Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #93: Stray by Elissa Sussman

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #93: Stray by Elissa SussmanStray by Elissa Sussman
Series: Four Sisters #1
Published by Greenwillow on October 7, 2014
Genres: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Retelling, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
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I am grateful for my father, who keeps me good and sweet. I am grateful for my mother, who keeps her own heart guarded and safe. I am grateful for my adviser, who keeps me protected. I am grateful for the Path, which keeps me pure. Ever after.

Princess Aislynn has long dreamed about attending her Introduction Ball, about dancing with the handsome suitors her adviser has chosen for her, about meeting her true love and starting her happily ever after.

When the night of the ball finally arrives and Nerine Academy is awash with roses and royalty, Aislynn wants nothing more than to dance the night away, dutifully following the Path that has been laid out for her. She does not intend to stray.

But try as she might, Aislynn has never quite managed to control the magic that burns within her-magic brought on by wicked, terrible desires that threaten the Path she has vowed to take.

After all, it is wrong to want what you do not need. Isn’t it?

Recommended by: MJ (Howdy YAL!)

Before Stray  was added to my Sadie Hawkins queue, I’d mostly made up my mind to skip it. See, my lovely friend Debby (Snuggly Oranges) read it and let’s just say that she didn’t care for it. Wait, no, that’s not strong enough. She pretty much disliked everything about it. Obviously, I trust Debby. We agree on a lot of things. Her not liking Stray tells me that it’s not a shippy book, which was accurate by the way. Perhaps because Debby had warned me and lowered my expectations, I didn’t feel as negatively towards it as she did, but I still feel like it was a very meh read all around. Not impressed, but not offended either.

The world building is a mess. I mean, yay for fairy tales and all, but I feel like I have yet to see fairy tale schools actually done well. They always seem to tip over to the sexist. Ladies take courses on deportment and make up while men do whoever the fuck knows what. It’s pretty obvious that this system isn’t being held up as ideal, but I also don’t see any outright condemnation of the system. Aislynn finds it stifling certainly and doesn’t want to live within in it, but she’s still following the Path by the end. I’d guess that more will be said and could see this series taking up a feminist mantle. The evil guys do seem to be representatives of the patriarchy at any rate. However, not much has been done with respect to this so far.

My big issue with the world building was that it was utterly nonsensical. Young ladies of wealth are sent to schools whenever they exhibit magical talent. This usually happens around fourteen, but for the more powerful, like Aislynn, might happen younger. This is where they learn about dancing and flirting, so that, during their sixteenth year, they can find a husband. Each girl has a fairy godmother, who assists her and, much like Big Brother, reports back to the administration any instances of her charge using magic. The sole goal in life of the girls is to find a husband once they’re out in society. I’ll not go into the weird tiered system of kings, so that many of the girls can be princesses, because I frankly didn’t understand it.

If the girl does too much magic, she has strayed from the Path and must be Redirected, as happens to Aislynn, When this happens, she’s forced to become a fairy godmother. They can use magic in service of their assigned lady. Aislynn is immediately assigned to one of the highest ranking girls in the kingdom, because reasons. The fairy godmothers wear habits and have their hearts taken away and learn magic. Aislynn, again because reasons, has feelings even though her heart is taken away. She’s just special, I guess. She is unlike any other fairy godmother. She can have a romance and break rules. Whatever.

Then there are the servants, aka the only people who appear to actually do anything of use in this kingdom. They ALSO have magic. This is my issue. There are all of these rich people ruling over the country. Half of them are trained not to use their magic. Then there are all of these people in subservient roles who are taught how to use their magic really well. Yet, they only use their magic in service of their masters. If I were a Redirected princess, I’d take everyone out with my fairy godmother magic fu. I suppose the removal of the emotions is meant to squash any rebellious tendencies, but wouldn’t that just make me more logical and inclined to see how I could fight most effectively?

Aislynn, much like her book, is meh. I don’t loathe Aislynn. She’s just sort of there. The only time she ever really seems like a person is when she’s cooking. Otherwise, she ventures to oft towards special snowflake syndrome. I don’t like that she’s the only fairy godmother to retain some of her feelings. I want there to be a reason. Did someone fuck up when taking her heart? If it’s just that she’s special, I want to barf on this book. Her magical abilities also come and go at really convenient times to move the plot along. She finally seems to master them without any training whatsoever. In fact, training made her worse. How convenient. Indeed, a lot of things just sort of drop into her lap, like the end of the book where a wolf friend just appears to defend her and reveal plot points to her. Her love interest, Thackery, is alright. The romance was sort of kind of cute, at least from his side.

Ultimately, I’m just not really sure what the point of all of this was. The world doesn’t work for me which places everything else on this really shaky foundation. If I cared about Aislynn, then I could ignore that, but I really don’t think there’s anything to her. I didn’t unship the romance, but it was mostly just there. I’m not sure if I’ll read the next book or not. I’m not planning on it, but a pretty cover or curiosity to find out what the point was might lure me in.

Favorite Quote:

“Please don’t let me interrupt the tremendous lie you are currently constructing.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

gif fairy godmother shrek
Basically, this fairy godmother makes way more sense.

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5 responses to “Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #93: Stray by Elissa Sussman”

  1. Now feeling very glad I DNFed this one, though I still wonder why I wanted to read it in the first place. I quit 15% in because the kind of worldbuilding this novel does (aka super sexist system built solely for it to be torn down) isn’t my kind of thing, but I see it had worse problems than I thought I did! So very many sorries that you suffered through the entire book and its nonsensicalness.

    Also, what kind of love interest name is Thackery? It makes me think of “thwack” and the imaginary art of thwackery and now I want to know what the art of thwackery is used for. Is that what self-defense training is called in fairy tale worlds? This is a very important question that I need a book to answer.

    • Christina Franke says:

      Yeahhhh. It wasn’t really painful to read, which is why I’m more neutral to it than anything, but it definitely wasn’t good. World building? What world building? Also, I wish there had been an art of thwackery class, but that would mean they think women can do things. Silly, Ashleigh. Women can’t do things!

  2. MJ says:

    Thanks for reading this one. Believe it or not, I’ve actually seen some positive reviews for it, but after reading Debby and Ashleigh’s review I was really in the unsure camp. I think now if I do read it, I’ll library it. I do like the idea of the world, but the MC really sounds like an idiot to me.
    MJ recently posted…Year in Review: Best and Worst CharactersMy Profile

  3. Ahhh I bought this and was pretty excited about it but I’ve read nothing but bad and meh reviews. What a bummer, I’m not a fan of nonsensical magic systems. Love the gif, Shrek 2 is the best!
    Morgan @ Gone with the Words recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’m Looking Forward To In 2015My Profile

  4. Hahaha, glad I could help to SEVERELY lower your expectations. But yeah, the world building in this thing is such a messsssssssss. And for the rest it’s just meh meh with speshul snowflake girl and average romance and just nothing to make me CARE. =| Oh well.
    Debby (Snuggly Oranges) recently posted…Ship-Defining Quotes – a.k.a. ASDFJKL; MY FEELSMy Profile

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