ARC Review: Stray by Elissa Sussman

ARC Review: Stray by Elissa Sussman
Four Sisters #1
by Elissa Sussman

Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Publication date: October 7, 2014
by Greenwillow

Format: eARC


Amazon | Book Depository

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?

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.


Every now and then, I surprise myself by reading something I wouldn’t normally pick up (based on the cover, yes. Cover snob, right here!) and find that I’ve discovered a gem. That’s how Stray was for me. The cover’s a bit dull, and while the synopsis is interesting, it wouldn’t be something I’d have on my must read immediately! list. It’s been getting a few mediocre ratings and reviews as well.

Boy, was I pleased to find out that Stray was such an intriguing and elegant read. I wasn’t expecting to finish this as quickly as I did, but I was seriously drawn into the world Elissa Sussman created. I’m a sucker for all sorts of fairy tales with dark mysteries, whimsical worlds, confusing (in a good way) characters with their own stories, and Sussman definitely gave me what I was looking for.

There are no truths, only stories.

My favorite aspect of Sussman’s debut is definitely the world building. Although we don’t really get a huge background of the world (like how things became the way they did and such), I still thoroughly enjoyed reading about this magical and whimsical world Sussman brought me to. Again, many things were left unexplained, which is why I was so intrigued with the world’s system: they had fairy godmothers (not the funny ones Disney always gives us, but ones with more depth), family advisers, kings, queens, and all those stuff I absolutely love.

There are some things you can never return from. Some things you can never undo.

The writing definitely added to the authenticity of the book. It was very light, the kind of writing you’d expect from a fairy tale or retelling. I felt like I was floating into the world… am I still making sense? Well, that’s how I felt.

While all women are wicked, not all are weak.

The book also teaches readers many things. My favorite life lesson probably has to be one related to the quote above: We all have our wicked sides, but the people around us, those who really love us, will embrace our wickedness. We don’t need to really expel our bitterness–it will always be there. Maybe we don’t always have to be good (but please still try, people. We don’t want the universe to explode). Sometimes we can’t help it.

Aislynn is the perfect example of that. She tried to be the good girl, but eventually learned to use her magic and “wickedness” to her advantage. At first, she came off as a bit stuck-up, but she grew throughout the novel and I came to at least respect her by the end. It definitely helped that there were many interesting characters around her. There’s her fairy godmother, Tahlia, who has a dark past of her own. Bridget, a friend, shares kindness whenever she can. Thackery was such an adorable and sweet love interest. And of course the infamous Queen Josetta who we have yet to meet.

Overall, Stray‘s definitely worth the read. But if you’re expecting a lot of magic, adventure, intense action and all that, you won’t find it here. I think this first book was meant for self discovery, and as sort of a build up for the books to come. Now that you know what to expect, PICK THIS BOOK UP. Please and thank you.

*Thank you to HarperCollins/Greenwillow for the eARC! (And boy, was it a gem.) All quotes were taken from the uncorrected proof and are subject to change on the finished copy.

Rating Report
Overall: 3.9
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Aimee is a sixteen year old bookworm from the Phillipines! She reads any book that catches her attention, but she mostly reads YA. She's into graphic design, writing and sleeping. You can find her at Deadly Darlings, The Book Geek, Goodreads and on Twitter.

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  1. says

    I was surprised to see that you gave this book such a high rating because you’re right, recent reviews have been less than stellar. I like how you described this author’s writing style, and am going to check-out the preview on Amazon to see what I think. More magic would have been preferable, but self discovery can be just as good sometimes.
    Carmel @ Rabid Reads recently posted…Question: Do You Ever Wish There Was No Sex?My Profile

  2. says

    I have heard quite a few mixed reviews for this one but I definitely very intrigued about the fairy tales take of this one, and I’ve heard quite a few comments on the feminist message of the book, so that’s something that’s making me want to check it out even more!
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  3. says

    Well, it’s rare that you enjoy a book more than I do but it happened here. I did enjoy this one and it was like you said elegant read and yeah, but I had problems with it as well. I mean half of the things were just weird to me, I couldn’t understand what was the point of them. But yeah I will probably read more books in this series. Great review, Aimee :)
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  4. says

    Its been a long time since I last read something like this. I hope I could be able to find my own gem book soon haha, its been a long time since! Glad to see you loved this one! :D

  5. says

    I’ve heard so many mixed things about this one, Aimee but ultimately i’m so thrilled to hear that this one worked for you! I’ve been anxouis about this one because I love the cover and synopsis and this one seemed like such a “lily” read so i’m thrilled to hear it all worked out for you because now i’m not to scared to give it a go myself :) Lovely review!
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  6. says

    This quote really got to me :
    We all have our wicked sides, but the people around us, those who really love us, will embrace our wickedness.

    You’re making me want to pick this up. Maybe it will get the ball rolling for me! I am still not in my usual reading mood. *cries*
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  7. says

    I removed this from my tbr not twelve (maybe it was longer, actually- I haven’t counted) minutes ago! I feel like it would have really interesting thoughts with it, would certainly provoke the feel of a fairytale within me, and I love that you enjoyed it so much, but I really want a fairytale that is totally captivating and every moment is something incredible, from discoveries of magic to flights into stricken moonlight, or something like that, and I’ll remember this for sure! but I don’t think it’s quite that.

    Beuatiful review!
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