Release date: February 14, 2017
The world has turned upside down for Thad and Ari Glavan, the bastard twins of Súndraille’s king. Their mother was murdered. The royal family died mysteriously. And now Thad sits on the throne of a kingdom whose streets are suddenly overrun with violence that he can’t stop.
Growing up ignored by the nobility, Ari never wanted to be a proper princess. And when Thad suddenly starts training Ari to take his place, she realizes that her brother’s ascension to the throne wasn’t fate. It was the work of a Wish Granter named Alistair Teague, who tricked Thad into wishing away both the safety of his people and his soul in exchange for the crown.
So Ari recruits the help of Thad’s enigmatic new weapons master, Sebastian Vaughn, to teach her how to fight Teague. With secret ties to Teague’s criminal empire, Sebastian might just hold the key to discovering Alistair’s weaknesses, saving Ari’s brother—and herself.
But Teague is ruthless and more than ready to destroy anyone who dares stand in his way—and now he has his sights set on the princess. And if Ari can’t outwit him, she’ll lose Sebastian, her brother…and her soul.
Look, I have read many retellings and they mostly focus on the big three – Sleeping Beauty, Snow White or Cinderella. There have also been some interesting ones of Red Riding Hood. BUT — this was the first Rumpelstiltskin retelling I have read. It takes the world of Ravenspire but does not have much connection to the former book, The Shadow Queen (besides a little name-dropping here and there), which means you can read this book independently. The world is fantasy so it is pretty much the generic magic-containing world so you can hop right into this one. The story begins with a wish – and like all wishes made, the price is much more than the happiness that the wish would provide. Ari’s brother Thad, made a wish to be king, despite them being illegitimate kids, just so that he could protect them from the wrath of the current Queen. His wish is a contract with the Wish Granter, aka Rumpelstiltskin (though this is not known until the end), and the price is the collection of soul after 10 years. (If you got the Supernatural crossroads demon reference, take a shot)
Ari, when she finds out, sets herself on the path to determine a way to break the contract and/or save her brother’s soul from the fae who has claimed it. She does not know initially that the childhood stories she heard about the Wish Granter are true, and that she is facing down a powerful fae who has been known for centuries worth of trickery. So, she has to use her wits to negotiate with him, to get him to trip up and expose his weakness so that she can break the deal made. Helping her is the new weapons master, Sebastian, who has risen from the dark past of his abusive childhood to eke out a respectable living in the castle. He is surprised by a princess who is kind, who doesn’t treat him or anybody else like a servant, and who is effortlessly cheerful and optimistic. She truly is a formidable girl to go up against a trickster like Rumple and come out of it alive (well…) and I found her impressive. Also, she is repeatedly depicted as chubby, and loves her pastries, so a lot of Nina Zenik vibes for you SoC fans, too!
Overall, I would say this one set the bar higher than Shadow Queen, with a more comprehensive world and rules about deals and magic. I was also delighted that the story about spinning the straw into gold was given a good twist to describe Rumple’s past. He was a formidable villain, and the battle of wits between him and Ari kept me on my toes until the end.
Received a free review copy from Balzer & Bray, via Edelweiss.