Two books usually give someone a good feel for an author’s writing style, in terms of their stylistic approaches and the choices they make with characters. But I’m not quite sure about that still, as I’m once again left with the same complicated reaction that I had after reading “Cruel Beauty”. With “Gilded Ashes” though I liked the story significantly less, and found there to be more issues.
“Gilded Ashes” presents a similar dark twist on a familiar fairytale, returning with bargaining demons and Greek mythology woven into the otherwise very Western-European retelling. But this time, the main character Maia was much more dislikable and problematic. As some pointed out, I didn’t get why she simply went along with her lies and pretense of being happy. If you want your mother’s ghost to stay but hate her cruel ways, why don’t you try reasoning with her first? And if that doesn’t work, well, perhaps then her choice in the end should’ve occurred earlier, in order to spare everyone the pain and terror that occurred throughout the novella. She seemed much more selfish and difficult to place. Nyx also had a slightly selfish streak in “Cruel Beauty”, but she was much wittier, and what’s more I BELIEVED that she was quirky and witty. Maia didn’t sell this point very well. Her conversations with the prince in the beginning were confusing, and her strategy to convince him that he needed to marry her stepsister were odd. No wonder the prince didn’t go along with it.
The Greek mythology also felt out of place this time, overloaded and at times even seeming to intrude into the writing, with the references to household gods and Zeus and Hera, among other deities. This mainly was due to the shortness of the story, I think, which meant that there was very little time to ease the reader into the world of Acadia and make the lifestyle feel plausible and natural. The whole story felt very rushed and false, like the heart and effort that was put into “Cruel Beauty” was missing this time around.
It was a very quick read, but a very unengaging one. There were problems left, right, and center, making for a predictable and complicated retelling that tried putting forward something new but ultimately ended up getting tangled in its own retelling. Maybe it’s because it’s a novella, but “Gilded Ashes” just felt like a story that was written based on the wave of publicity and enthusiasm for “Cruel Beauty”. It lacked a lot for me, although it was interesting enough for me to quickly plow through it, an easy but most likely forgettable read. I hope “Crimson Bound” will change my mind and really utilize all the potential I could feel sitting there in the words and shooting past me without sinking in.