Cinder & Glass by Melissa de la Cruz

Cinder and Glass book cover


Goodreads: Cinder & Glass
Series: None
Age Category: Young Adult
Source: Giveaway from Penguin
Published: March 8, 2022

Official Summary

1682. The king sends out an invitation to all the maidens in France: their presence is requested at a number of balls and events that will be held in honor of the dashing Prince Louis, who must choose a bride.

Cendrillon de Louvois has more grace, beauty, and charm than anyone else in France. While she was once the darling child of the king’s favorite adviser, her father’s death has turned her into the servant of her stepmother and cruel stepsisters–and at her own chateau, too!

Cendrillon–now called Cinder–manages to evade her stepmother and attend the ball, where she catches the eye of the handsome Prince Louis and his younger brother Auguste.

Even though Cendrillon has an immediate aversion to Louis, and a connection with Auguste, the only way to escape her stepmother is to compete with the other women at court for the Prince’s hand.

Soon, as Cendrillon glows closer to Auguste and dislikes the prince more and more, she will have to decide if she can bear losing the boy she loves in order to leave a life she hates.

Melissa de la Cruz takes a lush, romantic hand to this retold fairy tale classic.

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Cinder & Glass strikes me as the type of book I would have enjoyed reading as an actual teen, a time both when the YA market wasn’t as saturated with wildly good, sweeping fantasy as it is now and when my own personal standards for being impressed weren’t so high, purely because I hadn’t read as many books as I have now that I’m older. That is, Cinder & Glass is a perfectly good, serviceable retelling of “Cinderella” that will be a fun, light read for someone who likes “Cinderella” retellings, but it just isn’t particularly memorable and doesn’t add any really original twists to the story.

This is a nice choice for readers wondering where all the “lower YA” has gone, in a market that seems dominated by really dark and mature YA books. If you want a light romance that mostly sticks to kissing and a book that has obstacles and set-backs for the protagonists but that doesn’t delve deep into cruelty, abuse, exploitation, dark magic, etc., then this is definitely a book to look into. It is, truly, simply a retelling of “Cinderella” set in 17th-century France, following the basic storyline one would expect. The main spin-off is that the second half of the book, instead of featuring simply a ball, involves a bit of a “contest” among various women the prince might pick for his wife (imagine something along the lines of The Selection).

I am on the fence about the pacing of the book, however, and whether things like the eligible maiden contest and the romances in general felt rushed. Part of me thinks they are; part of me appreciates a nice YA standalone that just gets the job done and wrapped out, rather than drawing everything out into a dramatic and lengthy trilogy. This is another reason the book reminds me of the YA published when I was a teen myself and why I think it works nicely as a lower YA recommendation.

So . . . this book is fine; my biggest problem is that I don’t have much to say about it beyond that. It fills a niche I think has been left empty in the current YA market for some time, so if you have a job where you recommend books to others, this is worth keeping in mind. If you are personally an avid reader of YA fantasy and retellings, this one is not likely to stand out to you.

3 Stars

Geekerella by Ashley Poston



Goodreads: Geekerella
Series: Starfield #1
Source: Quirk Books for Review
Published: April 4, 2017

Official Summary

Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic science-fiction series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck and her dad’s old costume, Elle’s determined to win – unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons – before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he has ever wanted, but Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake – until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise. But when she disappears at midnight, will he ever be able to find her again?

Part-romance, part-love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom.

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I love fairy tale retellings, but if you had asked me before I read Geekerella if it were possible for someone to write a take on “Cinderella” that felt fresh, I probably would have said no.  The plot line is so well-known and in some ways so straightforward that I don’t even read a lot of retellings of it anymore; I tend to turn towards more obscure fairy tales.  However Poston’s take on geeky Cinderella who meets her Prince Charming at a con does put a lively twist on the tale, even as it follows the well-worn lines of the story. I don’t think I’ve had this much fun reading a book in a long time.

The book raises some interesting questions about what it means to be a “true fan” of something and explores the good and bad sides of geek culture. I’ve seen some arguments that the premise is absurd because geeks aren’t even outcasts anymore, and while it’s true that geek culture has never been more mainstream, I think it’s important to note here that Elle and her ilk are hardcore fans of the fictional show Starfield.  We’re not talking the type of fan who, say, just really likes The Lord of the Rings or Star Trek. We’re talking about the type of fan who speaks Elvish or can tell you what color earring someone was wearing in in scene 3 of episode 12.  I think these type of fans do still get side-eyed for being a bit weird.

However, ultimately the story is just pure fun, and I don’t think readers should over-think it.  The most common description I’ve seen is “super cute,” and this hits the right note.  So, while parts do read as “unrealistic” (I mean, a teenage fashion designer driving a vegan food truck named the Magic Pumpkin who goes on a badass mission with it, mowing over barriers at a country club does strain credulity), that’s part of the appeal. Geekerella is a crazy, improbable, but amazingly enviable adventure where the geeky girl next door has a chance to nab a movie star boyfriend who shares her geeky interests! So, yeah, cute.

This book will resonate with readers who have ever felt out-of-place or who ever just dreamed of something this unlikely happening to them. “Cinderella” is all about the right circumstances converging to make someone’s life brighter than it had been before, and Poston taps into that to write a compelling take that walks the line between normal high school life and fantasy. Definitely a recommended read from me.

Note: Goodreads tells me this is the first book in a series, but it definitely reads as a standalone. It looks as if book 2 might be a companion book more than a sequel.

4 stars Briana