Thursday, September 25, 2014

Stray by Elissa Sussman {review}

♦by Elissa Sussman
♦publisher: Greenwillow
♦release date: October 7, 2014
♦hardcover, 384 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦series: Four Sisters, book 1
♦source: from publisher for honest review
“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?

Review: Stray is a darkly imagined world full of magic and mislaid power.  There are kingdoms and royalty, guardians and fairy godmothers, but all answer to a group of men called Advisors. The Advisors control the society with a belief system called The Path and by playing on the people’s fear of the Wicked Queen of a neighboring kingdom named Josetta, who is said to be building a dark army of her own. 

Our heroine Aislynn is a young woman studying at an academy that shapes the highest society girls into good little women and wives, but her uncontrolled magic lands her in trouble and she finds herself demoted to a life of serving as a fairy godmother.  She is shipped off to a different school and placed with a princess. In this new place, she crosses paths with several new characters, and with a few new friends by her side, she starts to discover that there are dark plots brewing in unexpected places.   

A strong feeling of hopelessness runs through the first part of Aislynn’s journey and I was very glad to see her progression from self-depreciating to finding her confidence and strength.  From the very beginning, we see her betrayed by someone she thought she could trust and her own parents are too scared to stand up for her.  At her new school, she’s always been taught that her magic is evil, and using it is what gets her punished in the first place, so it’s easy to feel why she struggles with the sudden expectation to use it as a fairy godmother. 

There is a subtle and sweet romance that grows in the course of the story, but I like that this tale focuses more on Aislynn’s other relationships and the guidance that comes from a mother, a guardian, a teacher, or a friend.  It’s a dark and twisting fairy tale with a few grim nods to the classics.  The ending is exhilarating and nicely sets up for a sequel, but also left me with more than a few unanswered questions.  I definitely plan to stick with this series, though, as I suspect the danger and adventure is just getting started!

Find Elissa Sussman online:  Website  •  Twitter  •  Facebook

Purchase Stray:  •  Bookdepository  •  Indiebound


  1. I've heard of Stray a few times, but based on the reviews it seems readers are torn between loving it and not so loving it. I definitely want to check it out for myself though so I can decide whether I love it or not. But your review absolutely encouraged me to pick it up soon because it sounds like you really loved it and will be following the rest of the series! Thanks for sharing your thoughts! ^_^

  2. Yes, definitely give it a go, Hillary! I can actually see where some are getting turned off by this character because she starts out really heavy on the lack of self-confidence. But I just saw it as part of her journey, finding her strength. Plus the fantasy and world structure was really great---I really enjoyed this one!

  3. Yay :D Amazing review Becky. <3 I'm so so glad that you enjoyed this book. Makes me more excited about reading it, hih :) I do think it sounds amazing. <3 and I'm curious about the sweet romance :) Thank you for sharing. <3

  4. Wow, everything about this book is drawing me in! Thanks for the great review!

  5. Yes it was sweet and subtle and not rushed into, which I loved, and it definitely wasn't the main focus which I liked because it let the story focus on other relationships. I hope you enjoy it, Carina! I know sometimes you and I have very opposite feelings when it comes to books LOL! :D

  6. I hope you give it a try, Carrie! I'd be interested in hearing what you think of it! :D

  7. this looks very interesting :) thanks for sharing!