Miranda’s primary motivation for going as far as she can in the contest? Getting to go to Paris and tracking down her shapeshifter ex-boyfriend, Perry—the guy who recently dumped her because she “deserved better” and who hasn’t bothered keeping in touch ever since. (Kind of a disappointing drive for this reader, but let’s move on…) This plucky tale of a screw-up spellcaster rapidly turns into a murder mystery when someone starts offing the contestants, and then Miranda manages to stop a killer fireball in the middle of the High-Priestess competition. Compounding her difficulties, there’s a competing girl who hates her for no apparent reason, and a family secret rearing its previously unknown head.
Miranda is a largely sympathetic and sometimes even likeable character—well meaning and kind almost to the point of blandness. Her failures are often comedic, and her sense of loyalty is beyond reproach. Some, however, may find it difficult to swallow her martyr attitude toward the beginning of a competition. (When another contestant plays a vicious prank that hurts her standing, Miranda, for some reason, refuses to name the obvious suspect even when commanded to do so by the judges—willing to take a point deduction in an effort to protect a bully who, for all she knows, is tormenting other contestants as well.)
Some readers may find the love triangle disappointing—at least for those who weren’t previously familiar with Perry outside of Miranda’s impression of his abandonment. Especially after we only see Shawn looking out for her in the first half of the story. Even after Perry is reeled in, the chemistry between him and Miranda is more distracting than convincing. On top of the issues she’s having with her family, it amplifies an atmosphere of drama that borders on supernatural soap opera. The pacing flagged at times, making this one of the more low-tension stories in the ‘Almost Midnight’ collection. Miranda’s personality and antics often lend a lighthearted air to the tale—despite the life-or-death underpinnings.
This book would perhaps work well as a lighthearted interlude for fans of Miranda, or anyone in search of a quirky teen witch story.