After their father’s disappearance, Cinder leaves home for a servant job at the castle. But it isn’t long before her sister Ella is brought to the castle herself—the most dangerous place in all the kingdom for both her and Cinder. Cinder and Ella is a Cinderella story like no other and one you'll never forget.
[CINDER AND ELLA will be published on November 8, 2011. This blog tour is very early, so I’ll try to re-post closer to November so you don’t forget!]
As all you bookworms know, I read a lot of fairy tale retellings. (Are you caught up from Fairy Tale Fortnight yet?) CINDER AND ELLA by Melissa Lemon has, by far, one of the most original Cinderella concepts I’ve read. You can tell it’s different just from the title: Cinder…and….Ella? Not Cinderella? What’s this? This, dear bookworms, is a novel about two sisters named Cinder and Ella. They are natural sisters, and both middle children. Cinder is the second-eldest of four daughters, Ella the third-eldest. They have a demanding older sister named Katrina and an over-spoiled younger sister named Beatrice. Their father has disappeared after a seemingly-random visit from the kingdom’s prince, leaving his wife to fend for herself and their four children. She spins day and night and leaves Cinder and Ella to care for Katrina and Beatrice, who are both used to being waited on hand and foot. Eventually, she even sees the girls as one entity and runs their names together: Cinderella. How’s that for a new version of Cinderella, bookworms? Oh, and did I mention that on top of all of THAT, the prince is evil? Because he is. This *isn’t* the Cinderella you thought you knew. Then again, Lemon mentions on page one that the version you all take to be truth isn’t the real one. CINDER AND ELLA is.
CINDER AND ELLA flips from one sister’s story to the next. Cinder gets a job at the palace and is even able to learn in her spare time. She falls in love with Prince Monticello, a man who harbors dark, unsettling magic and can bend people to his will. Cinder is the most kind-hearted of the sisters and always does the bidding of her mother and sisters. When she leaves for the palace, all of the family’s burdens fall on Ella’s shoulders. Unable to stand her whiny, bratty, spoiled sisters any longer and realizing that her mother has forgotten she even exists, thinking that Cinder is Cinderella, Ella decides to leave home. She runs into a man who offers her a position in his house as a servant and tutor to his two children. Cinder and Ella are now far apart from one another, but upon finding out about Ella’s existence through Cinder, the prince wants to find her for reasons of his own. He sends out two of his personal aids and a knight, Sir Tanner, to find Ella and bring her to the palace. The true romance of CINDER AND ELLA lies in the relationship that blooms between Ella and Sir Tanner, not the story of Cinderella (Cinder, of course) and the prince, as you might have otherwise guessed. The prince is a true piece of work, and the novel ends in a way that leaves the back door open for other novels set in this world.
Speaking of worlds, one of my favorite parts about CINDER AND ELLA is the way Lemon grounded people and connected them with trees. The Legend of the Trees is truly unique, a concept I haven’t seen done before. On page 81 in my nook e-ARC edition (quote subject to change before final release), Sir Tanner describes the concept as such:
“The Legend says that each human on the earth has a tree to care for, and that will care for them. As long as the tree is thriving, the person will live, and as long as the person is living well, the tree will survive.”
I liked the idea of being connected to trees so much that I asked the author to contribute a guest post for my Blog Tour Stop regarding The Legend of the Trees, which you can read here.
I really liked the way Lemon’s ideas come across and the new twists she’s brought to an often-overdone retelling. I’ve never seen anything quite like CINDER AND ELLA, and found the concept to be irresistible. It did take a while to get into because the writing style is in the vein of older tales, which are designed to be read out loud. It was hard to sustain in a reading-silently form for long periods of time. If that makes any sort of sense. At times, it’s very “tell” and too little “show.” But the story was gripping enough to propel me forward, and I would love to see another novel set in this world.
At first, I didn’t think much of this cover. It was a tree. Okay…? But after reading the novel, trees are *incredibly* important. I loved The Legend of the Trees and felt it was one of the novel’s strongest elements. It’s completely appropriate to feature a tree on the novel’s cover. The castle is in the background, which works because the palace isn’t integral to the story the way it is in the older versions of Cinderella. I also really like the way the “C” and “E” in the title are typeset, as well as the “M” and “L” in the author’s name. It lends a fairy tale air to the cover. My favorite part of the tour so far was Melissa Lemon’s guest post on Corrine at Lost For Words’ blog. It’s a guest post on COVER DESIGN, bookworms! Check the entry out here. Visit Melissa's author blog to follow the Blog Tour all month long!
[This entry is part of The Story Siren's Debut Author Challenge of 2011. See how I've done so far here.]