Series: Cruel Beauty Universe #2
A romantic and fantastical reimagining of the classic Cinderella tale, Gilded Ashes is a novella by Rosamund Hodge set in the same world as the author’s debut novel, Cruel Beauty.
Orphan Maia doesn’t see the point of love when it only brings pain: Her dying mother made a bargain with the evil, all-powerful ruler of their world that anyone who hurt her beloved daughter would be punished; her new stepmother went mad with grief when Maia’s father died; and her stepsisters are desperate for their mother’s approval, yet she always spurns them. And though her family has turned her into a despised servant, Maia must always pretend to be happy, or else they’ll all be struck dead by the curse.
Anax, heir to the Duke of Sardis, doesn’t believe in love either—not since he discovered that his childhood sweetheart was only using him for his noble title. What’s the point of pretending to fall in love with a girl just so she’ll pretend to fall in love with him back? But when his father invites all the suitable girls in the kingdom to a masked ball, Anax must finally give in and select a wife.
As fate would have it, the preparations for the masquerade bring him Maia, who was asked by her eldest stepsister to deliver letters to Anax. Despite a prickly first encounter, he is charmed and intrigued by this mysterious girl who doesn’t believe in love. Anax can’t help wishing to see her again—and when he does, he can’t help falling in love with her. Against her will, Maia starts to fall in love with him too. But how can she be with him when every moment his life is in danger from her mother’s deadly bargain?
4 Drink Me Potions
“I’m not mad,” I say. “I’m the only one who’s not, because I don’t want to be loved.”
Now, is that the kind of protagonist you would think of when you imagine Cinderella? I don’t think so. And it’s completely awesome .
Rosamund Hodge has done it again with another reimagining of a famous fairy tale. Except, it’s darker than you would have ever dreamed of, yet it still sounds remotely familiar with the age-old story.
Maia is cursed. Plain, old cursed by – of all people – her mother who unintentionally ruined her life what with demons “helping” and haunting her and anyone she loves. She can never be anything but happy or else Mother Dearest will get upset and cause a great deal of harm to those who are to blame for the littlest bit of Maia’s unhappiness.
Who knew being happy could be a curse?
Her romance with Lord Anax was a little too fast for my liking. It is a novella, so I can’t be truly that picky I suppose, but for its length, I will let it slide. Their chemistry, if given ample time as it would have in a normal-sized book, would have been absolutely charming. These two people who didn’t believe in love, Maia especially.
“Love is madness,” I say. “Doesn’t everyone agree that you’d do anything, endure anything, to be with the ones you love? So either you’re willing to let them use you with any sort of cruelty, so long as they keep you – which makes you a fool – or you’re willing to commit any cruelty, so long as you get to keep them – which makes you a monster. Either way, it’s madness.”
Anax was hurt by his childhood friend and didn’t think that love was worth more than honesty. And dear Maia has Mother -er, and the demons – to consider if she were to ever love someone else. But against all odds, their unexpected friendship and meetings forged something between them. And since this is a Cinderella re-telling, of course their romance is gonna be sweet, right? But what I loved about Gilded Ashes is that the romance is equal in parts with the darker aspects Hodge added to the classic tale. It’s not too dark for me to make me too squeamish to continue reading, although that’s subjective to the individual reader. I liked that it was different from the other re-tellings which are becoming quite popular.
Not only does this short novella contain some dark qualities and the romance of Cinderella, the family dynamics with the “evil” stepmother and “ugly” stepsisters played major roles in it too. Kore and Thea were not the typical easy to hate stepsisters. What with Maia’s fear of being responsible for her mother’s wrath on those around her, she holds herself at arm’s length from her stepfamily. If it weren’t for that and another problem that comes to light, maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad between the three girls. Either way, these familial relationships were complex and also contributed to the overall plot.
All I can say is, Hodge is a genius with this novella. I do wish it was a full-length novel instead. It would’ve given the story more than what it is now, but I’m not complaining a bit about what has been written here at least. If you love the Cinderella tale, I do suggest you try out this darker version of the classical story. It may just surprise (and delightfully intrigue) you.
Gilded Ashes was a Cinderella re-telling that I have never imagined before. Plagued with demons and her ghost of a mother, Maia does not have it easy when it comes to protecting those who are around her. So it comes as no surprise that love is not something she wishes to have. It can only end in heartache. Through a chance meeting with Lord Anax, Maia may have to reconsider her opinions on love. Due to its short novella length, their romance was a little fast for my tastes but their chemistry was undeniable. As a fan of fairy tale re-tellings, Rosamund Hodge is a genius for crafting something that’s familiar at the heart of the story yet still creatively flourished with something that sets it apart from all the others. I suggest you give this darker Cinderella story a shot.