Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my review in any way, and the thoughts expressed are my own.
A new telling of Aladdin sees our street-rat thief a girl while the princess is now a prince. Ada, an orphan, has run from one town to the next, never getting attached until she discovers she has family at the small village at the edge of the known continent. Now living with her cousins, Bonnie and her father, Mr Fairborn, Ada has finally found somewhere she can settle down. If only she could stop her thieving ways.
But a strange, beautiful woman appears and kidnaps Ada, Bonnie and Mr Fairborn. Ada wakes up alone, in a foreign land full of magic and odd creatures. The woman has dumped Bonnie and her father in the lair of a fearsome beast and threatens to stop her magic that is keeping it at bay, unless Ada retrieves a golden oil lamp from the King’s castle, Sunstone. Little did she know the only way to get into the castle is to enter the contest to be the princes’ bride.
Now forced to take part in a competition full of young noblewoman and tests from everything from table manners to social etiquette to displays of talent. With the heightened security Ada has no chance at sneaking out and searching the castle until she meets two new friends. Cyrus is a handsome servant boy with a talent for thieving, while his friend Ayman manages to help sneak him into every room. While during the day she tries her hardest to pretend to fit in, at night Ada searches for the lamp with the help of her new friends.
Luckily for Ada, she befriends two of her fellow contestants; Cora and Cherine. Cherine is a high-bred noblewoman, a cousin to the royal family. Her high rank amongst the other nobles – with only two girls higher than her – makes her arrogant, entitled and very confident. She looks down her nose at everyone, especially those from the lesser families and lower classes. Add to this the fact that she is extremely chatty, and she becomes someone few people can stand. On the other end of the spectrum is Cora, a practical girl from a farming region who is more than happy to get her hands dirty doing chores or wrestling a wolf away from her flock. These two couldn’t have been more different and though they snipe and argue they end up becoming Ada’s two closest friends in the competition.
On her first night in the castle, Ada convinces one of the judges to show her the vault so she can place her jewels somewhere safe. But the vault is already open, and two figures dash out, a handsome boy and a frightening white figure. Ada knows that these two, no matter how strange looking, are her only chance of getting around the heightened security.
Ada and Cyrus are both sarcastic and quick to steal, making them an ideal pair. From their first moment, it’s clear they are drawn to each other, their smirks and quips helping to fuel their flirting. Throughout the book the two grow closer, and we get to see how much Ada longs to have someone to open her heart to. After everything, she’s been through it’s nice to see her have someone. She hopes that after the competition, after she rescues Bonnie and Mr Fairborn, Cyrus will run away with her. And it can be just the two of them.
Ayman is an albino with supernatural agility and strength. But his strange appearance has cursed him to be treated as a monster, meaning he must hide to survive, Cyrus his only friend. In the beginning, Cherine wakes up screaming, claiming she saw a ghoul, the description the exact same as the odd man Ada saw coming out of the vault. Later, after Ada has befriended Ayman, she discovers that nearly every night he comes to look in on Cherine and it’s clear he is drawn to her. He was an interesting character, cursed with a life full of hardship and only longs to have a friend.
Fairuza, the competition’s resident mean-girl is truly arrogant and horrible, looking down at everyone even her fellow high-ranking nobles like Cherine. A common character trope but to be realistically expected when you take into consideration her background.
I’d hope due to the early chapters we’d see more of Ada’s daring robberies, but apart from that a few scenes, this book was focused on the romance between Ada and Cyrus. I don’t mind romance as an element to enhance the main story – after all, love is such a massive part of the world – but this book was a complete romance with a few other elements. Though the twist was clear from the beginning, I feel it worked well for the story. I was disappointed that there wasn’t a risky robbery in the climax like I had anticipated and that the main point of the competition wasn’t finished in this book. This story seemed like it could have been wrapped in one book, maybe two if you pushed it, but not the three that it is set to be. It comes off as one of those time where everyone is trying to do trilogies.
I didn’t enjoy this book since it was mostly romance, but that also makes me not the right audience. Additionally, I have found that I don’t enjoy retellings much – maybe because you already know what will happen or you can at least make an incredibly accurate guess when you have become familiar with the characters and plot. I give it 3/5.