Book Review: Gilded Ashes by Rosamund Hodge

This is a companion novella to the excellent Cruel Beauty. Usually I’m not one for novellas — they don’t give you the bite-sized intensity of a short story, and they don’t give you the full development of a novel. This was a pretty good story, though. It takes place sometime before or up to the middle of Cruel Beauty. Every day of Maia’s life is a struggle, but not because she has to do all the chores heaped on her by her stepmother and stepsisters. It’s because she constantly has to pretend to be happy so that her mother’s ghost won’t send demons to kill those who upset her. Can you imagine that — constantly having to repress your true emotions, not even being able to have a good cry in private, in order to protect people who don’t even respect you because they still don’t deserve to die? This is something that resonated with me because I often feel like I have to put my own emotions aside for others’ sakes. I’m constantly questioning whether I have the right to feel the way I feel or whether I’m overreacting. Another resonant element of this story: a parent/guardian who thinks they know what’s best for you, even though you know what’s best for yourself — or even if you don’t, you at least know that what your parent wants for you is still not what’s best for you. I don’t really have anything to say about the romance. It was good — Hodge always writes scintillating banter. But the complex web of Maia’s family problems was far more interesting. I think Gilded Ashes is definitely worth checking out. Even though it’s short, it’s probably better written than a lot of YA fantasies out there.

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