Author: Rosamund Hodge
Publication date: April 2014
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?
Cinderella is one of my favorite fairytales, so I was over the moon when I found out this book! I love Rosamund Hodge’s debut, Cruel Beauty, and I’m so excited to tell you guys that Gilded Ashes is just as amazing! It has all the things I love from Rosamund Hodge’s Cruel Beauty: strong heroine, slow-building romance, twisted humor, and intricate plots. ♥
My mother loved me more than life itself. That’s how everything went wrong.
In Gilded Ashes, we meet Maia, daughter of a noble family who spends her days acting as the maid of her family. Maia’s family consist of a stepmother who demands nothing less but perfection, an uptight and desperate to be loved stepsister named Koré, and a kind yet foolish stepsister named Thea. They have no money and live in a rundown mansion. When Stepmother learns about the upcoming ball in a Duke’s house, she knows that it’s their chance to restore the family’s wealth and honor by marrying her daughter to the Duke’s son.
Koré asks Maia to deliver her letters to the Duke’s son, Lord Anax. This leads to Maia’s encounters with the ignorant noble, their unlikely friendship, and later, their slow-budding romance. But this is not a usual Cinderella tale and Maia can’t risk loving or hating anyone – not if she wants those people to stay alive. The only person she can love in this world is her mother, or specifically, the ghost of her mother.
Gilded Ashes is set in the same world with Cruel Beauty, and I love the similar references. Shadow that can make you go mad and a demon lord who will grant wishes if you’re willing to pay. While the novella is only 105 pages, it’s rich with characterization. Every character is not one-hundred percent good or bad, and even Stepmother has her own reason of being cruel to everyone including herself. The stepsisters are not usual ornaments in the story, but they serve great roles.
I love Rosamund Hodge’s heroines: they are delicate balance of intelligence, snark, and kindness. They are not easily won over and I like that about them. I very appreciate the fact that those heroines are the ones who decide their own fates in the end. They create their own stories and do not serve as only vessels for other people.
In short, I really enjoyed Gilded Ashes and look forward to read future books from the author. It’s a satisfying book for a novella and one I would recommend to those searching for short work or great fairytale retelling. It’s not usual Cinderella retelling. If you enjoyed Cruel Beauty, feel free to dive in! You wouldn’t disappointed. :)
If Koré can convince Lord Anax to marry her, then she will leave this house. Probably she will take Thea with her. Maybe they’ll even convince Stepmother to live at the palace with them, and then I won’t have to protect anyone.
Nobody to protect. I can hardly imagine such freedom.
“I’ll do it,” I say, my heart beating a swift, dizzy song of maybe, maybe, maybe. “I’ll do it.”
4 cups of tea!
Absolutely fairytale-ish. Beautiful.