Review: A Wish of Ashes and Glass

The story of "Cinderella" has been told so many ways with a prince as the main love interest that I think it is the best candidate for a queer-friendly adaptation. With her latest novel, A Wish of Ashes and Glass, my favorite fantasy artist, Selina Fenech, agrees. The ARC I received of this book contained every new element I've seen in a "Cinderella" retelling with the addition of a female love interest for our tormented heroine. Political intrigue? Check. A selfless heroine with magic powers? Check. A royal conspiracy revolving around the use of magic? Check. Nicer stepsisters? Check. Despite having so many similar elements to other retellings, the story remains fresh and interesting thanks to its surprise romantic lead, a mighty warrior princess who exudes qualities that are similar to queer-coded anime heroines of the past like Princess Knight, Utena, and Oscar.

Ellasyn was born with healing powers that allow her to absorb other people's pain, sickness, and wounds, but in order to do so, she takes on their ailments herself. Despite the scars and suffering that it causes, she made a vow to her mother, from whom her powers were inherited, that she would use them whenever encountered someone in need. After losing both of her parents, El became stuck with a wicked stepfather and two timid stepsisters. Trolaine is just as determined to marry one of his daughters off to royalty as the stepmother from the original fairy tale, but he also has a violent temper, which makes him a physical threat in addition to an emotional one. El's only solace comes from the magic tree that grew over her mother's gave and provides her with incredible things, including a cool-looking clockwork horse that carries her to the three balls that the king holds to find a bride for his son.

When El arrives at the balls in her magical gowns, she has little interest in meeting the prince and tries to enjoy the ball from the sidelines in more secluded areas of the castle. On her quest to remain hidden, she continually runs into Ara, a brave captain from the royal guard. Ara is impressed with El's humility and mystery and seeks her out at each ball to learn more about her. El, in turn, is amazed by Ara's strength and questions how a woman could have gotten such a powerful position. However, she doesn't have much time to solve this puzzle when each ball she attends has some sort of catastrophe that forces her to use her healing powers. Because of these catastrophes, the prince suspects that someone is trying to assassinate the king, and Ara and El are his number one suspects.

The book contains many unexpected twists and turns as well as the same glittering magic and romance that one would expect to find in a "Cinderella" adaptation. Both gender swaps to breathe new life into this commonly retold. The dangerous and strong stepfather provides an explanation for why Cinderella's stepsisters avoid standing up for him as well as posing a bigger threat than the wicked stepmother due to his abusive temper. Ellasyn's female love interest provides a rare opportunity for a strong and powerful heroine who is not the lead character, and the lesbian romance is handled with care and sensitivity, making the story appropriate for younger teenage readers. Selina's skills as an artist shine through her descriptive narrations of Ellasyn's beautiful gowns and the enchanted clockwork horse that brought her to the balls.

A Wish of Ashes and Glass skillfully weaves together familiar elements of the "Cinderella" tale with refreshing new additions. Selina Fenech's storytelling prowess shines through her vivid descriptions and imaginative narrative, breathing new life into the beloved fairy tale. By introducing a queer-friendly romance and exploring themes of selflessness, resilience, and love, the novel captivates readers of all ages. With its strong, empowered heroines, intricate plot twists, and a touch of enchantment, A Wish of Ashes and Glass stands as a testament to the enduring power of storytelling and the limitless possibilities of reinventing timeless classics. I would recommend this both to anyone looking for a new take on "Cinderella" or seeking a clean LGBTQIA fairy tale adaptation.


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