I received a copy of this book from Entangled Publishing in return for an honest review.
Allie Munroe has only ever wanted to belong, maybe even be well liked. But even though she’s nice and smart and has a couple of friends, she’s still pretty much the invisible girl at school. So when the chance to work with her friends and some of the popular kids on an English project comes up, Allie jumps at the chance to be noticed.
And her plan would have worked out just fine…if they hadn’t been sucked into a magical realm through a dusty old book of fairy tales in the middle of the library.
Now, Allie and her classmates are stuck in Nerissette, a world where karma rules and your social status is determined by what you deserve. Which makes a misfit like Allie the Crown Princess, and her archrival the scullery maid. And the only way out is for Allie to rally and lead the people of Nerissette against the evil forces that threaten their very existence.
First, and most importantly, ignore the first paragraph of the synopsis. Allie is not like that at all! In fact she didn't even want the "popular kids" in her group project! She loves her friends, wants nothing more than her friends, and other people don't really get more than her passing interest. Ordinarily a blurb like that would be enough to turn me away from a book (I was half expecting a repeat of the MC of Everneath), but it was the second paragraph that really drew me in. And I'm so glad I gave this book a chance! (And also that the publisher granted my request of course!)
I immediately liked this book, partially because Allie is clearly nothing like the Allie of the blurb. But she's got a foster mom that she cares greatly for (points for good family! And foster family is not because of bad parenting! I won't say why for spoiler reasons and because it's not 100% revealed in this book), and she's got two best friends she would do anything for. We get hints about the truth behind the other world right from the prologue, so this book definitely doesn't hold back with pacing. In fact I don't think we spend more than a chapter in what I would call "our world". Within the first chapter or two we are transported to Nerissette where all the action begins!
The world building is awesome! It's clear the author has a very detailed plan of how the world is set up. I would have loved to see even more revealed in this book, because a lot of it is quickly explained, but not really in an in-depth manner. But then I'm a fiend for world building and not spending more time with the descriptions kept up the fast pace. Really it was very well done, and I'm looking forward to what else she fleshes out in the world building as the series progresses.
While the species in Nerissette may not have acted as I might have expected (mermaids are friendly, etc), they fit the world. It basically felt like the species were humans with different abilities - which is how they are described by our main characters. So I think that's why I was so ok with it - I have strict rules for my fae creatures, but usually the books I have issues with go on and on about how they aren't human and don't have emotions like we do...and then they act human. So this book bypassed all that by showing all the species as having normal, human emotions. So I'm totally on board with the whole mythology behind the world as well, which is a big sticking point for me.
I also love that her best friends are real. One of my biggest pet peeves is cardboard cut-out bffs. Allie and her two best friends, Winston and Mercedes, are a unit. They do everything together, they have real conversations...basically their relationship is what most of my relationships with my best friends are like. And I'll give some spoilers here about something I am SO FREAKING HAPPY ABOUT!! *SPOILERS* The best friend gets the girl! There wasn't a love triangle either - Allie only ever wants Winston and I totally love that. Even better? He's a POC! *SPOILERS* If you are curious, the spoilers won't ruin the book since it's pretty obvious throughout the book, but I figured I'd leave it in case people don't want anything revealed!
One of my very few criticisms is the character development of Jessie and Heidi. They are shown to be the stereotypical mean, popular kids, and both are very dumb. And OF COURSE they are both blonde. As a blonde, I take offense that almost every mean girl ever is blonde. Why is that exactly? And why are mean girls dumb? Honestly if you're going to be that conniving, I'd imagine you'd have to be quite smart actually. We do get some background on Heidi that fleshes her character out, but she doesn't seem to improve as a maid - although I did like her quite a bit more. Jessie on the other hand remains a two-dimensional character, with nothing to redeem himself and also no growth. I would have loved to see some character growth from them, and it would have been nice to break out of popular stereotypes. While I'm thoroughly pleased that there's a POC in the book (AND he's a love interest!!) he seems to be the only one. Why couldn't Heidi be an Asian or Hispanic mean girl? Or for the love of God even just a brunette mean girl!
The book wraps up nicely, and the epilogue makes it clear there's a next book, but if you leave the epilogue off the story fits as a whole. And that's something I like very much from books in a series! Finish up your story, THEN move on to the next book!
This is looking to be a great fantasy series - relateable characters, solid world building, a mythology I can buy into. Some of the characters weren't as developed as I would have liked and rely a little too much on stereotypes and I'd like to see a little more world building, but I'm definitely sticking around to see these all play out in the second book!
Would I recommend it?
Absolutely. I think pretty much any fantasy lover will easily get into this series.
"You know what it is," the cat said.
"The Hall of the Pleiades with its great guardian. Her white hands raised to the stars, holding the hopes of a thousand untouched worlds in her hands," I whispered.
"Yes," the cat said.
I looked back at her, still sitting in the middle of the room, studying me. "So, it's true? All of it? The crazy stories that my mother used to read me that no one else had ever heard of? The dragons and the men who ate fire and called down the sun?"
"The Firas," she said. "They're real."
"And the grasslands with hunting parties who ride great fanged beasts as they hunt giants and trolls? They're real too?"
"The Veldt." The cat kept her eyes fixed on mine. "All true."
"And the nymphs? The fairies? The spirits of the trees? The mermaids? The woodsmen who can become one with the shadows?"
"And the Lost Rose of Nerissette? Trapped insied a mirror and left to die? What about her? Or the warrior princess who would save the world from darkness?"
"The Rose may be lost," Esmeralda said. "But we rejoice at the return of our princess." She smiled at me as best a cat could.
Yes, I'm totally counting a female cat as a girl. It counts! I'm pretty sure there are many more passages, but I soooortaaa got too into the story and forgot to pay attention so I could bookmark spots. So this section is kind of an info dump sorry, but it's the best I can do at the moment!