Christine Norris’ A Curse of Ash and Iron isn’t just another Steampunk Cinderella

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Christine Norris’ A Curse of Ash and Iron isn’t just another Steampunk Cinderella

There have been many reimaginings of the Cinderella story in the past few years, and you may think you have seen all there is to see, but you would be wrong.  This one looks very steampunky, but it really didn’t feel full on steampunk – steampunk lite – so don’t pass it up just because that isn’t your thing.  If you enjoy a good fairytale retelling, I think you should definitely give this one a sample.

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Goodreads Summary

Benjamin Grimm knows the theater is much like real life. In 1876 Philadelphia, people play their parts, hiding behind the illusion of their lives, and never revealing their secrets. 

When he reunites with his childhood friend Eleanor Banneker, he is delighted. His delight turns to dismay when he discovers she has been under a spell for the past 7 years, being forced to live as a servant in her own home, and he realizes how sinister some secrets can be. She asks for his help, and he can’t refuse. Even if he doesn’t believe in ‘real’ magic, he can’t abandon her. 
Ellie has spent the long years since her mother’s death under the watchful eye and unforgiving eye of her stepmother. Bewitched and hidden in plain sight, it seems no one can help Ellie escape. Not even her own father, who is under a spell of his own. When she sees Ben one evening, it seems he is immune to the magic that binds her, and her hope is rekindled along with her friendship.
But time is running short. If they do not find a way to break the spell before midnight on New Year’s Eve, then both Ellie and her father will be bound forever. 
My Thoughts

This was a truly charming and delightful retelling of Cinderella. I have read several stories that set out on this same path this year, but I felt this one had some truly unique elements to offer. First, I thought this was most interesting because it was a dual narrative between Eleanor and her childhood friend, Ben. The addition of a male narrative to the story was a real surprise, but it added something special to the story, a something that I suddenly see has always been missing. The themes are also unique because of the setting. While this does have a steampunk vibe, it takes place in a believable Philadelphia in the late 1800’s when scientific exhibitions were sweeping the nation. This book pits the budding scientific advancement and the art of illusion against real magic and superstition in a very cool way. It also brings up themes of class differences and gender equality. Neither of these is pushed in an aggressive way, but they really enhance the story and add depth to characters and plot points. Finally, the author used a different approach to explain the troublesome questions of why Cinderella’s father never stopped EvilStepmother and why Cinderella didn’t just ask for help. Smart and fun. I found this very engaging and read it all the way through in one sitting. I wasn’t bothered by the fact that I already knew the basics of the story because the events were fresh, and, truth be told, I wasn’t exactly sure how it would end. Language and situations are appropriate for grades 7+, but adult readers of YA will also find it rather enchanting.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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About queenbook

When the final bell rings, I stash those messy piles of essays and analysis assignments in a desk drawer and I head home to a pile of good books. My kids and dog eat too many chicken nuggets and the house could be neater, but as long as I get my daily read, I guess we are doing all right. When I was twelve and fifteen and eighteen and twenty, I believed I needed to get out there and do those things I had just been reading about, which ended in disaster, tears, a tattoo that scares me every time I catch a glimpse of it in the mirror, and the realization that some of us are meant for action, and some of us are meant to critique the pace of action in a book. I read primarily YA fiction as I have a rather hulking classroom library and a hundred high school readers to engage daily. Nothing makes me happier than coming to school and finding an impatient teenager waiting by my door to turn in a book and get another one just like it. I adore a good zombie, a medieval princess, or girl assassin (I would like them all in one book if you are a writer looking for some inspiration). I add historical mystery to my wish list a year in advance, and you should get out of my way when the next Outlander book comes out. I have an embarrassing fondness for rock star books, but only if they don’t get too trashy and embarrass me. My favorite book of all time is The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. My book boyfriends include Gilbert Blythe, Alonzo Wilder, and Jamie Fraser. They are mine and you can’t have them.

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