FICTION
Stain
528p. Abrams/Amulet. Jan. 2019. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781419731419.
COPY ISBN
Gr 9 Up—Lyra's story begins once upon a nightmare in this version of "The Princess and the Pea" where instead of being too delicate to sleep on a pea under a tower of mattresses, Lyra must prove herself equal to the violence and brutality that the prince of night routinely faces. In the wake of a war that separated night from day, Lyra is born in the kingdom of Eldoria where it is perpetually day, filled with beauty, warmth, and light. Night still reigns in Nerezeth, an underground kingdom filled with darkness, cold, and creatures drawn to both. Painfully pale and too sensitive to light to ever step outside, Lyra is able to soothe or entrance with her voice although she is unable to form words. When her aunt, who is as ruthless as she is ambitious, moves to steal the throne, a witch saves Lyra and secretly raises her disguised as a boy called Stain. To save her kingdom and the prince of night, Lyra will have to reclaim her identity and make herself known without her voice. Within the framework of "The Princess and the Pea" Howard adds myriad fairy tale elements, including the wicked aunt, evil cousins, a stolen voice and impersonation plot reminiscent of "The Little Mermaid," and more, making for a unique if crowded cast of characters and a sometimes convoluted plot.
VERDICT Howard's latest stand-alone fantasy is a sensuous reimagining set in a distinctly Gothic world; perfect for fans of the author and readers seeking darker retellings.

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