on February 23rd, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Young Adult
Amazon・ Good Books・Book Depository
If you haven’t read A Wicked Thing, the first one in this series, please go read that and then come back and read this otherwise I am not going to be responsible for any inadvertent spoilers.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about Kingdom of Ashes, the sequel to last year’s rather terrifying A Wicked Thing which was the story of what happens after Sleeping Beauty wakes up and finds that everything and everyone she knew is gone and in their place are strangers to whom she is little more than a tool. She is a tool to further their ambitions, to hold on to power, to be what they are or more. Sleeping Beauty, or Aurora, quickly discovers that she has little meaning as a person. Her desires are of little consequence to those who control her and those who would use her as a figurehead.
Obviously she rebels against these people and the end of the first book sees her fleeing her wedding, destination unclear, no prince or romantic lead in sight, just her, her magic, and her wits.
Kingdom of Ashes picks up at the same point the book left off and we travel with Aurora as she finally sees the kingdom she is a princess of. She sees the people, the landscape and she sees the carnage her magic wreaks. Having no other choice, she accepts Finnegan’s (a prince from a neighbouring country, not exactly enemies but not really bosom friends either) invitation and travels to his country which is floundering because the dragons woke up and people quickly realized that dragons and people do not make for good neighbours.
There is the constant concern of being burnt to a crisp or featuring as the Sunday roast. You know, little things like that.
Anyway, Aurora travels to Finnegan’s country and finds that despite her first impressions of the prince (brash, rude, cocky), he has shades of character that appeal to her (and, not gonna lie, to me) very much. I like that, despite their attraction to each other, he gives her space.
“I’m waiting for you to kiss me. I feel like you’ve been kissed enough times in your life. But if you leaned up and kissed me, if you were so overcome that you couldn’t resist … well, that would be something worth seeing, wouldn’t it?”
She stood up. “You’ll be waiting a long time.”
He stood too, utterly clam, smiling his infuriating smile. “Don’t worry, Aurora,” he said, as she walked away. “It’ll be worth the wait.”
Romance aside, the book obviously deals with the politics of ruling a country and serving people who have turned away from you. Aurora makes some difficult realizations and though she has effectively escaped from her country, she knows that she needs to return.
She had spent so long trying to please the people in her kingdom, and this was how they reacted when she failed to met their expectations. She had worried about her magic, worried about the harm she might do, and they called her a murderer either way.
She had tried to marry Rodric, for them, for their hope, and they called her a whore.
They had praised her and loved her, hoping she would bring magic back into the world, and she had recoiled at the idea, so afraid of what magic had done to her, so certain could never do what they dreamed. But now she had magic, and they coiled from her, insulted her, blamed her for all their ills.
Yeah, I’m glad I’m no princess.
Anyway, things get bloody and brutal and the novel ends on a surprisingly more sombre note than I had expected it to. Still, this fairytale retelling is unlike any other I have ever read. The witch is not really a witch or rather not just a witch but presents an interesting foil to Aurora’s character. Aurora, herself, is a darker character than one would think and some of her actions, however warranted, left me musing.
If you are after an intelligent feminist retelling of Sleeping Beauty complete with toe curling kisses and very high stakes, I must insist that you read this.