A Curse of Ash and Iron by Christine Norris
Grimm prefers to hide behind the theater curtain than interacting with
the society in 1876 Philadelphia. Eleanor Banneker is one and only
friend, but he hasn’t seen her in years. When they are reunited he is
delighted, but shocked to discover that she’s been under a spell for 7
years. Ellie and her father are both under the spells of her stepmother,
but she is sure that she can break them. The problem is that when the
clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, her fate will be in the hands
of her stepmother. Obviously, this is a Cinderella retelling, and this
slightly puts this novel at a disadvantage. I’m not and have never been a
fan of the Cinderella story. The only adaptation I’ve ever loved and I
covet it above all the rest is Ever After. You know, the movie with Drew
Barrymore and Leonardo da Vinci. That one is my all-time favorite
Cinderella story. I do also like the movie for Ella Enchanted because
it’s cute and fun, but predominately, Cinderella stories just aren’t my
cup of tea. The reason why I was drawn to this particular retelling was
because it’s slightly steampunk.
This is told in
alternating POVs, which can either make or break a YA novel. I feel like
this novel would have benefited from only being one POV, that POV being
Ben, the male hero. Ellie’s POV isn’t fleshed out and she has more of a
mysterious vibe, which isn’t a good thing to have on an equal footing
story that is based off of Cinderella. There are fairies in this story,
which makes the plot more entertaining, but the Cinderella plot isn’t
really anything new or original. Cinderella is one of the most popular
stories ever and this doesn’t really diverge or offer a new perspective
on the story. It’s cliched… I mean it has the coveted three challenges
that ever fairytale of retelling has to have. This novel is a little too
long, which sounds crazy because this novel is only 289 pages. The
problem lies with the fact that the climax happens before the last 50
pages. It’s unnecessary and anti-climactic.
Whimsical Writing Scale: 1.75
main female character is Ellie. Ellie is a typical Cinderella cardboard
cutout. She really offers nothing new to the Cinderella character, not
like there is much to offer since Cinderella is a bit of a drab
character as it is. Ellie’s biggest drawback as a character is her lack
of authenticity, she feels more like a mystery that needs to be solved
than a person. She’s a manic-pixie-dream-girl in an 1876 fantasy story.
She also is obsessed with some stranger named Hamilton Scott. She just
needs to reevaluate her priorities because she is supposed to be focused
on breaking a curse not getting a boyfriend. She’s naïve and silly. I
want a Cinderella heroine with a good head on her shoulders who can
navigate her way out of a situation. Ellie is not that.
Kick-Butt Heroine Scale: 1.25
main male character is Ben. Ben is a magician/ inventor of illusions
and this makes for a very interesting hobby. I don’t think I’ve ever
come across a character with a passion quite like this before and it is
one of the more interesting aspects of this novel. Ben is kind of a
creep though. He is constantly mooning over Ellie and I just don’t care
about how the sun sets and falls behind her “beautiful” face.
Swoon Worthy Scale: 2
The Villain- It’s your typical evil stepmother and while her grand scheme was interesting it was rushed and typical.
Villain Scale: 1.75
shining light in this story is that Rebecca, the stepsister, isn’t
portrayed as an evil villain. It’s a nice change of pace from the usual
evil stepsister trope. Hamilton Scott didn’t need to be a character. OK.
Character Scale: 2
The ending was
predictable, cliched, and unsatisfying. The whole novel felt poorly
executed and did nothing to placate my hunger for a good book. Alas this
one wasn’t meant for me, but it may be your cup of tea. If you are a
fan of Cinderella and steampunk, then this will probably be a fun,
enticing novel for you.
Plotastic Scale: 2
Cover Thoughts: It’s not horrible, but it is kind of cringey.
Thank you, Netgalley and Curiosity Quills Press for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
What are some of your favorite Cinderella retellings? Books and movie recommendations would be lovely! Let me know down below in the comments!