Author: Julie Abe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Audience: middle grade
Cinderella meets dragons.
Alliana’s father died several years ago, leaving her in the care of her stepmother, a selfish woman who treats Alliana worse than a servant. Forced to clean and mend night and day while her stepmother and stepsiblings live happily off her labor, Alliana dreams of her one chance for a better life – the regional ball, where every 12 year old is presented for a chance to be chosen to attend the royal academy.
This book was a Cinderella retelling with (very few) Japanese elements and a friendly dragon. It was a nice spin on the Cinderella story, and even though the plot was predictable, it was an enjoyable journey.
While the story had dark moments, where Alliana was bullied by her step family, it also had great friendships and a really nice grandmotherly relationship with her stepmother’s mother-in-law. I thought there would be more magical creatures from the abyss here, but aside from a dragon and some pest problems, the story focused more on Alliana’s evil step family. I think the story could’ve benefited from a slower pace, spending more time with the dragon and with her friends. Most of the side characters popped onto the page and flew right off, despite the time Alliana spent helping them. But this is a middle grade book, so it was understandably less complex than it could’ve been. I think this would be great for fans of Shannon Hales’ Princess Academy and the Goose Girl series.
For years, Alliana and her friend, a local boy also stuck serving a bad master, both dreamed of leaving their tiny town and evil guardians. But their dreams remained dreams while they each worked harder with no hope in sight, until one day a witch flies into town. Alliana is still stuck serving her evil stepmother and her bullying step siblings, but maybe with some magic and the help of good friends, Alliana can change her own future.