Book review: At Midnight, edited by Dahlia Adler

A collection of remixed and modernised fairy tales.

At Midnight, edited by Dahlia Adler, is an anthology of retold fairy tales that have been updated to be more relevant to a diverse YA (young adult) audience. It includes 15 original and retold stories, some of which are easily recognisable, and some that are a mash-up of fairy tale elements set in the world as we know it:

A Hansel and Gretel retelling where they stumble into a sinister upscale restaurant with a terrifying chef. 

A version of Rumpelstiltskin where the quick-fix magic that is offered is in the form of computer coding and the titular character’s secret name is a cringeworthy pop culture reference.

A Little Matchstick Girl set on the frozen New York streets in front of an opera house. 

A Snow White with drag queens and non-binary teens escaping cruel parents who want to hunt their uniqueness from them.

The book also includes a collection of the original tales from Hans Christian Andersen, Charles Perrault and the Grimm Brothers, listed at the end after the modernised versions. It is fascinating to read the tales as they were when they were first published to a broad audience and also telling to notice the differences between the two, what authors choose to keep and omit, and what that says about how the world has changed in only a few hundred years.

These well-known tales are often about children and adolescents in a difficult situation, who must be clever or resourceful to survive, or who have been mistreated and are seeking escape or justice against those who have wronged them. The authors of this collection have taken these stories, which we have heard a hundred times in a hundred ways, and breathed new life into them, bringing them into the modern world and renewing their allegories and lessons to be relevant for a whole new generation. 

Read: Book review: The Hummingbird Effect, Kate Mildenhall

This is a fantastic anthology for lovers of short stories, fairy tales, grim tales and dark magic. 

At Midnight, edited by Dahlia Adler
Publisher: Titan Books
ISBN: 9781803363233
Format: Paperback 
Pages: 496 pp
Publication: 7 February 2023 
RRP: $29.80 

Jemimah is a Gippsland-based writer and editor working in fiction, creative nonfiction, and newsletters. She reads and reviews books, edits work for other writers, and publishes the fortnightly Substack newsletter The Brew. Find her on Instagram and Facebook.