Fellas, is it gay to fantasize about your rival monster girl and to dream about her and to spend all of your time thinking about her and wondering if she spends all of her time thinking about you, too?
Welcome to The Midnight Girls by Alicia Jasinska.
In a fantasy version of Poland circa 1795, two monstrous girls compete to impress the witches they serve by stealing the hearts of princes — literally. Marynka — also called Midday — and Zosia — Midnight — are fierce rivals, constantly snatching hearts out from under one another. When the girls are sent after Prince Józef, said to possess a supernaturally pure heart along with the love of his people, Marynka and Zosia have one last chance to prove themselves to their witches or be expelled from their service at the end of a carving knife.
But just as these beautiful girls can transform in an instant into nightmarish monsters with claws and iron teeth, nothing is really as it seems during Karniwaɫ, a month-long celebration in Warsaw full of masquerades and magic, when all eyes are on the prince…except for Marynka and Zosia, who only seem to have eyes for each other…
The Midnight Girls completely stole my heart by the end of the first chapter. I was already a fan of Jasinska’s debut, The Dark Tide, which I reviewed here, and I am so pleased to say that The Midnight Girls is every bit as dark, unapologetic, and queer. The two main characters hunt princes for their hearts and the narrative isn’t really that interested in making them — or us — feel bad about it, although Józef is hard not to like (and has a fraught queer romance of his own to sort out). The girls’ relationship is deliciously messy: they are rivals first and foremost, and that competitiveness and antagonism doesn’t go away as they fall for each other — in fact, they fall for each other because of it.
If you liked Shadow and Bone and were hoping for something with a little more historical grounding in a similar time period and setting, The Midnight Girls is a great choice. The world is magical through and through: people of all faiths can perform divine magic, while witches and folkloric creatures exist on the fringes. The political tensions closely mirror what was happening in real-life Poland at the time and you can tell that Jasinska did her research to make it mostly accurate without distracting from the story.
The Midnight Girls is the perfect next read for fans of Naomi Novik, Katherine Arden, and Leigh Bardugo, with a smoldering sapphic romance at its heart. Whether you need a last-minute holiday gift or a wintry escape from end-of-year stress, let this lush standalone fantasy steal your heart, too!
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