I felt Sarah, though one understands the reasons for her dissatisfaction, has a touch of nastiness, also of selfishness about her. Still all three girls are strong—have to face much, bear much, and give up much, still they carry on and keep trying. One can’t but admire them for that. I also found I enjoyed the stories and elements of folklore that are interwoven in and between the different narratives. I liked reading those, and also following the lives of each of the three girls. The issue for me in the book lay in the fact that I felt like the stories of the three girls, the paths they follow and where they end up, didn’t really fell cohesive like part of a single tale—they felt like different stories that could well have been complete in themselves and that were just put together. Also, while Hannah’s and Sarah’s stories involved fantasy elements and a bit of magic, Levana’s felt like it belonged to an entirely different realm than that of the other two even though the author has woven it in with their world. So this turned out to be a book with many elements I enjoyed but one that didn’t quite seem one story over all. (The cover by the way, is once again absolutely gorgeous). 3.25 stars.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dom

    Sometimes, you have such astounding hopes for a book and they fall flat on their face. Unfortunately, that’s what happened with me and Rena Rossner’s The Light of the Midnight Stars. The novel follows the tales of three Jewish sisters who each have their own specific type of magic: Hannah, Sarah, and Levana. Raised in the forested village of Trnava by their respected rabbi father, a violent and traumatic tragedy forces the family to flee the village and start a new life away from their heritage Sometimes, you have such astounding hopes for a book and they fall flat on their face. Unfortunately, that’s what happened with me and Rena Rossner’s The Light of the Midnight Stars. The novel follows the tales of three Jewish sisters who each have their own specific type of magic: Hannah, Sarah, and Levana. Raised in the forested village of Trnava by their respected rabbi father, a violent and traumatic tragedy forces the family to flee the village and start a new life away from their heritage and traditions. There are definitely elements I loved about this novel. The way Rossner weaves Jewish folklore and history into each one of the POV characters shows the love, care, and research she put into crafting this story. It truly was a story inextricably shaped by Jewish experiences to a degree I haven’t seen in a fantasy novel before, filling a dire gap in speculative fiction. I won’t personally speak to the quality of the representation within, but there are Jewish reviewers who have spoken on this and I would encourage you to seek out their reviews! In addition, the prose in many places was quite beautiful; this definitely got a fair number of highlights for poignant turns of phrase. The main thing that didn’t work for me about this novel was that it tried to do WAY too much with the space it had. With three POVs (one of which was rendered in verse for a large portion of the novel), lots of interjected side stories, a complete shift in names and language at the turning point of the book, and each sister’s character arc going in vastly different directions after said turning point, a plethora of historical information mixed with magical elements… there just wasn’t enough space to accomplish the ambitious goals this novel had. A side effect of this is that I felt like I never got to really know Hannah, Sarah, and Levana as characters; so much of their chapters, in addition to jumping around right as many of them hit a stride, felt almost allegorical in nature instead of like three dimensional characters. As such, this made many of the emotional beats of the novel miss the mark for me. I also feel it’s important to warn readers, particularly Jewish readers, that there is a LOT a antisemitic violence and trauma in this novel—far more than I was expecting, and with very little comfort by the end. This is representative of historical events, particularly in the 1500s, but if you aren’t in a place to handle detailed depictions of antisemitic violence, please give this one a pass until such a time as you are. On top of that, this was compounded for me by the other content warnings listed at the end of this review. From the synopsis and marketing, I was expecting a much lighter and fantastical tale, and I definitely wasn’t in the head space for this read. This is a relatively minor note in comparison, but one of the reasons I picked this up was because I understood there to be a sapphic relationship within. While one of the sisters is LGBTQIA+ (I would say bisexual if the term existed in the 1500s), her relationship with what I would term a genderqueer character does not get a lot of focus AT all and it’s definitely not a romance as far as mood or genre considerations. Another note for readers who might have been interested for the same reasons. Overall, this just wasn’t the book for me, as much as I wanted to love it. I still plan on checking out The Sisters of the Winter Wood at some point because I can absolutely see the skill and care Rossner brings to her craft. As long as you’re in the space to deal with the content warnings provided, I’d still recommend this to readers looking for a standalone fantasy book with a powerful foundation of Jewish history and folklore, because your feelings may absolutely differ from mine. Thank you to Orbit for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. CW: extreme antisemitism, extreme misogyny, rape, graphic depictions of violence, religious bigotry, murder, infanticide, confinement, and sexual relations between minors and adults.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cassidee Lanstra

