Bristal, an orphaned kitchen maid, lands in a gritty fairy tale gone wrong when she discovers she is an elicromancer with a knack for shape-shifting. An ancient breed of immortal magic beings, elicromancers have been winnowed down to merely two – now three – after centuries of bloody conflict in the realm. Their gifts are fraught with responsibility, and sixteen-year-old Bristal is torn between two paths. Should she vow to seek the good of the world, to protect and serve mortals? Or should she follow the strength of her power, even if it leads to unknown terrors? She draws on her ability to disguise herself as a man to infiltrate a prince’s band of soldiers, and masquerades as a fairy godmother to shield a cursed princess, but time is running out. As an army of dark creatures grows closer, Bristal faces a supernatural war. To save the kingdoms, Bristal must find the courage to show her true form.
Building on homages to Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Jane Austen’s Emma and the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, Hannah West makes a spectacular debut.
I didn’t know that this book was supposed to be a collection of fairy tale retellings until I read the synopsis again when preparing to write this review, and this basically sums up my experience with the novel. It tried to do far too many things at once, and while some story arcs went well, some were confusing and felt unfinished.
We start with Bristal, as she finds out that she has powers. She becomes an apprentice of Tamarice and Brack, who teach her what it is to be an elicromancer. Then there is a huge time skip, and you are thrown into a scene where Bristal is protecting a baby princess, who ends up being cursed. I suppose that this was the Sleeping Beauty retelling portion of the story. Then, there was another time skip (I think), and you are dealing with an older Bristal who has been fighting the evil Tamarice with Brack for many years. She uses her disguising powers to be able to get close to political figures to learn secrets.
All of this happens within the first 104 pages of the book. We skipped from her being a novice, to saving someone’s life, to being a master of her skills in 100 pages. This is simply far too fast-paced for me to connect to Bristal in any way. There were also side characters who were important to the rest of the story, but they seemed to pop in and out of the story at whim. I didn’t even know who was supposed to be important to Bristal. This book definitely should have been split into two, with the first novel being about Bristal training, getting close to her mentors, and then getting betrayed by one. Then the second novel should have been about her as an experienced elicromancer, trying to stop her old mentor from wreaking havoc on her friends and world.
The one thing that saved this book from being a 1 star read for me was the story after the first 100 pages. I truly enjoyed seeing Bristal change into the different characters to fit her needs. She could turn into any gender or age she wanted to, and this truly served to her advantage, even if it put her in uncomfortable situations from time to time. Anthony was my second favorite character in the entire novel, even if the rushed plot made me not connect with him as much.
Overall, I would have to say that lovers of fantasy should pass on this book. It is simply trying to do too much in only 300 pages, and the small saving graces of the book did not make it enjoyable.
I received a copy of this book and this is my voluntary review.
Overall Rating: 2 out of 5 books