By JJA Harwood
Published May 2021
Eleanor (Ella) is the pampered adoptive daughter of a wealthy couple. But on her mother’s death, Ella is relegated to the role of a maid, cleaning grates and avoiding the attention of her lecherous stepfather. Her only retreat is the library, where she hides at night and escapes in the pages of novels.
This is where the novel takes a dark twist, since the grantor of Ella’s wishes is more demon than fairy godmother. Regardless, Ella accepts seven wishes in return for her soul. But upon making her first wish, she realizes that there is a price for her good luck and despite knowing that she could use a wish to regain her rightful place in society, she’s not sure if the price of the wish is one she’s willing to pay.
The premise of this book is excellent: A dark, gothic retelling of Cinderella with all of the smut of Victorian London. However, at times the book is very, very dark with very little to tie it into the lighter versions of the story. The consequences of Ella’s wishes are truly tragic and despite her overthinking how to phrase her wishes, they made less and less sense to me as the story went on.
The execution of the story fell flat for me in several places. While I’m aware that 19th century London wasn’t a healthy place to live, it’s amazing everyone hadn’t died of lung cancer to hear it described in this novel. Lots of repetition, particularly in the street scenes. The author hinted at Ella’s background and behavior as a child to make the reader question who was responsible for the price of Ella’s wishes, but the hints were never fleshed out. There was no “aha” moment so it seemed pointless to mention them at all.
I was at a 3-star rating up until the end when Ella started whining that she was a good person and deserved a better life than what she got, right after she’d walked through some truly tragic slums. That didn’t sit well with me. Add to that an ending that left me hanging, and I finished this book disappointed.
I may be in the minority, but I don’t think this one lived up to its promise and in the end, I rated it 2.5 stars. ⭐⭐+
If you want to check it out yourself, I’ve changed the format of my blog and the link can be found in the cover image.
Until next time, thank you for visiting.