    The Light of the Midnight Stars has left me mystified, in wonder at what I just read. This novel was evocative and gorgeously written. I started it and finished it in one sitting, as it pulled me along in almost a dreamlike quality and demanded to be finished. I think this book is best read that way; devoured whole with nothing to break your concentration from the spell that it winds. It very much was told in the manner of a dark fairytale. Do not be expecting Disney style telling, expect somethi The Light of the Midnight Stars has left me mystified, in wonder at what I just read. This novel was evocative and gorgeously written. I started it and finished it in one sitting, as it pulled me along in almost a dreamlike quality and demanded to be finished. I think this book is best read that way; devoured whole with nothing to break your concentration from the spell that it winds. It very much was told in the manner of a dark fairytale. Do not be expecting Disney style telling, expect something more in line with Grimms’ style. The Light of the Midnight Stars takes inspiration from Hungarian, Romanian, Bulgarian, and Slovakian folklore. It retells a multitude of legends and tales, including the story of the Solomonars, who were whispered to be Jewish mountain men that could control the weather and rode cloud dragons. Be warned, not all endings in this novel are happy. In fact, this book is strewn with tragedy. Rossner addresses a lot of the anti-Semitic messages in these myths, as it is sadly part of the history. This book is part fantasy and part historical fiction and therefore, depicts events that are macabre in nature. I’ve never shied away from getting my heart broken by books though, as hard as some content can be to read. I will be the first to admit that I don’t know much about the Jewish faith– or any religion, for that matter. While a knowledge of it might have altered my level of enjoyment (for better or for worse), I didn’t feel like it took away from the experience I had. I didn’t need background knowledge to enjoy my reading, as Rossner does a thorough job at clarifying background information in her author’s note and includes a glossary at the back of the book for phrases that might be unknown to the reader. Rossner expertly gives these three women their own voices and stories, even as they intertwine with each others’ storylines. The narration style changes with each POV and I truly enjoyed how their thoughts were easily distinguishable. The writing style changes with each character’s inner monologue. Levana’s writing style in particular might not work for everyone, but for me it was like stepping into the mind of an idealist. I felt like we got a true sense of who she was and how different she was in comparison to her sisters. Her narration style was a thoughtful and heartfelt touch by the author. There were moments in this novel that made my head spin and I felt like I had to wrap my mind around what just happened. The story moves in a fast paced way that might be off-putting to some people but I liked the force at which it pulled me along. If you view this as a fairytale, I think that pacing and the rhythm of the novel makes complete sense. The Light of the Midnight Stars is a wonderful demonstration of the resilience of the Jewish people. It is captivating and dreamlike, yet capable of putting down roots in your heart. This compelling tale will have you thinking on it long after you put it down. You can now buy this novel in stores or shops near you. Thank you to Orbit for the beautiful finished copy in exchange for an honest review.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Brittany Smith

