Reviews

Stain by AG Howard

stainStain
Author AG Howard
Publisher Abrams/Amulet Books | 2019
Pages 512
fantasy | retelling

5 stars

Once upon a nightmare, her fairy tale begins…

This high-fantasy gothic fairytale, inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Princess and the Pea, is set in an alternative medieval world split apart by magic. To win back her kingdom of perpetual day, save her night prince, and reunite the sun with the moon, a princess incapable of speech or sound must prove herself everything a traditional princess is not: tough enough to sleep on a bed of nails, and loud enough to be heard without a voice. (from Goodreads)

This review is spoiler-freeeee! 🙂 

“This is the story of two very different princesses- one who lost her rose, and one who gained her thorns.”

I really adored this book. This was the first chunky book of my time in quarantine, and it definitely took a while for me to get through it (the writing is very poetic and descriptive; also I got distracted by painting a lot) but every time I dived in, it was magical!

The synopsis describes this as a Princess and the Pea-inspired retelling, but there’s allusions to other classic fairytales, most notably Rapunzel! Howard crafted a world perfect for the typical fairytale setting, but it takes such a unique spin with so many different details that it seems brand new! I loved the two different kingdoms of Eldoria and Nerezeth. Using the Ashen Ravine as sort of their in-between was fascinating, and I loved all the magic. 

“They were beautiful: light and dark, side by side, scarred yet lovely, representative of the two heavenly entities that once shared the skies but were torn apart.”

The real magic of this book lies in its characters. OH MAN I LOVED THE CHARACTERS SO MUCH. Stain (AKA Lyra) was such a enchanting protagonist, and she was a bright spot throughout this (at times) dark book. I loved how her gentle nature also came with a side that wasn’t afraid to fight for herself. Lyra’s relationship with both Crony and Luce was one of the highlights of the book.  Their family dynamic was so heartwarming and sweet and I loved every moment! Crony and Luce are both fantastic characters in their own right. Seriously, I love them both so much. I enjoyed both of their backstories and the magical properties each possessed. They worked so well not only with each other, but also with Lyra. FOUND FAMILY FTW.

Vesper was incredible as well. At the end he was a frickin’ ICON and I stan him for life. I was pleasantly surprised by how the prophecy plot unfolded, and I really enjoyed that Vesper was able to piece things together so quickly to avoid any confusion or miscommunication at the end. I love Vesper and Lyra together and how well they complement each other! I thought the storyline surrounding Scorch was FANTASTIC and really took the story in a direction I wasn’t expecting. It was super creative and fit perfectly and I adored it so much.

The side characters were great! Even MORE character appreciation because there’s just so many! The creatures from the Ravine and the Market were super entertaining. Selena and Cyprian were both fabulous and I liked their interactions with Lyra and Vesper, respectively. Griselda, Lustacia and the other sisters were perfectly horrible, and I hated them so much. Everyone is just perfect and I can’t believe so many wonderful characters fit seamlessly into one book.

So many things to love about this one. The writing is beautiful, the characters are outstanding, and the magic is enthralling. Definitely a retelling I would recommend! Even though I enjoyed this one so much, I don’t think I’ll be picking up the Splintered series after reading some not-great reviews. But I will definitely be looking out for new books that AG Howard puts out! Yay for fantastic retellings!!!

 

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