Jean, 39, lover of sci-fi, horror and fantasy, reader of comic books, conqueror of genre fiction.
Because I read so many fairy tale retellings, this one kept coming up, and I kept ignoring it, seeing those magic, off-putting words (or so I thought ): "A modern reimagining." Ugh, no thank you! How could that possibly be as creative, as fun, as a fantasy world? I had visions of Once Upon a Time dancing in my head (I do love that show, but the cheese factor is starting to kill me!) even as every recommendation referred to Cross' work as dark, edgier than most, an intriguing prospect that finally made me pick the book up.
And I realized I'd been so wrong. This is modernized fairy tales done right. It reminded me a bit of Mercedes Lackey's Five Hundred Kingdoms (I did mention I read a LOT of retellings, right?) with people fated, born to relive traditional fairy tale roles, except in the modern world. I like that idea, of someone finding out they're a "Sleeping Beauty" and the boy next door is a "Prince Charming" who might just be the one to save them. And that the heroes and heroines can be and often are victims of their "blessings" just added another rich layer to it (and made the reader realize just how awful fairy tales can be for those who are supposed to live through them!)
With Mira, Cross does something truly brave: she dares to let her make unlikable and occasionally really dumb decisions. There is no one, I have learned from personal experience, less capable of making their own choices than a fifteen year old who's shouting that they can make their own choices. And the author's aware of this, using it. I once said that I love challenging female characters, and Mira is now at the top of that list; she challenged me, and even if I didn't love her as a person, I recognized her as one, and could even identify,even as I winced and cringed.
Bluebeard is a fairy tale that doesn't get used a lot in these things, because of how dark it is. And, wow, it's used to wonderful effect here! And I do genuinely love Blue; not just in the way that I feel most YA authors manipulate me into wanting me to fall in love with their male romantic lead, but truly, I enjoyed him as a character, the dork. And the way the Bluebeard story plays out... It was so well done.
Which leads me to the ending. How Mira defeats Felix made me smile at the cleverness, and... I've seen the charge that the very end, the "solution," is too convenient, too trite, and I disagree. While Mira popping in her fairy godmothers' facing and telling them to soften the Bluebeard curse as they softened the sleeping Beauty curse might have felt that way, cheap, but for the fact that Blue tells her about the room, that she has that knowledge, and they trust each other enough to stay together, makes it something much different, subverting, in my opinion, the typical happily ever after, making it more real, more grounded.
I ran out and instantly bought Tear You Apart and the novellas After the Ball and Twin Roses for more Beau Rivage goodness. I think it's safe to say that I'm in love! (And, please,support Sarah Cross, buy the books! Her publisher has recently gone out of business; I don't know what this means for the future of the Beau Rivage series, but if you read it,and enjoy it, let her know!)