Book Review: THE LIGHT OF THE MIDNIGHT STARS by Rena Rossner

Title in pale orange on starry blue skies
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 2.5 stars
Series: standalone
CW: rape, anti-semitism


Book cover for THE LIGHT OF THE MIDNIGHT STARS: title in yellow on blue with stars and brambles and animals forming a border

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.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


THE LIGHT OF THE MIDNIGHT STARS is a strange book. It has a deeply rooted fairy tale feel, woven through with stories from Jewish folklore and faith as well as including elements from Romanian fairy tales and historical characters and legends. It’s not quite a retelling, and the author says she’s picked bits and pieces from history to create the story. Like her debut, it’s a very lyrical story

This is not a happy story, and it just sort of ends. I got to the end and expected quite a lot more to happen, more resolution. The characters to achieve goals – they do at least get a partial justice, but it felt rather underwhelming. I’m guessing that’s the point, that Jews throughout history often haven’t got justice, got what they wanted or needed.

There’s no villain, no big threat. The book doesn’t really build to anything, just scattered lives that go on and change. Even in the quietest fantasy books, I am still expecting a threat, some sort of danger be it big scary demon to be defeated or a personal rival to overthrow.

It felt like this book set up the promise of the Black Mist as the villain to vanquish. It’s certainly linked throughout the story, the mythology of it expounded upon and linked to their lives, but that doesn’t happen. It was like the author has implied this promise to the reader of the ending and not fulfilled it – nor subverted it in a satisfying way.

The book is largely in prose, but in the second half, after they flee their home and all change their names (in the narration too, which threw me at first), Levana (now Laptitza) starts switching between prose and verse in her chapters. It’s quite an odd mix, paragraphs of prose and then suddenly verse. Then her chapters becoming entirely verse.

I’m not a fan of books in verse, I just find it very scattered and piecemeal, hard to follow. If I have to re-read something several times for it to make sense, then that’s not enjoyable for me. That’s making the reading process much harder and knocking me out of the story and disconnecting me from the characters. There is far less prose in this than in THE SISTERS OF THE WINTER WOOD, so it was more readable in that sense, but it did really throw me, particularly as the second half is the section where stuff just sort of happens.

Read my reviews of other books by Rena Rossner:


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