Saturday, April 19, 2014

Saturday Shorts: Gilded Ashes

Orphan Maia doesn't see the point of love when it only brings pain: Her dying mother made a bargain with the evil, all-powerful ruler of their world that anyone who hurt her beloved daughter would be punished; her new stepmother went mad with grief when Maia's father died; and her stepsisters are desperate for their mother's approval, yet she always spurns them. And though her family has turned her into a despised servant, Maia must always pretend to be happy, or else they'll all be struck dead by the curse.

Anax, heir to the Duke of Sardis, doesn't believe in love either—not since he discovered that his childhood sweetheart was only using him for his noble title. What's the point of pretending to fall in love with a girl just so she'll pretend to fall in love with him back? But when his father invites all the suitable girls in the kingdom to a masked ball, Anax must finally give in and select a wife.

As fate would have it, the preparations for the masquerade bring him Maia, who was asked by her eldest stepsister to deliver letters to Anax. Despite a prickly first encounter, he is charmed and intrigued by this mysterious girl who doesn't believe in love. Anax can't help wishing to see her again—and when he does, he can't help falling in love with her. Against her will, Maia starts to fall in love with him too. But how can she be with him when every moment his life is in danger from her mother's deadly bargain?  Quoted from Goodreads


I loved Rosamund Hodge's Cruel Beauty, so Gilded Ashes was one of my most anticipated books---well, novella---this month, and it didn't disappoint. 

I think one of the things I loved most was how this world and mythology Rosamund Hodge's developed with Cruel Beauty adapts so well to the Cinderella story. I'll be honest, I don't think anyone could do a better job than Gail Carson Levine's Ella Enchanted, but Gilded Ashes is such a completely different take, you can't even begin to compare the two.  It's darker, but there's still the foundation between Maia and Anax before the pivotal ball and a good, legitimate, noble reason Maia puts up with with her step-mother's cruelty while still being a strong character---both of which I think are essential to any good Cinderella adaption.

As for the writing and world building, it's excellent. It probably makes a little bit more sense if you have read Cruel Beauty, but since the story is completely separate, I think you could get away with reading this book first, especially since it takes place first.  Another thing I absolutely adored about this retelling is that it didn't shy away from the more gruesome aspects of Cinderella's story.  While her step-sister's fate isn't exactly the same (you know with the slicing off off the one girls' heals and toes and being blinded by birds) and their motivation for going along with the step-mother's demands is different, bad things still happen.

If you're looking for an amazing adaption of a classic fairy tale, you need to read this book. Or, if you simply want a good story, this is an excellent one to check out.  Really, my only complaint is that it's only a novella (about 111) pages, and while it doesn't need to be longer, I enjoyed it so much I wish it was.  All in all, this is a strong 4 stars for me and basically sold me on reading anything else the author decides to put out.

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