Mirabelle’s past is shrouded in secrecy, from her parents’ tragic deaths to her guardians’ half-truths about why she can’t return to her birthplace, Beau Rivage. Desperate to see the town, Mira runs away a week before her sixteenth birthday—and discovers a world she never could have imagined.
In Beau Rivage, nothing is what it seems—the strangely pale girl with a morbid interest in apples, the obnoxious playboy who’s a beast to everyone he meets, and the chivalrous guy who has a thing for damsels in distress. Here, fairy tales come to life, curses are awakened, and ancient stories are played out again and again.
But fairy tales aren’t pretty things, and they don’t always end in happily ever after. Mira has a role to play, a fairy tale destiny to embrace or resist. As she struggles to take control of her fate, Mira is drawn into the lives of two brothers with fairy tale curses of their own . . . brothers who share a dark secret. And she’ll find that love, just like fairy tales, can have sharp edges and hidden thorns.
Oh boy. This book vexed me grievously. Sorry guys, but here comes the soapbox.
Before I get my rant on, let’s start with the good: Cross has indeed created an alluring, atmospheric fairy tale town. Even in our day and age of fairy tale saturation, there’s something truly unique about Cross’ Beau Rivage, home to those cursed to live out a fairy tale fate. The idea of being forced to follow a path not of your own choosing resonated strongly within the coming of age framework, and I enjoyed the cloud of doom it brought to the proceedings. I also really enjoyed the Grimm eye Cross brought to her fairy tale tales, rightly pointing out and playing on the truly creepy ways in which so many fairy tales end (and I’ll admit, I’d forgotten how bloody and mangled Cinderella’s stepsisters’ feet ended up until I read this book). All in all, I really enjoyed the sheer colorfulness of Beau Rivage and its fun, eclectic pack of fairy tale teens.
And now we’ve come to the bad. For the record, I really wanted to like this book. I loved the cover, and I really enjoyed the opening – but this story utterly alienated me when it suddenly veered into sheer character idiocy. If there is one thing I can’t stand, one pet peeve that looms above all the rest, it’s characters who are too stupid to live, and sadly Mira, after starting out with such promise, such pluck and determination, quickly became one of them. And it drove me up the wall.
And yes, that was the sound of me leaping onto my soapbox.
Oh, Mira, Mira, Mira. I know you’re 15, but general rule: if some skeezy stranger in a slick suit invites you to stay for free at his casino (because nothing sketchy ever happens in a casino), and then installs you in a room to which he most definitely has a key (putting you completely in his power), a warning bell should be going off in your head, it not a blaring siren. (Statutory rape, anyone?) Instead, what do you do? You make calf eyes at your “hero,” defend him to anyone who tries to gently insinuate he might possibly not have your best interests at heart, and then five pages later you’re “madly in love” with him? Because he, what, smiled at you and paid for room service?
Mira is, to put it bluntly, a complete idiot. Look, I don’t mind a story about the power of crushes, or about how people can be stupid in love, but the way Mira translated every creepy move Felix made into “romance” just made me nauseous. And then, as if that wasn’t enough stupidity to be getting on with, everyone around her then proceeded to try and convince her Felix was bad news in the most moronic way possible, compounding her original idiocy with idiocy of their own. I mean, come on – if you were trying to save a girl from, I don’t know, getting killed, wouldn’t you be able to come up with something better than saying over and over, “stay away from him” (words destined to have the exact opposite effect on a teenage girl, as we all know). Why not, I don’t know, come up with a good lie about the guy being a mob hit man or serial killer or pedophile? If your curse forbids you from talking about something, why not, say, get your friends to do it for you? And why on earth did it take 80 years for someone to finally take Mira to see the one person willing to explain what was going on? I mean, REALLY?
I should probably mention that stupidity in the name of plot convenience is another massive pet peeve of mine (if you couldn’t tell).
And the idiocy doesn’t stop there – it just keeps on coming. About the time I got to the point where Mira stupidly follows the Evil Fairy’s so-very-unsubtle advice/goading to walk straight into danger – gee, Mira, it’s an Evil Fairy, do you think she might, I don’t know, be up to no good? POSSIBLY? – I lost it. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I ended up skipping and skimming to get to the end, and the ending was, frankly, yet another instance of Mira being super useless as everyone around her saved the day. GARGGHHAAAH.
Honestly the only reason I did get to the end of this book was Blue. Blue, Mira’s other love interest, is just a fun bundle of trouble – pierced, prickly, and rude – and the attraction that slowly builds between them is actually very sweet (though it does also serve to further underscore Mira’s idiocy with regards to Felix). Actually aside from the Mira/Felix of it all, all the romantic dynamics were interesting, especially with the pre-destined pairings – the tension between those “meant” to be together, whether they wanted to be or not, was fun. But, sadly, it just wasn’t enough to salvage this book, for me.
So in the end, it all comes down to this: I hate stupid, and there was a heck of a lot of it in this book. But if nothing else, at least I’ve gained a whole new appreciation for Mercedes Lackey’s The Fairy Godmother…
Byrt Grade: B-
As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…
Cross, who knows her fairy tales, weaves a number of them into her story, giving them interesting twists as she applies them to her vulnerable and rebellious teen characters. Earnest Freddie, cynical Viv and captivating Felix all stand out as the archetypes they’re supposed to embody, and as individuals as well. Clever fun.
I do believe that the novel is a stand-alone and I hope that this is the end of Mirabelle’s and Blue’s story. However…This world is simply too interesting to let go of so easily.