Review: Stray, Elissa Sussman

September 25, 2014 Reviews 0 ★★★

Review: Stray, Elissa SussmanStray by Elissa Sussman
Published by Greenwillow on October 2014
Genres: Fairytale Retelling, Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon • Amazon UK • Book Depository

“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?


In a fairy tale world, the Princess Aislynn is determined to stay on “The Path”, meet her prince charming and get her ever after.  Instead things go very wrong and she finds herself redirected into the order of the fairy godmothers.  Here in the service of another princess she starts questioning the very beliefs that have been ingrained in her from birth and  sets out on her own path.

This book was a bit baffling to me.  I quite enjoyed reading it and I finished it within a couple of days, though it pains me to admit I was left feeling somewhat confused and perplexed.  I’m not sure if I missed something vital but I got to the end of this book knowing about as much of this world as I did going into it, or in other words – nothing!

This was an interesting and complicated world.  Magic is something that presents in all women though its seen as a heinous act that must be controlled and never used.  Illicit use of magic or the inability to smother it leads to “redirection” where a young lady is ripped from her current life and placed into a new role.  Overnight a princess can be made a fairy godmother or worse can “stray” to the wicked queen in the midlands for her magic wielding army. To keep a princess on the straight and narrow is the guiding principles of “The Path” which will lead her to her happily ever after.  Each princess gets an advisor who assists her introduction into society, and a fairy godmother to act as both a guide and a reminder of what happens if they fail to keep their magical curse under wraps.  Add into this a hierarchy of different princess tiers which are displayed publicly by the colours of their clothes and you get a very rich and detailed story, its just a pity the plot was in a state of disarray.

Aislynn seems to be different from the other princesses.  To begin with she has no friends, all the other princesses don’t like her though there is no real reason given as to why, she certainly seems to exemplify the personality of a “proper” princess. While the fairy godmothers are cold and distant hand maidens to the princesses, ready to spy and dob in the slightest magical indiscretion to the school headmistress, Aislynn’s fairy godmother Tahlia isn’t like this at all, she is warm and protective. Aislynn herself stays loyal and warm when she becomes a fairy godmother so I’m not quite sure why there aren’t more nice fairy godmothers out there. Instead Aislynn appears to keep her “loving heart” and makes some new friends both among the servants and with her charge, the princess Monarch as she tries to navigate her new life while processing what went wrong in her old role.

The plot of this story didn’t really live up to my expectations and its a real pity.  I have so many questions, in fact I don’t think there was a single aspect of the story that wrapped up by the end or was explained sufficiently!

I want to know more about Tahlia the fairy godmother, who is she and where did she go mysteriously?

What is the go with the mirror and why is it important?

What is the go with the advisors and the head mistresses? Are they all in on some huge plot or are there just some that are questionable?

Everett and Westerley are these guys prince charming’s or losers deeply involved in political manoeuvring?

The wicked queen, how does she fit in and is she really all that evil?

Why does everyone keep fleeing the West that don’t appear to be coming anywhere better in my opinion!

What’s the go with the wolf?

Can someone explain the importance and relevance of bread baking please?

I have even more questions than this but I think you get the idea.  There is apparently a series of books that are all based in this world and I really hope that the sequel follows on from this one though that isn’t something I’m certain of based on the media information from Greenwillow/Harper Collins:

STRAY is the first in a collection of intertwined stories, all set in a world where magic is a curse that only women bear and society is dictated by a strict doctrine called The Path. A cross between The Handmaid’s Tale and Wicked, with a dash of Grimm and Disney thrown in.

This makes me think that these books will be more like The Lunar Chronicles with a different protagonist in each novel and the stories interconnecting for an overarching climax at the end of the series.  I’m not sure, I hope not as there was so much left undone and I did really enjoy the characters and the world and want to get some resolutions to my questions.

I would still recommend this book to those avid fairy tale lovers, though I’m worried that with a year or possibly more left until a sequel is released that this book will be bumped to the end of my lengthy TBR pile with more plot driven series holding my attention.  Definitely very divided on this one!

three-stars – Detailed and unique fairy tale world!

Email | Goodreads | | Twitter | Instagram Philippa lives in Brisbane, Australia with her partner and two daughters. She is an avid reader and reviewer of Young Adult literature as well as being a student midwife, closet geek, procrastibaker and coffee addict.

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