{Review/Excerpt/Giveaway} SHATTERED MIRROR by Dhonielle Clayton

O P E N I N G   H O O K:

 NEW ORLEANS WAS A PLACE people went to disappear. Maybe it was the sticky heat, a thick cloak wrapping you up and never letting go. Maybe it was all the peculiar people swelling the French Quarter day and night, easy to fold into and hide. Maybe it was the never-ending jazz music—trumpets and tubas and sharp pianos—luring many down cobblestone streets and into alleys, never to be seen again. Or maybe . . . just maybe . . . it was all the dead folks buried aboveground and the whispers about the Crescent City being a crossroads town, a place where unseen worlds kissed.

That was what Zora had figured out in the two months she’d been living here with her aunt Celine—who had agreed to hide her because she’d gotten into a pile of trouble back home in New York City. She thought maybe this was why her mama sent her down here in the first place. Zora wasn’t even her real name, and she still hadn’t gotten used to answering to it. But she’d wanted... needed... to vanish. Arms, legs, and feet fading like a pencil sketch erased from a notebook so no one would ever know what she did back in Harlem.


(Page 1, US HARDCOVER edition)

“The hard part is letting them see you. Down-into-your bones type of seeing. That's real love. What happens when the music is turned off? And everyone is tired and worn out. Do you still want to dance? I wanted to dance with Germain forever. Still would if he hadn't of up and died and left me so soon.


I have been so intrigued by Disney's The Mirror  quartet since its announcement: Four books told over generations, all stemming from one curse, and all written by different amazing YA authors I already adore = A WINNING FORMULA.

The first book, BROKEN WISH by Julie C. Dao (FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS), takes place in 1865 Hanau, Germany. The second book, SHATTERED MIDNIGHT by Dhonielle Clayton (THE BELLES) takes place in 1928 New Orleans, Louisiana, and just came out this month. The third book, FRACTURED PATH by J.C. Cervantes (Rick Riordan Presents: THE STORM RUNNER) takes place in 1965 San Francisco, California, and will release in July 2022 unless the pandemic and printer issues pushes it again. The final book, SPLINTERED MAGIC by L.L. McKinney (A BLADE SO BLACK) takes place in 2003 New York, New York, and will most likely release in January 2023.

I have read all four of these authors and am intrigued to see how they will weave a family together over time and what fallout comes from the events of BROKEN WISH. I was especially thrilled that the series kicked off with Dao, whom I have loved since her debut FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS. Her books all have fairy tale roots, and I loved how BROKEN WISH had the feel of a fairy tale without ever being one. As with other Dao books, there is a lot of gray, nothing black or white, and good people make bad choices -- and pay for them. You can read my full review of the first book here!

With SHATTERED MIRROR, we're starting to see the ripples of the curse that now runs through the descendants of various characters in the first book. While the first book took place in 1865, this one is set 63 years later in 1928. You can read it completely independently of the first book, because the main characters don't seem to know anything about what happened to their ancestors and why they have magic --or even the reality of the curse. So the reader is discovering bits and pieces alongside them. But if you have read it, it is fun to see certain character names come up in conversation a couple of times and realize who became a parent, etc.

Without once again giving away too much of the plot itself, the novel begins in New Orleans during prohibition, the characters now living across the ocean in the USA. Zora Broussard has traveled from New York to her cousins in Louisiana after her uncontrollable magic did something dangerous, forcing her to change her name and flee into hiding. Now, she moonlights as Sweet Willow, a talented songbird making her name for herself at the Petit Sapphire Saloon, where she sneaks off to nightly after her Aunt Celine and her cousins are asleep. Aunt Celine would have a conniption if she knew the truth. All she wants is for Zora and her daughters to get married, settle down, and have children. She knows that will knock the trouble right out of Zora. Zora has no desire to get married and only wants to achieve her dream of becoming well-known in the jazz scene -- but then she meets Phillip, a rich white boy, and knows he must be trouble. It's illegal for white folks and Black folks to get married, and the couple gets a lot of side-eyes when together in public, but Zora can't help herself for falling for a fellow musician who may be more like her than she knows... but will the cost of their love be too high?

SHATTERED MIRROR moves fast and I easily read it in one sitting, just like with BROKEN WISH. The series continues on at a good clip. I kind of wish I had all four books to read together because I really want to know how everything ties together and what the family outcome is. Every one of these books so far is tragic, covered in a dangerous curse, and we know they will continue to be so unless the curse is broken. Please let it be broken in the final book! There isn't as much emphasis on using magic in this book, only on the dangerous repercussions, and in that sense, it felt a little more rushed. This one is more about the relationship and about the injustices a Black woman faced in 1920s New Orlean, giving it a more historical feel than the first book, which had a more fairy tale feel, and so was less about fleshing out the magic system, but it still works and creates a new facet to this family being shaped through time. I'm excited for future books that will add even more nuance, and to see the way it all concludes in the final book. There is just enough intrigue at the end to leave you hanging and wanting to know more. This is one series best read without knowing much going into it!


