Wayfarer by Lili St. Crow
Tales of beauty and madness bk 2. Razorbill, 2014. ISBN
(Age 14+) Highly recommended. Fairy tales retold. Survival. Abuse. With the death of her father, Ellen Sinder, a powerful Charmer, has been left with her violent stepmother, Laurissa. She is forced to use her magic to profit her stepmother who is becoming increasingly abusive. Ellie believes that she has a plan to escape her situation and is saving every credit that she can. When a train arrives bringing with it her new stepsister and Avery Fletcher, a golden boy, things begin to unravel for her.
This is a dark and frightening take on the traditional Cinderella story. Although Ellie has two close friends, Ruby and Cami, she doesn't believe that they can help her against her terrifying stepmother. She becomes increasingly isolated as Laurissa plots to entice Avery into her clutches and makes her work even harder at casting spells. When she finally leaves the house, she takes refuge with an old woman who is friendly and warm, leaving her friends behind. But as time goes on, Ellie discovers that danger lurks in every corner.
This is not a feel-good retelling of the fairy tale. Instead it is an exploration of how a strong and talented girl can become isolated by abuse and violence, so much so that she doesn't believe that anyone can help her or that she has the right to expect help. As a reader I kept asking myself why she didn't tell someone what was happening but Ellie believes that her stepmother will not only harm her but those around her.
Lili St Crow doesn't pull any punches with her theme. Powerful characterisation and descriptive writing make this a compulsive read. I particularly liked the character of Avery, who appeared to have every advantage, good looks, a loving family and talent, but who was caring enough to do the right thing for Ellie. The world of magic, of twisted minotaurs, fey creatures and spells provides a believable and unique background to the story as it did for the first in the series, Nameless.