I received an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
This story is a gay-friendly Cinderella retelling seen from the point of view of Hayden, assistant to Lily, a fairy that helps other people in need. That’s everything that fairies do in this fictional world: they appear to be sensing other people’s needs and desires and they help them achieve them, but they can’t really work alone. They need to be bound to a human to have the energy to do their magic, and after some time they bind themselves to someone else. Fairy-magic is not the same as mage-magic, but all magic is outlawed in this kingdom. For this reason, Hayden needs to keep Lily hidden, especially since a knight named Sidney has already tried to catch him a few times in different towns where he’s helped people through fairy magic.
Hayden begins to work for a family where the person Lily has chosen to help also works. Her name is Renee and she’s our Cinderella: stepdaughter to the lady of the house, but only a servant now that her father has died.
The story sees Hayden as he helps Lily prepare the magic necessary to bring Renee to the masked ball, and the way his relationship with Sidney develops.
I think the premise to this book is great. I generally don’t care for the original fairy tales, but I do love their retellings, especially when they’re done in a gay-friendly way. So I was really expecting to like it, and while I did like a couple of things, I didn’t really enjoy my reading experience overall.
The characters were really flat in my opinion. I guess stereotypical characters fit in a fairy tale world, in a way, but I like my retellings to have some more grey-area people in them. The protagonist felt like a teenager, and only around half of the book is it mentioned that he’s actually twenty-seven. Mh. Okay.
The world building was very simple, but I found it fit well in the story, and we were given all the information we really needed. I especially liked the take on fairies and magic: Lily wasn’t described to be an all-powerful being, she has her limits and needs to be bound to someone to be able to do her thing, and even then, the things she can create out of thin air are very few, and she usually needs some base to work from. Overall, the world building was the part of this book that I enjoyed the most.
The plot was very lacking, and I find it more so the more I think about it. It was really simple and it did nothing to create an atmosphere or a deeper understanding of the characters. At one point, Hayden tells Renee he will tell her about the people he’s already helped with Lily in other towns, and I was hoping he would actually do that before the end of the book, but nope. That didn’t happen, and I wonder why the author would even include this dialogue if she didn’t intend to build on it. That’s just one example, but I could mention the way the bad guy gets dealt with (you’re left thinking Really? That’s it?) and the pacing of the story that seems to be really off.
Even with all these problems, I was at the very least expecting to enjoy the romance. I’m sad to say that didn’t happen. It made me feel nothing, and I don’t like feeling nothing when I should be smiling from ear to ear.
But let’s get to the worst thing about this book: the writing. I was so annoyed and disappointed with it. First of all, the use of the personal pronouns. Or should I say lack thereof? Really, in every page there were at least two or three sentences where a certain name was repeated over and over where it could have easily been written as him/her or himself/herself. Then, there was a lot of tell instead of show. And the internal monologue of Hayden was either a constant repetition of itself or an endless list of things that could go wrong/suppositions/things that did nothing to improve my curiosity about what was going to happen next.
With all of that said, I give this book 2/5 stars instead of 1 (you can check out my rating system if you want) because I think that there are some people that might enjoy this book, specifically occasional/inexperienced readers that are looking for something light. I wouldn’t otherwise recommend it to other types of readers.