Gilded Ashes is an atmospheric and darkly romantic reimagining of Cinderella set in the world of Cruel Beauty. Perfect for fans of An Ember in the Ashes and A Court of Thorns and Roses.
Maia doesn’t see the point of love when it only brings people pain: Her dead mother haunts anyone who hurts Maia, and her stepsisters are desperate for their mother’s approval, even though she despises them. Meanwhile, Anax, heir to the Duke of Sardis, doesn’t believe in love either—not since he discovered that his childhood sweetheart was only using him for his noble title. But when Maia’s and Anax’s paths cross before the royal ball, they discover that love might not be the curse they once thought. And it might even be the one thing that can save them both.1
Cruel Beauty was an imaginative new retelling to the tale of Beauty and the Beast but with a twist. Hodge creates a new world for us to explore as the backdrop for the retelling of some classic favourites of ours. While everything was essentially gift wrapped and put on a platter, Cruel Beauty didn’t quite deliver but I was willing to give Gilded Ashes a try.
As mentioned the story is set in the same universe with demons and bargains with shadows as Cruel Beauty has created for us. Maia lives with her step mother and two sisters. Though her father and mother have died, Maia’s mother is a constant presence in her life after she had made a deal with a demon. Those closest to Maia live in constant danger, unbeknownst to them. Maia plays the part of a good daughter, always happy and always obedient to keep her mother’s spirit happy. She has seen what has happened when those around her upset her. She has seen what lengths her mother’s spirit will go to for her daughters happiness.
Maia’s step mother is set on upholding the honour of their house and her two daughters will do whatever it takes to make their mother happy. When it is announced that young Prince Anax will be hosting a ball to search for his future bride to be, the eldest daughter makes it her goal to win over the young prince. With the help of Maia, letters are delivered to the prince to appeal to his personal interests rather than the vain swooning performed by other young women in the kingdom. While executing these missions for her stepsister, Maia has unexpected encounters with the young prince where the two are able to be themselves. The moments are short lived as the darkness is always threatening to creep in and Maia will discover that her mother’s spirit is not the only darkness that she need fear.
While I am completely open to these retellings they seem to be following the same pattern. These amazing stories that have a huge following on their own are picked up and given these twists that we can’t help but be intrigued to read. Nothing will ever live up to the classics, but this issue aside there is something still causing the stories to ignite and fizzle out in a flash. I was willing to accept the story as a stand alone tale set in this intriguing new world, but once again we only get the briefest of glimpses into that world. Even worse, Gilded Ashes only gives us the briefest of tales as it turns out that this story is merely a novella. While Cruel Beauty added too many elements to its story and carried on far too much on things that should have been left alone, Gilded Ashes has the opposite effect. Gilded Ashes failed to focus on the many things that build the story with so little time to do it in the novella format. Though this makes two potentials for greatness in retellings that turned out to be mediocre for Hodge, and a further mediocre attempt with Crimson Bound, I still have hope for the author and perhaps one day she will be able to reach that happy medium.
- Book summary courtesy of Harper Collins Golden Ashes by Rosamund Hodge book page.