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    A mediocre YA fantasy

    I received an ARC of this book for an honest and voluntary review. I was in no way compensated for this review. Where do I even start with this book? When I read the blurb, I was pretty excited to read this one. But, I'm sorely disappointed. The story is a retelling of "Cinderella" but it's more dark fantasy than the classic fairytale and takes its cue from the Grimm brothers. However, the story is very poorly executed. Firstly, the writing is very mediocre. There's no worldbuidling whatsoever and anything that is described lacks any detail. The book reads at a middle grade level but due to the content and dark nature of the novel, it is classified as a YA novel. I was looking forward to experiencing the atmosphere and fantastical elements of the novel but nothing ever came. There's no history given of the places or the setting of the story. The story also features a magical system, but it plays a minor role in the storyline. I think this was an integral part of the plot that was sidelined and not incorporated well enough. Plus, the description of the realms was very confusing. In addition, the writing was very monotonous and bland. The structure of the novel is such that the chapters are quite huge, so reading became extremely tedious and there were times when I just wanted to DNF this book. Secondly, the characters are like cardboard cutouts. The MC Nora lacks any real character development. She has no actual backstory and we aren't given a clear glimpse into her emotions and motives. So when the plot reveals unravel, she comes across as a very childish and immature girl who lacks compassion. The only characters that are worth writing home about are the minor ones. They actually have backstories but they are mostly used as props to narrate the story of Nora. Thirdly, there is little to no romance in this retelling which I feel was a big mistake as the story of Cinderella hinges on it. Moreover, the chemistry that the author places between Jack and Nora is completely unfounded. He comes across as more of a brother than a love interest. There's no spark, feels, nothing. It's as if the author just wrote that in for the sake of it. So, that led me to remove another star from my rating. Lastly, I felt the plot was not complex enough or explained sufficiently. I saw no real overarching storyline. Even when Nora finds out about her heritage, the author just rushes with the plot. There was no layering of subplots. No added elements to give this story zing which it most desperately needed because it had the potential to be a great one. I would have liked to see more. Even the ending was felt unfinished and unsatisfying. That left me even more frustrated with the story than ever. The only reason I give this story 2.5 stars is that it had a unique premise and I did like the grittiness of it. I liked how the story delved into the darker aspects of Cinderella. From, the promising storyline I did feel bad for Nora as she dealt with the abusive and unfair treatment from her family. She doesn't seem to catch a break and longs to be acknowledged for who she really is. She is desperate for freedom and justice. I would have liked to see this explored further. I honestly think that if the author managed to do so, this novel would have been phenomenal. Alas, there are way better retellings out there. I would give this one a miss.
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