Friday, 12 August 2011

Cinder & Ella by Melissa Lemon

So pretty! This is quite obviously a fairy tale retelling (or is it a re-imagining?) Loving the whimsicality of this cover and the gnarly old tree is a big part of the actual story so extra points for that.

Branching Out
The little house of Willow top was once a happy place for Weston of Willow Top, his beautiful wife Adela and their four wonderful daughters: Katrina the eldest, Cinder, Ella and Beatrice the little one. But one fateful day the evil Prince Monticello comes spreading lies and falsities about his father the King. The girls father is so inspired by these words he leaves with nary a word. Years past and their mother grows distant, Katrina becomes vain and Beatrice grows spoilt. Only Cinder (with a little help from Ella) keeps the home running smoothly. But when she decides to go work in the Kings castle Ella can no longer stand to live in a house were she is ignored and bullied. Setting out on her own she starts a series of events which will lead her to confront the evil Prince, fall in love with a clumsy knight and maybe return her father home.

Hack, Slash and Burn
Oh dear. Like many people who enjoy young adult and fantasy stories, a great fairy tale rewrite (reproduction? recreation?) is one of my favorite things to sink into on a lazy Sunday. But this was not an enjoyable read for me at all, but I'll get to that in a bit firstly the good stuff.

I did appreciate the idea behind this reconstruction of the Cinderella story, having the two separate girls who are melded into one in the mind of their heartbroken and distant mother. But thats all this was, a good idea executed weakly. The girls were kind of vague and wishy washy to me, Ella eventually comes into her own towards the end, developing a little into a stronger likable character but Cinder remains limp  and pale throughout the story. I barely noticed her unless she was getting all hot and heavy over the obviously evil Prince, and then I just felt annoyed at her for being so weak.
"The prince was always careful not to be caught in one of his lies, but this time he had come close. There were too many knights in the kingdom to keep track of them all and until that moment, Monticello had not realized that the knight standing before him was the knight he had been waiting for.  
Monticello walked to Cinder and whispered in her ear.  
"I will go and hear what he has to say and then bring the news to you. I won't allow him to spoil your evening any further." He stroked her soft, round cheek and nudged her toward her seat at the table. "Sit back down, Cinder. This is a ball. And you are supposed to be having a good time.""
Another thing I did like was the little bits of legend Ms Lemon sprinkled in, especially the legend of the trees, how very person is linked to a certain tree in the world and as they thrive so does the tree. That was a nice touch that was somewhat ruined by the rules of the trees constantly changing, one minute chopping down someone's tree and burning it proves to have no direct effect on them at all. And then all of a sudden choking a tree with weeds will causes the tree's person to become fatally ill. Make up your mind!

And lastly I was not a huge fan of the strange matter-of-fact writing style. Sometimes authors can take flowery language too far but a little masterful description can really lift some stories. None of that here, the whole book was written in such straight forward 'they did this and then that happened which lead to this and by the way that was because of that' kind of way that it never once pulled me in to the story. After reading a few other reviews I have to agree with the theory that this had to have been written more as moral fable rather then a actual novel. Something to be used for classes and lessons rather then personal enjoyment and the long list of discussion questions at the end cements this.

All in all this wasn't a terrible book, because it wasn't really a book. It was a lesson. That said I'm still not sure what it was meant to be teaching me seeing as the baddie seemed to have no reason for being evil and in the end his defeat was one of those 'why didn't they do that before?' moments that always annoys me. I think this book would be fine to read to small children (unless you're against your kid hearing about kissing or sword fights but then I guess you got bigger problems then deciding what to read to them) but I wouldn't recommend this to teenagers or adults, there are lots more superior takes on fairy tales out there.

Cinder & Ella is released on the 8th November 2011. I received this advanced reader copy for review from the magical genies at NetGalley and was in no way offered any wishes or jewels for my review.