Bella at Midnight
BELLA AT MIDNIGHT by Diane Stanley is a sweet, enchanting story filled with intrigue, chivalry and magical gifts. Young Isabel lives among the peasants of a quaint medieval village not aware that she is the daughter of a knight in the king's service. Bella, as her foster family calls her, is raised as a blacksmith's daughter to be respectful, kind and industrious. Those qualities will shine through in her time of need when she finds herself in the middle of a 100-year-old war. The values instilled by her adoptive parents and the courage given to her by birth converge to help Bella save a good friend and bring a prophesy to life.
Stanley is a prolific author with several children's publications to her credit. She is revered as a writer of talent with an interesting ability to "re-imagine" traditional folk and fairy tales. In her current release Stanley twists together the stories of Cinderella, King Arthur, and tales of fairies to create an enticing work that moves methodically through the early life of Bella as she gains maturity and poise on her way to rescuing two kingdoms from ruin.
Bella is born in traditional circumstances to a knight and his young bride. The young mother does not have the strength to survive the birth of her daughter whose fiery red hair and bright blue eyes light up the room. Bella's distraught father charges his sister-in-law, Bella's aunt, to take baby Isabel away to someone who will raise and care for her. This is accomplished by the aunt and Bella grows to the age of 16 unaware of her royal birthrights. Soon after being reunited with her father, Bella discovers her passion, courage and strength as she single-handedly ends a century-old conflict that will be the ruin of everyone and everything she loves if she doesn't intervene.
As a reader I have an awkward habit of reading the last chapter of a book before anything else. Knowing the resolution of a story helps me decide if I want to read the book and gives me a point of reference to understand how and why the author makes certain choices. Many readers disagree with this practice, and they have that right. In the case of BELLA AT MIDNIGHT, if I had started with chapter one first, I would not have continued to read. The description of Bella's birth was overdone for the minimum age/grade recommended for this book. The content was inappropriate for 10-year-olds and the sweetness of the romance throughout the story would not appeal to older readers. While the main story was inviting, the material about the birth in the first chapter didn't further the plot. The premise easily could have been explained in a first chapter minus the age inappropriate references to headfirst presentation of the baby, babies born strangled by umbilical cords, and wet nursing.
Stanley made another challenging choice. The book is written in the first-person point of view, which isn't controversial --- until an author writes from the points of view for nine different characters. We see the progression of the story from the eyes of these varied minds, and it sometimes creates an action time lapse while we wait on everyone involved to catch up because we can only read one perspective at a time per chapter. A good deal of repetition and overlap occurs while characters recount the same episode from their point of view before moving the story forward. The method proved taxing for this reader and negatively effected pacing.
Reviewed by Joy Held on April 11, 2006
Bella at Midnight
- Publication Date: April 11, 2006
- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: HarperCollins
- ISBN-10: 0060775734
- ISBN-13: 9780060775735