Excerpt from SHATTERED MIRROR by Dhonielle Clayton


August 1928. New Orleans, Louisiana.

New Orleans was a place people went to disappear. Maybe it was the sticky heat, a thick cloak wrapping you up and never letting go. Maybe it was all the peculiar people swelling the French Quarter day and night, easy to fold into and hide. Maybe it was the never-ending jazz music—trumpets and tubas and sharp pianos—luring many down cobblestone streets and into alleys, never to be seen again. Or maybe . . . just maybe . . . it was all the dead folks buried aboveground and the whispers about the Crescent City being a crossroads town, a place where unseen worlds kissed.

That was what Zora had figured out in the two months she’d been living here with her aunt Celine—who had agreed to hide her because she’d gotten into a pile of trouble back home in New York City. She thought maybe this was why her mama sent her down here in the first place. Zora wasn’t even her real name, and she still hadn’t gotten used to answering to it. But she’d wanted... needed... to vanish. Arms, legs, and feet fading like a pencil sketch erased from a notebook so no one would ever know what she did back in Harlem.

“Mama said you’re supposed to be trying on that dress so she can fix the seam before dinner,” her cousin Ana snapped. “Everything is about the fit, you know.” Willowy and small, Ana twirled before the family’s full-length mirror in the bedroom they all shared, leaning in to inspect the new freckles she’d gotten since the start of the summer.

“She’s too busy staring out that window again,” Ana’s sister, Evelyn, replied, sitting at the vanity and fussing with her tight curls. They were barely a year apart yet seemed like twins. A deep blush pushed through her rich brown cheeks. “Always gawking like you never seen nothing. You’re from New York City—you’ve seen everything!”

“There’s another parade,” Zora answered, eyes still glued to the train of bodies, the ginger cat in her lap also perking up to look out the window. She loved the bright parasols and how the blasts of trumpets sent ripples across her skin. The beat of a distant drum mingled with the clash of cymbals and the squeal of trumpets. She tapped the beat on the sill. The jazz here was different than at home: a little wilder, a little less tidy, a little more unpredictable. Each evening, she felt like she was part of it all, the melodies of the parades; rhythms and timbres and crescendos of sound she’d never heard before captured her full attention. She’d fall asleep to the sound of music and revelry somewhere outside the window.

This was the best thing about this city so far. The constant music. The constant dancing. The constant frivolity. The way even the cobblestones seemed to hold rhythms and rumbles. People said it was born in this peculiar city. And she could believe that. Her heart reached for the songs, shaking loose something deep in her bones, the thing she wanted to hide.

Evelyn craned over her to see outside. “That’s a second line. We do that when someone dies. Just wait until Mardi Gras. The parades will be happening for weeks. People on stilts, floats, and all the masks to look at.”

“The krewes will try to outdo one another,” Ana added. “We won’t be able to sleep. It’ll be terrible. I’ll have bags under my eyes again. By the time February comes, I’ll have a permanent migraine.”

“You don’t have parades in New York City? You’re supposed to have it all,” Evelyn scoffed.

“Most folks are too busy working,” Zora replied. “If you danced in the street, you would get flattened like a hotcake by a taxi. But there’s some.” She continued. “Like on St. Paddy’s Day. Or a ticker-tape parade, if someone important visits. Mostly for white folks.”

“I can’t believe Mama gave her the nice one.” Evelyn held up Zora’s party dress, and the golden beads and silk chiffon caught the sunlight. Celine, a dressmaker, had made it just for Zora. Evelyn ran her plump fingers over its drop waist. “One of the best Broussard originals to date.”

“You can have it.” Zora turned back to the window. “I’d rather stay up here, anyway.”

Ana snatched it from Evelyn. “But she’s our guest for a little while,” she mimicked, putting on her mama’s thick French accent. “But she’s had it rough.... But she’s here to convalesce.... But she has a strange affliction.”

Zora had gotten used to them ganging up on her. The insults had frayed her nerves when she’d first arrived, scraping across her skin like sandpaper. Now she let the words drift out the window to be swallowed by the big brass melodies. She had to.

“What happened in New York? You never did tell us,” Ana pressed for the thousandth time, as if that would make Zora suddenly change her mind and spill the whole story.

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“You never want to talk about anything,” Evelyn spat back. “It’s been two months and you won’t even tell us about what it’s like to live in New York. We’re cousins. We’re supposed to know things about each other, and we don’t know squat.”

“I’d rather—”

“Be playing the trumpet,” the two said in unison.

“Or the bass guitar. I can play that, too. Even the trombone,” she barked back.

Their frowns deepened.

