Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Reviewing: Gilded Ashes by Rosamund Hodge

Hellooo, lovelies. Today, for the first time in ages, I read something. I was pleased. I threw confetti. I danced in a circle. Beforehand, I had been staring at my August TBR and thinking "wow, I feel absolutely zero motivation to do anything." And then I realized I'd put a novella on my list. YES. SOMETHING SHORT. (I thought it would be best to ease back in to former reading habits, or else my already shriveled brain would suffer a complete collapse).

As I'd said before, I'd been wanting to read Gilded Ashes for a while, because A) Rosamund Hodge is fabulous and B) it is set in the same world of Cruel Beauty-- WHICH I LOVE.

(Also, Ignifex makes an appearance, except he is not referred to as Ignifex, because, well, obviously, the main character doesn't know his name. I nearly shrieked with joy when it dawned on me that he was in the book).

Orphan Maia doesn't see the point of love when it only brings pain: Her dying mother made a bargain with the evil, all-powerful ruler of their world that anyone who hurt her beloved daughter would be punished; her new stepmother went mad with grief when Maia's father died; and her stepsisters are desperate for their mother's approval, yet she always spurns them. And though her family has turned her into a despised servant, Maia must always pretend to be happy, or else they'll all be struck dead by the curse.

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. What's the point of pretending to fall in love with a girl just so she'll pretend to fall in love with him back? But when his father invites all the suitable girls in the kingdom to a masked ball, Anax must finally give in and select a wife.

As fate would have it, the preparations for the masquerade bring him Maia, who was asked by her eldest stepsister to deliver letters to Anax. Despite a prickly first encounter, he is charmed and intrigued by this mysterious girl who doesn't believe in love. Anax can't help wishing to see her again—and when he does, he can't help falling in love with her. Against her will, Maia starts to fall in love with him too. But how can she be with him when every moment his life is in danger from her mother's deadly bargain?


The world is still gorgeous (although I wish there were more details on its background), and Rosamund Hodge's descriptions are definitely 80% of why I love her books. The amount of detail she puts into describing each emotion is immaculate, and each sentence is tailored to perfection.

The other 20% is the characters. None of them feel two-dimensional. None of the characters in Gilded Ashes are reduced to only evil-stepmother, evil step-sisters, or ever-cheerful Cinderella. Each character has a reason for why they are what they are. Which is, of course, awesome. I am a firm believer that everyone needs a purpose. No one is bad for no reason, just as no one is good without reason.

Maia is no where near the same person as Nyx (the main character of Cruel Beauty). She is sweet and gentle and kind because she's trying to protect others from the wrath of her mother (who is a ghost). She's terrified of showing her real feelings, and she's hidden them for so long that sometimes it's as though she forgets she has them.

This is not a dual-POV novella. We never get to see what it's like in Anax's mind, only Maia's. Anax was an interesting character, although I admit that I found him a little unlikable at the beginning. He improves-- but I didn't love his character. He was just mediocre, in my opinion.

Another thing: Rosamund Hodge does not do happy endings. She dangles it in front of your face and you think Oh, yes, this is exactly the goodness that these characters deserve and then NOPE. There are tears and blood and so much happens that you wind up gaping at the book-- sort of happy, but mostly just shocked.

Rosamund Hodge does bittersweet endings.

Mostly bitter.

While I loved this novella to bits, the ending felt way too rushed. It felt like things were at a very nice pace-- and then everything bad that could possibly happen, happens. Don't get me wrong-- I actually like it when things go wrong in books. Destruction, chaos... it tends to liven things up a bit. But... it felt overdone.

Would I recommend reading this book? ABSOLUTELY. Would I recommend reading Cruel Beauty first? It's not necessary, but if you want a better understanding of the world, you probably should.


  1. I haven't read this (adds it to list) or Crimson Bound (which is sitting on my desk right now), but I loved Cruel Beauty for all of the reasons you mentioned and more. Rosamund Hodge is a gloriously talented author, and her descriptions are lovely. And there is no way that more Ignifex is a bad thing!!

    1. I'm just about to start reading Crimson Bound! I really hope it's awesome. Cruel Beauty set a really high standard. I completely agree-- Hodge is SO talented. I am very jealous.

      ALL THE IGNIFEX. I am convinced he needs his own book.