Thursday, November 24, 2011

Review: Cinder and Ella, by Melissa Lemon

Title: Cinder and Ella
Author: Melissa Lemon
Publisher: Cedar Fort
Pub. Date: Nov. 8th, 2011

Read the sample here!

If you drink water and breathe air, then you have heard the story of Cinderella. And, if you drink water and breathe air, you have heard it . . . wrong.            {Cinder and Ella; p. 1, first sentences - Kindle Edition}

When I first learned of this book during my early days of traipsing through the treasures NetGalley has to offer, I was intrigued immediately. I've always been fond of fairy tale retellings, when done right, and this particular story was offering a spectacular twist in one of my favorites.

The idea that Cinderella was not one girl, but two sisters (the Cinder and Ella of the title) left me wondering how they would take the story of one stepsister-turned-servant-girl and format it to fit two separate personalities. Such a thing (to my knowledge) had never been undertaken before in the retelling of a fairy tale, and trying to figure out how the author would approach it had me eager to pick this book up.

Once I started reading, I quickly learned this was no simple retelling of the tale at all. The description of the story was brief, so I had not been prepared for this – or for the intrigue that would grip me tighter the more pages I turned.

Cinder and Ella is the story of two middle sisters who, after their father's disappearance and their mother's subsequent shut-down (she merely sits at a spinning wheel paying only enough attention to her daughters to call for another), are forced to take the reigns in their family. Cinder (who is kind, goodhearted, and eager-to-please) is more than willing to take care of the others, and give them the attention they think they need. The more independent, fiery Ella thinks they should stop acting like children and learn to do things for themselves.

When Cinder goes off to work at the castle (because, well, somebody needs to provide for this dysfunctional family), she leaves her family's care in Ella's hands, but it soon becomes to much for Ella to bear, so she takes off -- literally walking right out the door leaving her sisters and mother screaming, in search of something else.

It's not long before she's dragged back home, however, to face the nefarious plans of a certain Prince Not-So-Charming, and that's when the real craziness begins.

It was simply mind boggling to read this book. I had no idea which way was up. Melissa Lemon weaved such a dark, twisted tale beneath the innocent tone of a fairy-tale narrator, I was left little time to process the story, yet I just could not put it down. From the moment I opened the book, I had to know more.

Even if the fairy-tale style narration was a bit irritating at times. Though that is part of what made this story so interesting, the style made the story seem too young, which greatly conflicted with and distracted from the darker themes, in my opinion.

For the most part, I enjoyed this story. I blazed though the pages, which is always a great thing in any book, and the story was most definitely original.

There are some things that I wished were focused on more and explained better, like the prince and his tree's indestructibility (I did not buy the whole: he's just so evil now, you cannot defeat him), or the connection of a person to their tree – a very intriguing concept that I don't feel was explored as fully as it should have been, in my opinion. For the most part, it was explained well enough, but I'd like to have known, in particular,  why chopping Ella's father's tree down had no adverse affect on him if people are, indeed, so connected to their trees.

Also, I feel the mother's fusing of Cinder and Ella to Cinderella was too hastily done, and I don't think it was explained properly why, upon fusing the two girls, the mother completely forgot the look of one of them. Or, another thing, how were the mother and two daughters left in the family home able to survive, when they seemed so incapable of fending for themselves before Cinder and Ella left?

I wasn't too fond of the ending. The bad guy, in my opinion, wasn't really defeated. Were this any other book, I'd say this seemed like the opening for a sequel (though I don't believe that to be the case, here), that's how little of a conclusion it felt to me. And that brings us back to the whole indestructible-prince thing.

"It no longer has the capacity to produce goodness, and therefore it is no longer vulnerable to anything."  {Cinder and Ella; p. 260 - Kindle Edition}
That was the explanation in reference to the Prince and his tree. I'm sorry, I know this is Melissa Lemon's world, but that is something I absolutely refuse to believe in, even in fiction. Especially in fiction, where good is supposed to trump evil.

As I said before, for the most part, this book was enjoyable.

I loved Ella's romantic interest, the bumbling knight, Sir Tanner, though his awkwardness did seem a bit forced at times. He was a major klutz, which I found endearing, especially at times when he was trying to help Ella and, say, practically tossed her over a horse. Still, he was willing to do anything to ensure her safety, and even a stint in the castle prison couldn't keep him away for long.

I also loved seeing Ella develop as a character. Again, though, this is something that seemed forced, and even rushed at times, but the end result was favorable. She was not one of the nicest of people to her two spoiled sisters. Being a sister myself, I could somewhat understand her frustration, but Ella acted almost as bad as those two in how she handled them. When the book came to an end, though, after everything Ella had gone through, she came out more mature. Possibly, even, better equipped to deal with those opposing personalities.

Overall, I liked this story. It kept me entertained, but I wasn't in love with it. I would rate Cinder and Ella 3.3 Crazy Hearts, and recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good, dark, twisted fairy tale retelling(-ish), because this book is definitely worth a read.

Cinder and Ella


  1. Sounds interesting! Good review.

    I'm your newest follower


  2. I agree with your review! I understand what you mean by liking it but not loving it. I felt it was actually a bit too juvenile to be categorized as a YA novel, it really felt like a children's story to me.

    I also thought it was pretty neat that Cinderella was split into two separate characters. I have never read a Cinderella retelling (or ANY fairy tale retelling) where the main character was separated into two separate people and it was really refreshing to read!


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