    Thank you to Orbit Books for sending me a print ARC to review! The Light of the Midnight Stars follows three main characters: three Jewish sisters, daughters of the Rabbi Isaac, blessed with specific powers. The eldest heals and can coax plants to grow, the middle kindles flames, and the youngest can see meanings behind the stars. When the eldest daughter is asked to heal the Duchess, it starts a series of events that leads to accusations of witchcraft and the Christians turning against the Jewis Thank you to Orbit Books for sending me a print ARC to review! The Light of the Midnight Stars follows three main characters: three Jewish sisters, daughters of the Rabbi Isaac, blessed with specific powers. The eldest heals and can coax plants to grow, the middle kindles flames, and the youngest can see meanings behind the stars. When the eldest daughter is asked to heal the Duchess, it starts a series of events that leads to accusations of witchcraft and the Christians turning against the Jewish people of the town. The sisters and their parents are forced to flee and start a new life in another country, but the same mistrust follows them there. The story is fantasy mixed with folklore and history. It is not a happy one. It was very difficult to rate this. I first picked it up and read a few pages, and then put it down for over a week, only to finish it in one night. There are things I liked about it, and things I didn't. The author is Jewish and there is so much of that represented within this book. (I am not Jewish so therefore cannot speak to the quality or nuances of it but it seemed extremely well-done and thoughtful to me) There is also a wlw relationship. I enjoyed both of those. The story twisted and turned, and I truly did not understand the meaning behind this book. The end just left me with questions and an unsettled, empty feeling. I connected with the sisters during the book and then towards the end completely disconnected. I simply felt bad for all of them. There are so, so many things I just didn't like about the end of this book, and all of them would be spoilers so I'll refrain. As other reviewers have stated, the novel started off strong, but when the family had to flee and set up a new life, the story went in all kinds of different directions between the sisters. Too many elements and folk tales and historical events/figures trying to be incorporated that the main story the book is trying to tell was lost completely. One thing that is possibly minor is that, in the author's other book, one of the POV was entirely in verse. I didn't like that at all. Personal taste, perhaps, but it felt unnecessary and, frankly, annoying. I hoped that wouldn't be repeated in this book and in the first part everything was good, but then one of the sisters' POV shifted into verse towards the end of the book. Heavy sigh. Perhaps that won't bother people but it is very grating to me to read. I can't take it seriously. As I'm thinking about this book and mulling it over in my mind, as I finished it very late last night, I am left mostly with disappointment. I have decided to lower my rating from it's original 3 stars to 2. It's more of a 2.5 but curse you, useless whole star Goodreads rating system. Overall, was it completely terrible? No. Were some parts good? Yes. Would I recommend it in general? No. Would I recommend it to someone looking for Jewish rep in fantasy? Yes.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey

    I'm rounding up on this one because I stayed up all night reading it, but overall I was disappointed with this book. This is a very Jewish book, which I loved, and the Hebrew and references to the Talmud and Torah and the creation of a fictional liturgy called the Book of the Solomonar were all very well done. There's a glossary in the back, but I think non-Jewish readers might be lost on some of the elements, and that's okay! It's clear this was written by a Jewish author for a Jewish reader. How I'm rounding up on this one because I stayed up all night reading it, but overall I was disappointed with this book. This is a very Jewish book, which I loved, and the Hebrew and references to the Talmud and Torah and the creation of a fictional liturgy called the Book of the Solomonar were all very well done. There's a glossary in the back, but I think non-Jewish readers might be lost on some of the elements, and that's okay! It's clear this was written by a Jewish author for a Jewish reader. However, the story itself, the fantasy elements, and the repeated trauma made this a tough one for me. There is a lot of antisemitic violence in this novel, and I know a lot of this story is rooted in fact, including the author's grandmother, but I guess I would hope that an author can use fantasy to show some triumph and right the wrongs of our world. I believe there was an attempt to show that Jewishness persists (the author's note about the twins solidifies that), but even in a fantasy novel it is hidden away and women have to sacrifice their lives (figurative and literal) for it to persist. Maybe I'm too optimistic, but I like joy and triumph where possible from my Jewish fantasy. I didn't quite understand some of the fantasy elements (mainly the storyline involving a star), and the fact that sister's POV turned into verse made it hard to follow. I did enjoy the connection of Jewish folklore with other central European folklore, and think that alliance is a really powerful illustration of minorities struggling to survive. I also just want to mention the queerness, because I actually saw this book classified online under "lesbian literature." As a queer person, the queer storyline in this book was pretty troubling, or at least the ending was. Again, I know this was a queer plotline that the author weaved together based on some historical elements, but again, in a fantasy novel, some artistic creativity would've been nice. Again, while I struggled with this book, I did stay up very late to finish it all in one sitting, and that is the mark of a good book. For me, this was a good book that just didn't hit in all the right places. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    In an amalgamation of folklore, fairy tale, and myth, this historical fantasy follows a Jewish family with three daughters in 14th century Eastern Europe. In their early teens, the girls experiences tragedy after tragedy rooted in religious persecution. First of all, I think several content warnings are necessary here, and there may be more: anti-Semitism, violent deaths, rape, death of a spouse, forced migration, stigma/discrimination against LGBT characters, sexism. This is a story full of traum In an amalgamation of folklore, fairy tale, and myth, this historical fantasy follows a Jewish family with three daughters in 14th century Eastern Europe. In their early teens, the girls experiences tragedy after tragedy rooted in religious persecution. First of all, I think several content warnings are necessary here, and there may be more: anti-Semitism, violent deaths, rape, death of a spouse, forced migration, stigma/discrimination against LGBT characters, sexism. This is a story full of trauma, but not as a descriptive emotional delve with our characters. Something that bothered me about this story was that its strength also became a weakness. In matching the lilting, twisting tone of the parent material with impressive finesse, the story lost opportunities for personal connection and strong characterization. The sisters definitely read like flat folk tale denizens, imparting lessons through their struggles without being encumbered by multiple dimensions. This isn't my personal preference as a reader, and I took issue with it most when trauma became an overwhelming deluge with no respite or reflection. The new griefs just pile on. I think relationships in the story fall into the same traps. They are static, predictably depressing, and fulfill plot functions rather than adding the spark of humanity that touches me most in an excellent book. In addition, the three daughters are young teenagers but experience a slew of adult situations. While I think this is historically accurate, I can't shake my own alarm at reading about young girls with partially developed brains getting married, making major decisions about their own and others' emotional well-being, or trapped in unalterable life circumstances. As someone who teaches students of that age, reading the not infrequent reminders of their youth set me on edge. Ultimately, I think this book did a good job of taking on a complex and storied genre in terms of writing style. I also think stories of religious persecution are important and powerful. On a personal level, I must confront the fact that I found this reading experience frustrating and unfulfilling. A reader with different tastes and perspectives may find a more positive result.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Annette Jordan

