It’s no secret that I have a soft spot for villains. I, especially, adore villains who are bad for bad’s sake, who relish in wreaking havoc and showing off their dubious morals. Bonus points if these villains are women, and bonus bonus points if these villains are monster women. By my count, that means Alicia Jasinska deserves the highest of scores on her sapphic villain novel The Midnight Girls.
The Midnight Girls is a fast-paced young adult that fantasy readers will devour in one sitting. This is partly thanks to the main characters (have I mentioned they’re villains?) and their chemistry, and partly because of the whirlwind of a story Jasinska has drummed up for us.
The story opens in a magical forest in the mythical country of Lechija. At twelve years old, Marynka has finally been given her first task by her adoptive witch grandmother, Red Jaga: steal a prince’s heart. And not in a figurative, romantic, lovey-dovey way. No, Marynka’s sole job is to rip princes’ hearts from their chests so that Red Jaga can feast on them for power.
However, at twelve years old, Marynka gets her first taste of failure after her monster girl peer Zosia nabs the heart from right under her nose. This sets off a years-long rivalry that comes to a head five years later when both Zosia and Marynka are drawn out of their respective magical forests during Karnawal season. Amidst the revelry and festivities is the attendance of Prince Jósef, a prince with the purest of hearts (i.e. a powerful witch delicacy) and the target of both monster girls.
During their hunt, Marynka and Zosia form an unlikely friendship, with neither knowing the other is her sworn adversary. Feelings take root. Shenanigans ensue. And sparks fly — the romantic and magical kind — as Marynka and Zosia clash in the fun kind of way wannabe girlfriends do in the very best enemies-to-lovers stories.
Although to call The Midnight Girls enemies to lovers is putting it simply. The romance in this YA fantasy bounces from enemies to unbeknownst friends to friendly rivals, only to revert back to enemies and then finally — well, I’m not going to give it all away. Not to mention, Zosia and Marynka aren’t the only enemies readers will be shipping — wink wink hint hint.
Will Marynka finally best her rival and deliver the most desirable heart to Red Jaga, whom she very much wants to please? Or will Zosia add to her tally of wins and continue to steal hearts from her own adoptive witch grandmother, Black Jaga, in favor of building her power? And how will the two fare on their journeys as their feelings toward each other blossom romantically? Trust me when I say The Midnight Girls is a thrill of a read!
The chilly world Jasinska has created in her sophomore novel is especially delightful. While the weather outside is frightful IRL for most of us, the setting is just as frightful in The Midnight Girls. Unlike us, though, Marynka and Zosia are the type of protagonists who aren’t afraid of the darkness of long winter days — especially because they’re what’s lurking in the shadows!
While readers will root for Marynka and Zosia, they aren’t exactly on the right side of their mythical country’s history. After all, their entire careers have been decorated with the murders of princes. In that regard, I really enjoyed how Jasinska flipped the trope of girls yearning for boys’ hearts on its head, taking it in a literal direction that is absolutely delectable. Finally, we dark souls have accurate representation for what it really means to yearn for people’s hearts.
If all of this wasn’t enough to convince you to add The Midnight Girls to your holiday TBR list, maybe this will: For those of us who watched Jennifer’s Body and interpreted the friendship between Jennifer and Needy as kind of sort of very much gay, The Midnight Girls will be much more satisfying entertainment.
Two rivals, one heart, and a kingdom ready to watch them burn. What more do YA fantasy readers need?
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