Review: The Light of the Midnight Stars by Rena Rossner


My Rating: 7.75/10

Synopsis:

Deep in the Hungarian woods, the sacred magic of King Solomon lives on in his descendants. Gathering under the midnight stars, they perform small miracles and none are more gifted than the great Rabbi Isaac and his three daughters. 

Hannah, bookish and calm, can coax plants to grow even when the weather is bitterly cold. Sarah, defiant and strong, can control the impulsive nature of fire. And Levana, the fey one, can read the path of the stars to decipher their secrets. 

But darkness is creeping across Europe, threatening the lives of every Jewish person in every village. Each sister will have to make an impossible choice in an effort to survive – and change the fate of their family forever.

Review:

“We are all hiding infinite possibilities inside.”

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.


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