    The Light of the Midnight Stars by Rena Rossner is an intriguing and unusual blend of historical fiction and folk tale. Heavily influenced by the author's Jewish heritage and her family history, this book is an ambitious and richly layered offering . Three sisters , each with unusual abilities are living deep in the Hungarian woods. As descendants of King Solomon they and their father are held in high regard by the rest of their community, Hannah the oldest sister has an affinity for nature, abl The Light of the Midnight Stars by Rena Rossner is an intriguing and unusual blend of historical fiction and folk tale. Heavily influenced by the author's Jewish heritage and her family history, this book is an ambitious and richly layered offering . Three sisters , each with unusual abilities are living deep in the Hungarian woods. As descendants of King Solomon they and their father are held in high regard by the rest of their community, Hannah the oldest sister has an affinity for nature, able to coax plants to grow even in unfavourable conditions. Middle sister Sarah has an affinity for fire and flame, but struggles with control while youngest sister Levana can see the secrets of the stars. When a strange black mist starts to creep across the land, a shadow falls over not just this family but every Jewish family and when the authorities turn on them they are forced to flee and create a new identity for themselves to hide their faith. Even when they find a home where they feel safe, their troubles are not at an end, and each of the sisters will face their own difficult choices and challenges. I loved the rich prose the author used to weave the book together , it was beautifully descriptive and had a soothing cadence that really fit with the fairy tale vibe of the book. Like all the best folk and fairy tales there is a healthy helping of darkness and violence, with brutal descriptions of anti Semitic attacks, rape and assault , but there are also some moments filled with beauty, light and hope to act as a counterbalance. As the book is the story of three sisters we are given three different perspectives, and at times it felt a little muddled, particularly the stories of Hannah and Sarah who had similar voices within the book, I really liked the decision to tell Levana's story in a type of free verse, it made her perspective really stand out and fit the character very well. Although the book did feel a little repetitive at times ,especially when the sisters were telling their stories to other characters, I didn't really mind as I liked the way these stories within the story were written. I read and reviewed an ARC courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher, all opinions are my own.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bryony Indecisive Reader

