Review of “Stray” by Elissa Sussman

Stray by Elissa SussmanA review by Maria.

Stray, a debut novel by author Elissa Sussman was an absolute delight. Reminiscent of the Disney and Grimm stories most children grow up with.

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 and her peers at the elite academy recite this mantra over and over to keep them on the path set before them. This is the path to grand balls, suitors and a marriage to a husband they will be obedient to and protected by. Their path cannot allow for any common fancies or trysts along the way and absolutely no magic!

Even though girls have ability to do magic it is reserved for the fairy godmothers assigned to every girl for her lifetime. If a girl displays too many acts of magic in life, she is redirected. While fairy godmothers are allowed magic, they were redirected to their station in life by straying from their path and becoming unsuitable for royal society.

Aislynn is prepared for her coming out ball and is excited to find a suitor. But a terrible mistake happens, and Aislynn is shunned by her peers even though she is a royal and is redirected to becoming a fairy godmother. Fairy godmothers are one of the lowest stations in society, slightly above servanthood or becoming a stray. Servants are indebted for life and have magical bonds tethering them to their post. But strays are girls that just vanish, never to be seen or heard from again, either thought to be kidnapped by the rogue queendom or killed.

Aislynn is sent to godmother academy where she must learn how to clean, mend and other chores she’s never had to do before. She also has to do magic the right way, easy and fluid, not big bursts of magic like the episode that got her redirected. She is given her own royal girl to guide as a fairy godmother. Aislynn also finds support in a boy named Thackery. This friendship grew despite a rocky start and helped Aislynn through her toughest moments as training for a fairy godmother. She also uncovers some of the more unpleasant sides to being a fairy godmother.

I adored this novel because while it had all the trappings of a happy fairy tale, it became very dark very quickly. The story flowed very well, but many elements to the world unfolded slowly. Lacking knowledge of this world was maddening at times, but the author always revealed things in due time. Sussman has made a very in-depth  world while still building on magical themes most are familiar with.

The connections in this book were wonderful as well. Even though we barely got to know Aislynn’s parents or fairy godmother for most of the book, her connection to them was painted beautifully though memories. Bridget was an interesting friend who took pity on Aislynn when she needed it most, all because Aislynn showed her the courtesy of remembering her name. Thackery took quite a while to come around and be the male love interest of this story, mostly because Aislynn pretended to be someone else when they first met. But eventually that love story did start to develop slowly and beautifully and Thackery carried his own as a romantic.

If you grew up loving fairy tales, you won’t want to miss this novel!

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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