“That’s why your lips are so red and puffy. Mama says women have no business playing brass. You’ll look like a dried-up fish when you get old,” Evelyn said. “Mark my words.”

Ana chuckled at Evelyn’s barb. “You can’t mope around forever,” she said, and blew a kiss. She pointed at her house clothes—the simple blue cotton dress Zora loved. “You better get dressed. Mama set up this dinner for you to meet all the important people. Miss Annabelle has to like you. Did you know that the Original Carolina Krewe only accepts the best?” Ana did a twirl across the room to make the beads on her dress click-clack. “The boys fight over who courts you first.”

“I don’t want to be a debutante.” Zora sucked her teeth. If the accident in New York City hadn’t happened, she’d planned on becoming the most famous female jazz musician who ever lived. She was a quadruple threat. She could sing, act, dance, and play any instrument she touched. She’d show the men that women were just as good, if not better. “It’s fussy and silly, if you ask me.”

Evelyn gasped.

“Lucky nobody did,” Ana shouted back.

Zora sighed as her cousins listed out all the things that were wrong with her for not being excited. If they knew—really knew—what was truly wrong with her and what she’d done, they’d scream and cower in fear. They’d get her aunt to kick her out into the streets. They’d look at her like a monster.

And maybe they’d be right.

Even now, she could feel the hum of her gifts just beneath her skin, like the vibration of a song she used to love. One that felt like her own little secret. But now she hated it. 

As the last of the second line eased past the house, a young white man paused. He wore a boater hat, had a face full of freckles, and stared in the window with a strange, clever grin. He looked too perfect and put together to be standing on their corner. He didn’t belong. Zora sat up straight, a jolt up her spine. They made eye contact. He lifted a tentative hand and waved.

The bedroom door snapped open. Aunt Celine pounded in, her heels making the floor tremble. Zora’s ginger cat cowered and tucked himself deeper into the nook beside her.

With thick dark hair pulled into a perfect chignon, Aunt Celine was a passé-blanc, her skin the shade of steamed milk sprinkled with almond powder. Her aunt pursed her lips in disappointment, and she clapped. “Girls, didn’t y’all hear me calling you? I don’t holler for my own health.” Her honey-colored eyes narrowed, inspecting each of them. “Why aren’t any of you dressed? The Colliers and the Bechets will be arriving any moment. I need you downstairs to flash your pretty smiles and remind them that the Broussards throw the best parties in the back-a-town. Mabel is setting out the oyster already.”

“Our houseguest doesn’t want to come,” Ana reported with a smug grin.

Before Zora could get a word out, her aunt stomped over and grabbed her arm, yanking her from the small nook, the only spot she felt comfortable in this house.

The cat screeched.

“Get that creature off my furniture. Didn’t I tell you about cats? Bad luck. Count your blessings I don’t have it stuffed.” She tightened her grip. “In the Broussard household, we don’t turn down perfectly good invitations to parties thrown in our honor.”

Zora tried to wrench away. Her heart fluttered wildly, a hummingbird trapped in her chest, as her aunt’s manicured nails dug deeper into her flesh.

“Glad you felt it. Something to knock you out of this rut. You’ve been skulking around like you can’t do nothing.”

The warning signs flickered: the flash of heat through her, a thunder beneath her chest, a crackling across her skin as if lightning were about to strike. It hadn’t always been like this. She let her eyes close. She only had a few more hours, then she’d be outside and engulfed in music—just music, the kind that healed instead of hurt.

Stay calm, she whispered to herself. Stay calm.

Her aunt scowled. “What’s wrong with you, baby girl? I don’t know what my cousin let you get away with in New York City, but this ain’t the Big Apple and you best start acting like it.”

Zora’s eyes snapped open. She gritted her teeth and blinked back tears.

Evelyn and Ana hid satisfied grins behind their hands. Zora felt bruised. The mention of home usually flooded her with memories: a summer Sunday in Harlem, taxis honking, newsboys running up and down West 125th with the latest, the Apollo’s lights spilling stardust on the sidewalks, the grocers sweeping and chasing children away from their storefronts, the folks sitting on stoops playing cards or trading gossip when it got too hot inside their apartments...

But that was long gone because of what she did. Now the memories were crowded out by the sounds of falling bricks and cracking wood, the snap of broken bones, and the roar of fire mingled with piercing screams. This woke her every night.

“Mabel said you sent her away earlier. It’s your turn for a bath.

Don’t make me have to come back in here, because I’ll be bringing a switch. Eighteen is not too old for a good lashing.”

Zora flinched.

“You hear me?”

“Yes,” Zora mumbled.

“Yes, what?”

“Ma’am. Yes, ma’am, I heard you, and I understand.”

