Thank you TBR and Beyond Tours for the chance to read and review Midnight Strikes by Zeba Shahnaz! I’m so happy to be on this book tour for a fantastic female Pakistani-American writer!
Midnight Strikes is Zeba Shahnaz’s debut novel! This 443 page long book was released on the 14th of March and was published by Delacorte Press.
Most of us have encountered the time loop trope because of the movie Groundhog day, where a man relives the same day over and over again. Zeba Shahnaz’s story, told from the point of view of Anaïs, a young woman from a marginalized community from the edge of the kingdom, makes brilliant use of this device to illustrate the trauma of living and surviving catastrophic events. Keep in mind, the rest of my post will have spoilers, so skip ahead to the blurb if you don’t want to read those.
There are many things to like about Midnight Strikes, we have interesting magic systems and even better characters. As Anais travels back to that night and meets them over and over again, sometimes having conversations she would never have had otherwise, she gets to know them and even love them differently. It was heartbreaking to see her at the end with Leo, she has fallen in love with all the sides of him she’s seen; this prince who believes when no one in their sane mind would.
I also want to talk about the arranged marriages in the book because it’s so intimately a brown girl problem. Anais makes it clear she isn’t looking for love and romance and all the things we should, ideally speaking, hope for. She’s just looking for someone bearable. Someone who can maybe turn out to be a friend in the long run. This theme also continues with Clara and her marriage; her father loves her, and his begging at the end made me feel like she would have been forgiven, regardless of all the havoc she wreaked. But despite all that she is, her worth to him and the kingdom, he tells her only after her marriage is arranged, as though she is a bystander and not a main component.
There are also more familiar tropes; money isn’t all, breeding and nobility matters just a bit more. People want more than a police state, but that’s all this kingdom knows how to give them.
Seventeen-year-old Anaïs just wants tonight to end. As an outsider at the kingdom’s glittering anniversary ball, she has no desire to rub shoulders with the nation’s most eligible (and pompous) bachelors—especially not the notoriously roguish Prince Leo. But at the stroke of midnight, an explosion rips through the palace, killing everyone in its path. Including her.
The last thing Anaïs sees is fire, smoke, chaos . . . and then she wakes up in her bedroom, hours before the ball. No one else remembers the deadly attack or believes her warnings of disaster.
Not even when it happens again. And again. And again.
If she’s going to escape this nightmarish time loop, Anaïs must take control of her own fate and stop the attack before it happens. But the court’s gilded surface belies a rotten core, full of restless nobles grabbing at power, discontented commoners itching for revolution, and even royals who secretly dream of taking the throne. It’s up to Anaïs to untangle these knots of deadly deceptions . . . if she can survive past midnight.
Zeba Shahnaz writes fantasy full of political intrigue, twisted romance, and a healthy dose of existential angst. A proud Pakistani-American, she translated her love of storytelling into a graduate degree analyzing national identity, culture, and cinema in South Asia. She grew up in New Jersey, which she has yet to fully escape (though not because of a time loop). MIDNIGHT STRIKES is her debut novel.
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