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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.