Author: Zeba Shahnaz
My rating: 4.8 of 5 stars
Tonight’s the grand ball at the palace, and Anais’ parents have pinned all their political hopes on marrying off their daughter to a rich & titled noble. Anais dutifully attends the ball, dances with potential suitors, and then dies in an unexpected rebel attack on the palace, bombs, guns, and blood galore. But worse than all the blood and death, is Anais waking up after to realize that she has to relive the same day, the same deadly ball, and die every night, over and over and over again.
I loved Mother of Learning, which has a similar kind of Groundhog Day/ second chance plot, and this book has a lot of similar vibes in its own very unique fashion. Anais keeps repeating the same day, each time trying to find a way to stop the deadly attack & the deaths of everyone she cares about. Each life, each new iteration of the day, changes depending on Anais’ choices and actions. Each retelling reveals new secrets, slowly peeling off layers of political intrigue to reveal the culprit behind it all
I was afraid this would be a romance heavy book, given that it’s set at a royal ball, Cinderella reminiscent midnight, and all that. I was really happy to find Anais wasn’t a moony-eyed lovesick teen. She was refreshingly normal. She could admire men’s looks or despise them, all while remaining cognizant of her goal. That’s not to say there’s no romance. While there’s only so much she can do in a single night, it also gives her the chance to be more daring, & to get to know more than one man. After all, anything Anais does won’t be remembered by anyone but herself.
There’s great character development here. Anais slowly learns more about the politics and potential threats, where she’d been very sheltered and unaware until now. She also gets to know her friends and acquaintances better. More than that, Anais starts off wanting to save the royal family and all the nobles from the revolutionaries, but over time and multiple restarts, Anais starts questioning her own beliefs. Is the royal family worth saving? Why should she want to save the selfish nobles who all look down on her for being from a backwater farming province? Maybe the anarchists are right in seeking equality for all.
Someone wants to kill the royal family and all the politically powerful people at the ball. For reasons Anais has to uncover, she is the only one able to relive the same day and deadly night over and over. While she tries to discover who’s the mastermind behind it all, and how the magic of her repeating night works, Anais also needs to answer questions about herself: how does she want this night to end, and does she want to move on to a future where her mistakes have permanent consequences.