The Amaranth Enchantment is a terrific reworking of the Cinderella fairy story, which is not something that they try to hide in any way; the heroine's name is Lucinda, for heaven's sake. Author Julie Berry is not married to the source work, but uses it as a base to start from, shooting the story out in quite unexpected directions. Starting with Cinderella means that the story feels comfortable and like a known quantity, and when suddenly there is a sharp left turn in the plot, it really is tremendously exciting.
Lucinda Chapdelaine was born wealthy and upper-class, but one day, when she was five years old, her parents went off to a ball at the palace and that was the last she saw of them, therefor she was raised in poverty, a drudge for her kind but weak uncle and his cruel second wife. After many years of misery, one day a mysterious woman leaves a mysterious jewel at Lucinda's uncle's goldsmith shop and that's when Lucinda's adventures begin.
The jewel is lost, found, stolen, sold, stolen back again, she discovers a mystery involving her parents' death ten years before, she goes from the dungeon to the ball at the palace and everywhere inbetween, and no-one she meets along the way is quite what they seen, not the mysterious lady, known as the Amaranth Witch, not Peter the thief, not Prince Gregor, not even her aunt can be accepted on face value. The author takes what could have been one or two-dimensional characters and gives everyone just that little bit of extra life to make them seem like actual people. Actual people, in a fairy tale! What will they think of next?
Lucinda has to go through an awful lot to reach her destiny, and she has help along the way, but mostly this is a female hero story, a fairytale about the girl using her own wits to find the end of the story. If you or your child likes Robin McKinley, Diana Wynne Jones or Gail Carson Levine, this book should be right up your alley. This is Julie Berry's debut novel, I flat out loved it, and I am really looking forward to reading more from this writer.
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