    “‘But that doesn’t have to be your story, (…) You may not be able to change how it begins, but you can change how it ends’.” CW: Death/Loss of a partner, illness, death by suffocation/burial/burning, attempted child murder, sexual assault, unhealthy relationships, antisemitism Rep: Jewish main characters/LGBT+ relationship Despite content that was often difficult to read and tragic, The Light of the Midnight Stars was a beautifully written book that I found myself flying through. Magic and fantasy “‘But that doesn’t have to be your story, (…) You may not be able to change how it begins, but you can change how it ends’.” CW: Death/Loss of a partner, illness, death by suffocation/burial/burning, attempted child murder, sexual assault, unhealthy relationships, antisemitism Rep: Jewish main characters/LGBT+ relationship Despite content that was often difficult to read and tragic, The Light of the Midnight Stars was a beautifully written book that I found myself flying through. Magic and fantasy was so seamlessly weaved together with Jewish folklore that it was impossible to draw a line between the two. The driving force of this book was the sisters. It was their story. Each sister was so clearly her own character and the three never merged into each other. I think how each had magic that reflected their personalities was clever, and I liked that it allowed the chance for them each to have their own story. I loved how their relationship was portrayed. It felt really genuine. There were times where they loved each other more than anyone else, but there were also times where they really resented each other. There were other interesting relationships in this, including that of their larger family in a new, uprooted context, but also romantic relationships. Although it often created a sad and sometimes hopeless atmosphere, seeing romance explored as not only happening once is something not often seen. Stories and folktales were integrated into this beautifully. They explained elements of the story that were more whimsical than true. It would be easy to dismiss them, but it was the way elements of the narrative were included when they were so fantastical to be included otherwise. The ending wasn’t quite what I expected it to be. It was more wistful and sad. There weren’t really happy endings. Although this is fantasy with plenty of magic, it’s less drama and action, and more a low-fantasy about characters that quietly fizzles away. I think, had I realised it was more of the latter, I would have gone towards the end with different expectations, but I kind of approached it with expectation of the classic final battle and vanquishing of evil. It wasn’t there, which made sense with the book, but it surprised me at the same time.

  30. 5 out of 5

    MJ (The Book Recluse)

    The Light of the Midnight Stars By. Rena Rossner P. 416 Format: eArc Rating: *** ********************** I received an e-arc from @Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. ********************** The Light of the Midnight Stars is a Jewish inspired YAish fantasy story. The story follows three sisters born to a Jewish Rabbi. The story starts when the middle child turns twelve and follows them into adulthood. I personally have never read a Jewish inspired fantasy story and I appre The Light of the Midnight Stars By. Rena Rossner P. 416 Format: eArc Rating: *** ********************** I received an e-arc from @Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. ********************** The Light of the Midnight Stars is a Jewish inspired YAish fantasy story. The story follows three sisters born to a Jewish Rabbi. The story starts when the middle child turns twelve and follows them into adulthood. I personally have never read a Jewish inspired fantasy story and I appreciated the uniqueness of that. It is also a historical fantasy, which I surprisingly enjoyed for the most part. The characters were relatable and developed with the exception of the youngest sister. I also appreciated the way that a few characters battled with the internalization of gender and gender expectations. I really enjoyed the novel at first. You got a sense of community and tradition with fantastical elements. It was a bit concerning to read about a thirteen year old getting engaged. I am sure it was historically accurate, but not acceptable now and it was uncomfortable reading about. The storyline also turns very dark and you are left with a tale of misery, and a message that women must always sacrifice for the next generation, a message that seemed contrary to the internalized battle of gender identity and was just a lot. The story also transitions to more of a fairy tale. The third sister has a plot line that is way to fantastical and her dialogue turns from prose to verse. I didn’t enjoy this storyline at all and to then read that this was one of the main focus for writing the book threw me off even more. I am sure that this book will become beloved by many. It is excellently written, it was just too much for me. Also, there are trigger warnings for just about everything. It is a dark fairy tale.

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