“You better.” Aunt Celine pulled an envelope from her apron pocket. “This came from your mama. Maybe it’ll help set you straight. I told her how you’ve lost the good sense the Lord gave you, that’s what. How lucky you got it, to have kin to take you in when things get rough. Should be more grateful—and gracious...”

Zora stammered out an apology. She didn’t want to disappoint her mama. She took the letter and traced her fingers over the looping cursive.

“None of that funny business, you hear?” Aunt Celine sucked her teeth and waited for Zora to nod before turning to her daughters and inspecting them. “Ana and Evelyn, wipe all that off your cheeks. This is not the Tenderloin. Come with me. You need to entertain our guests as they arrive.” She attacked their cheeks with her handkerchief, then strutted out, leaving behind the heat of her words and the scent of her cloying perfume.

While the housekeeper, Mabel, drew her bath, Zora retuned to the window nook. The young white man in the hat was gone.

She unfolded the letter.

August 15, 1928

My dearest, 

I miss you so very much, my little love. Your aunt Celine as always full of complaints and commentary. But she’s just a honeybee—no real stinger. Give her a few flowers and make her feel like the queen of the hive, and she’ll leave you be. She’s not much different than the women I cook for. 

I wish you were still home with me. And I’m sorry I couldn’t prepare you or protect you from this. I’m the one to blame. I should have told you more.

But don’t worry—like I said at the train station, the veil is complete. No one will ever know what happened with Mrs. Abernathy and no one will be able to find you. Not as long as I live. I promise. 

I’ll take a peek in on you. But you cannot write to me. Try to forget about us for a while. Tell others who ask that we are gone. You are gone, in a sense. You’re Zora Broussard, and not my little girl anymore.

This storm shall pass. I have faith. Cling tight to the music. It is both a blessing and a curse, but you must use it. 

We will be all right. You will be all right. I hope one day we will be together again. 


your mama

Zora held back tears. What would her white, German grandmother think if she could see Zora, her Black granddaughter, now a fugitive in New Orleans? What would she think of the gifts that she’d taught Zora so little about, of what Zora had done with them? What disappointment might Zora see in her eyes?

She was a murderer.

She was a monster.

All because of magic.

Perhaps it was time to use her ability instead of pretending she didn’t have it. Mama and Papa wouldn’t have to know, and she might even see a glimpse of her future with Willem. Her breath caught at the thought of looking straight into her basin instead of closing her eyes. But it was long past time to access the power she had been given.

And now, Elva thought, I will decide to do it for myself.



Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: PG12 ( Kissing; fade to black sex )
Language: G ( Ass; something was "bastardized." )
Violence: PG ( Character Death. Non-graphic blood )
Other:  G ( A man hits on a woman and slaps her out of jealously for being out with someone else. Mention of a police officer who brutalized a couple of people as he took them in, one of them a young boy. )
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

I love all the purple and silver -- my two favorite colors! I would pick it up on the aesthetic alone. This cover is simpler than its predecessor, but no less intriguing.

O F F I C I A    I N F O:

Author: Dhonielle Clayton
Release Date: January 18, 2022
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
FIND IT: GoodreadsAmazon, Kindle,  AudibleB&NiBooks, KoboTBD, Bookshop.org


The Mirror: Shattered Midnight is the second novel in the innovative four-book fairy-tale series written by Julie C. Dao, Dhonielle Clayton, J.C. Cervantes, and L. L. McKinney, following one family over several generations, and the curse that plagues it.

Zora Broussard has arrived in New Orleans with not much more than a bag of clothes, a beautiful voice, and a pair of enchanted red shoes. Running from a tragic accident caused by her magic, Zora wants nothing more than to blend in, as well as to avoid her overbearing aunt and mean-spirited cousins. Music becomes Zora’s only means of escape, yet she wonders if she should give it all up to remove the powers that make her a target, especially as a Black woman in the South.

But when Zora gets the chance to perform in a prominent jazz club, she meets a sweet white pianist named Phillip with magic of his own, including a strange mirror that foretells their future together. Falling into a forbidden love, Zora and Phillip must keep their relationship a secret. And soon the two discover the complicated connection between their respective families, a connection that could lead to catastrophe for them both. In the era of segregation and speakeasies, Zora must change her destiny and fight for the one she loves . . . or risk losing everything.  



Dhonielle Clayton is a New York Times Bestselling author of The Belles series, the coauthor of the Tiny Pretty Things duology which debuts as a Netflix original series soon, and the author of the forthcoming MG fantasy series The Marvellers. She hails from the Washington, D.C. suburbs on the Maryland side. She taught secondary school for several years, and is a former elementary and middle school librarian. She is COO of the non-profit We Need Diverse Books, and co-founder of CAKE Literary, a creative kitchen whipping up decadent—and decidedly diverse—literary confections for middle grade, young adult, and women’s fiction readers. She’s an avid traveler, and always on the hunt for magic and mischief.  


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