Author: Elissa Sossman
Series: Four Sisters
Book #: 1
Reading Level: YA
Goodreads Rating: 3.75
Published: October 7th, 2014
"I am grateful for my father, who keeps me good and sweet. I am grateful for my mother, who keeps her own heart guarded and safe. I am grateful for my adviser, who keeps me protected. I am grateful for the Path, which keeps me pure. Ever after.”Princess Aislynn has long dreamed about attending her Introduction Ball, about dancing with the handsome suitors her adviser has chosen for her, about meeting her true love and starting her happily ever after.
When the night of the ball finally arrives and Nerine Academy is awash with roses and royalty, Aislynn wants nothing more than to dance the night away, dutifully following the Path that has been laid out for her. She does not intend to stray.
But try as she might, Aislynn has never quite managed to control the magic that burns within her-magic brought on by wicked, terrible desires that threaten the Path she has vowed to take.
After all, it is wrong to want what you do not need. Isn’t it?
"I will accept the Path I am taking. I will not stray. I will not yearn for what I cannot have. I will heed the words of my advisers and guard my loving heart against cursed magic. Ever after."
Stray has a new fresh twist on the fairy tale cannon. It has princesses, fairy god mothers, kings, queens, etc. but they all have a slight different purpose. It feels like a Victorian-esque Fantasy novel which just happens to have fairy tale aspects. I found myself enjoying Aislynn's story because she ends up being a likable character. On the other hand I still don't quite know what exactly is going on with the plot (sometimes it seems like too much; other times it seems like too little) and the world building itself needs some work.
Aislynn is a top tear princess. You see, there are classifications even for princesses. Aislynn is in the second best classification, behind a monarch. Only maybe not for long. You see princesses are expected to be complacent and to hide/guard their nefarious magical abilities and Aislynn isn't too good at either requirement. She TRIES to be complacent and to control her magic better, but she is not very successful at it. Plus, nobody seems to like her because she has so many... magical accidents.
After one magical accident too many Aislynn is demoted and sent to Fairy Godmother school where she will "learn" to be the perfect fairy godmother to another princess. That is, if she first doesn't decide to say "the heck with you all" and strays.
I liked Stray because it has potential. Aislynn tries very hard to be something that she is not, and only when she is freed of all pretention is that you truly start to see what a wonderful young woman she really is. She doesn't like to be in the spot light, in fact she does worse when the spot light is on her. She is your every day girl trapped in a life full of expectations.
On the other hand the world building is only so-so. This world has princesses who can get demoted into the role of Fairy Godmothers with just a suggestion from ONE man. And most of the time the parents can't do or say anything about it. In Stray men have all the power, as it is made painfully obvious. It just made little sense because Aislynn's parents had no other heirs, and a fairy godmother couldn't be an heir, so what were they to do? Fairy Godmothers are little more than ladies in waiting for the princesses. They cannot offer advise, they can only get them prepared in the morning, and make their lives easier. They can barely use magic because you see, magic is wrong.
"When a proper young lady had an occurrence, she might change the color of her hair ribbon or slam a door that she wasn't touching. When Aislynn had an occurrence, she made girls spit toads or worse. She could still picture her first time, when she had lit a pile of books on fire."For that alone I would have disowned her. But let's be serious, what kind of magic can these girls DO? Well, just about anything really if they have the juice. We don't get an in depth look at what these powers are, no limitations either. They aren't trained, their magic is supposed to be hidden away like an ugly birth defect. We don't get a historical reason why this is, it just is. Women can wield magic and men can't so they made the rule in order to "protect them". And not only princesses can do magic, about all women can that have the gift. So, why haven't these women like said screw you men I can do what I want? Aislynn deals with her magic by releasing it into her own body, so she has have scars on her legs and eventually her arms as well. She hurts herself so that people are more comfortable to be around her; no magical occurrences means she is "good". Stray deals with real issues like this and also the inequalities between men are women which are painfully obvious.
"Yet they were not equal. The Path said that an adviser carried his knowledge like a lantern, one that illuminated the way to ever after. While he led the way, the fairy godmother remained a step behind. If a young maiden stumbled or doubted her journey, she need only to look back to see what she would become if she did not follow the Path. Adviser Lennard was a guide for the monarch princess; Aislynn was a warning."While reading Stray you have to suspend your disbelief a tad. The structure of the world seems illogical, and not much is covered in what is happening with the outside world at the moment. You get told that there is an evil queen who is stealing maidens to build an army, but not much else is explored. Your world is limited to what happens in the castle at that certain point in time. Nevertheless I enjoyed the story and I believe that the second book will be much stronger in terms of plot because by the end of Stray it seems like we have some sort of goal in mind (though again, who is the bad guy and why?).
A lot of questions were left unanswered, though I am seriously hoping this was just so there would be some kindle to the every growing fire for the sequel. The series is titles Four Sisters but I thought that as far as the Four Sisters were concerned they seemed more of a cautionary tale than anything else since they were seriously only talked about a handful of times and not even that in depth. I need more answers when it comes to the sequel, more Ayslinn being a bad ass, a bit more romance, and a more clear goal/purpose. I believe Elissa Sussman will deliver.