Stain by A.G. Howard was released in January. I am trying to get better about finding the new releases as they happen. This is one I am really glad I saw my library had available. I had to wait a minute because others read it ahead of me.
This book is not a retelling of a fairy tale. I was expecting to see bones of something familiar – and although there are a few references, this is definitely it’s own story. Supposedly it’s based on “the princess and the pea” but I think it’s got significant legs of it own. Lyra can’t talk and usually a “silent” protagonist is really difficult, but Howard does a good job.
My biggest critique is how long it takes to get to what I felt was the “meat” of the book. The first 1/3 of the book or so has a perfect tone of a fairy tale. But it takes too long. I think Howard was aiming for character development, but the fairy tale style really doesn’t do that very well. It was only after Lyra ends up in the forest I really felt sucked in. I wish that had been much, much sooner.
Both Lyra and Vesper become interesting characters. They are idealized royalty – so they love their people and their kingdoms above all else (power and benefits are just a nice little bonus). They are imperfect characters – everyone is. And a lot of the characters who should be less-than-savory are part of the solution to parts of the story.
I feel like my above paragraphs are far too critical and negative for how much I did enjoy this book. It was definitely PG-13, a good balance between modern fairy tale violence and fairy tale violence (you know- original Cinderella kind of violence). The characters are rounded while Howard fights to keep the traditional type of tone for a fairy tale (and does a good job of it!).
Let me sum it up this way – I found out Howard has written another book based on Alice and Wonderland and it’s on my “to read” shelf now.