The Gilded Girl

Author: Alyssa Colman

My rating: 4.8 stars

Emma is the daughter of a rich and famous magitect. (That’s an architect who uses magic.) Until now, she was able to live a quiet life with her father, but with her magical ceremony coming up, she needs some serious magical training to avoid snuffing her magic. The boarding school she’s left at has a great reputation and is attended by the daughters of other wealthy and notable parents. Both the teachers and students are delighted to instantly befriend Emma, who loves sharing with her friends. But when the tables turn, Emma will learn that the world isn’t always her friend, and that smiles and kind words are fake and worthless when aimed only at her riches and not towards Emma herself.

A Little Princess was one of my favorite books growing up. I haven’t read it in years though, partly because I have so little time, and partly because I don’t want to ruin the good memories I have by reading it as an adult. I was afraid this book would ruin the original. There are so many fairy tale retellings out there that are horrible parodies of their originals. At first, some of the changes here disappointed me, but when I picked it up again with an unbiased mindset, I really really enjoyed it.

In addition to adding fantasy elements, this retelling is set in NYC, towards the beginning of the twentieth century. Izzy, the servant girl at the school, is from an immigrant family from the tenements. There were some other historical events & similarities that came up, making the story seem more real. Most readers today are more familiar with NYC’s immigrant history culture than they would be with England’s Victorian era, so the setting is much more relatable for younger (and older) readers.

As with the original, Emma and the servant girl become friends and help each other out, although her fellow servant girl was a much more interesting character in this version. Emma’s good heartedness in spite of her circumstances earns her several other friends and admirers.

The magic was a fun addition, and I liked the way it helped Emma learn that riches shouldn’t determine one’s worth or rights.

This was a fantastic, heartwarming book. It’s different from the original A Little Princess, but the themes and general plot are the same. I recommend this for fans of the original, and for anyone who loves fantasy and friendships and talking cats.

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