Author: Rosamund Hodge
Genre: Young Adult
Series: Cruel Beauty #1.5
Gilded Ashes is a novella in Rosamund Hodge’s Cruel Beauty series and one of the most interesting Cinderella retellings I’ve read in a while. Since there’s no references made to the first book in the series (Cruel Beauty), Gilded Ashes works nicely as an introduction to Hodge’s writing and her world.
Maia is haunted by her mother’s ghost who exacts vengeance on anyone that upsets her daughter. After witnessing the cruelty her mother can exact from the grave, Maia has learned to smile and pretend nothing bothers her. She has spent years feigning happiness in order to protect her step mother and sisters. So, when one of the step-sisters asks her to start delivering love letters to Anax, the heir of the Duke of Sardis, she agrees. It’s an opportunity that Maia can’t pass-up since a marriage would get her family away from her mother’s watchful presence.
I was blown away by this novella. I wasn’t expecting to be so drawn into the world, characters, or Hodge’s beautiful writing. I bought it on a whim yesterday expecting a cute Cinderella retelling and got a wonderful, kind of dark, story instead. Maia is cynical about love because it is what motivated her mother to ensure she could still protect Maia after her death. She’s seen love do nothing but harm her entire life, so I completely understood her mind-set. It was an interesting flip on the typical Cinderella story since Maia didn’t crave love and had power. She could’ve destroyed her family for their ill treatment but chose to protect them instead. It was refreshing to see the main character in this sort of retelling not cast as a complete victim.
My only complaint about the novella was that the ending felt a little rushed concerning her relationship with Anax. After the drama that had transpired between them (prior to the climax) I had a hard time believing their relationship was immediately set right. However, it was only a small complaint and taken in context with the rest of the story, very minor.
If you’ve been considering reading Cruel Beauty but would like a small sample of Hodge’s writing before committing to a full length novel, I would highly recommend checking out Gilded Ashes.