Sunday, May 11, 2014

Short Story Sunday: Gilded Ashes

Title: Gilded Ashes
Series: Cruel Beauty Universe
Author: Rosamund Hodge
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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?


I didn't know how much I was going to like this, because I'm not the hugest fan of Cinderella. I don't know what it is, but she's never been one of my favorites. But, it's Rosamund Hodge, and it's still the Cruel Beauty Universe, so I knew I was going to give it a shot anyway.

I had nothing to worry about. I LOVED it. Let me say this: if one of your biggest issues with Cruel Beauty was the world-building, then you should still love this. Since it's a novella, there isn't much world-building. It isn't confusing, as if things are unexplained, but you learn what you need to know, and the rest is focused on the story. So, if you thought the world of Cruel Beauty was confusing, then I still think you can enjoy this one.

Maia has been degraded to the role of servant by her stepmother. Except, she has to act like she loves it, and everyone, and the way she's treated. Otherwise, they'll be struck down by her mother, who made a deal with the Dark Lord to always get to watch after her daughter in death, and has the power to send demons to anyone who dares make her daughter unhappy. So, to protect everyone else, Maia always acts like she is the happiest person on earth. Except, it's wearing her down.

Then, the household gets an invitation to a ball being put on for the duke's son to find a wife. Maia's oldest stepsister has her deliver letters to Anax, in hopes of being the one chosen. But Maia gets caught, and her and Anax start talking.

I'm not entirely sure what to say, other than I loved it. I really did. It was beautifully woven story. I loved the dynamics of the different characters and their relationships, and how nothing was as it seemed. The stepmother and sisters weren't terrible and evil, although they were fighting demons of their own. At the same time, the girls were able to come together when needed. And Anax. He was just so cute.

This may only be a novella, but there was definitely a lot of emotion, depth, and story packed into it. This is an amazing novella that I would definitely recommend to fantasy lovers and  fairy tale lovers. (Especially if you love Cinderella, but then again, I don't and still loved it.)


Rosamund Hodge:

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