Author: Elissa Sussman.
Published: October 7th 2014 by Greenwillow books.
Sort: Four Sisters #1.
Princess Aislynn has long dreamed about attending her Introduction Ball, about dancing with the handsome suitors her adviser has chosen for her, about meeting her true love and starting her happily ever after. When the night of the ball finally arrives and Nerine Academy is awash with roses and royalty, Aislynn wants nothing more than to dance the night away, dutifully following the Path that has been laid out for her. She does not intend to stray. But try as she might, Aislynn has never quite managed to control the magic that burns within her-magic brought on by wicked, terrible desires that threaten the Path she has vowed to take. After all, it is wrong to want what you do not need. Isn’t it?
Let me say this right away: this book isn’t going to be for everyone. It’s slow-paced and character- driven, the world-building needs more work and you have to deal with old, traditional ways that suck. I liked it, but there were moments I wanted more. This book feels more like a step-up for the real story, but my overall opinion is that it’s enjoyable.
“I am grateful for my father, who keeps me good and sweet. I am grateful for my mother, who keeps her own heart guarded and safe. I am grateful for my adviser, who keeps me protected. I am grateful for the Path, which keeps me pure. Ever after.”
Aislynn is a disappointment. She can’t control her magic , she is too close with her fairy godmother and she is disobedient. The leader of the Nerine Academy is afraid she will stray away from her Path, especially since her best friend disappeared. She is send to another academy to be Redirected; instead of dazzling parties and handsome princes, Aislynn will be trained to become a fairy godmother. Hidden away in the clothes of her new function, Aislynn becomes the godmother of princess Linnea. When Aislynn receives a mirror from her old fairy godmother, she finds out there is a lot more going on at her academy.
The world where Aislynn lives in is hard. She is constantly punished for the fact she can't perform the magic tasks they ask from her. She is badly treated and pushed around without having anything to say about it. I was fascinated by ‘the Path’ and how people can ‘stray’ and become outcasts like the Wicked Queen Josetta. When the Academy decides you aren’t on the right track, they change your future and therefore your ‘Path.’ You should never question them and always comply to their wishes. You have to stay true to the vows you made to the strict patriarchal doctrine of the land.
It’s obvious from the beginning that Aislynn's curious nature and big mouth are going to get her in trouble, especially in combination with her wild, uncontrollable magic. I liked how strong she was and how she accepts her change of life without too much complaining. The down-side was that she fell bland to me. I never connected with Aislynn and honestly, she is very boring. When you are taken from your Path, I would expect emotions, but I guess she has learned not to question them?
The hints of magic, never too much explored, make me curious for the sequel. I want to see what Aislynn is capable of and how it’s going to help her after the confrontation at the end of this book. There was a lot of magical failure in the book, probably to show us what a disappointment Aislynn is supposed to be, but there are some lucky moments where she gets it right. I want her to break free to explore her limits.
There wasn’t much romance, unexpected for a fairytale retelling, and I was pleasantly surprised by it. Granted, there is something going on between characters, but I didn't really care for it. It needs more time and a more prominent place in the story to become interesting. It's the same with the world-building. It's good, but it could have more structure. We are left with a lot of details that doesn't seem to come together. I also hope that the sequel provides more information about the Wicked Queen. The short mentions of her and the revelation at the end of Stray make me curious.
As I said, the pacing is slow and the middle part is mostly about character development, but I will give the sequel a try. It wasn't the best book ever, but if you have some patience and a lot of love for fairytales like me, I think you might appreciate what the authors is trying to achieve - but it needs work.