The Dark Ascension Series: The Wicked Ones by Robin Benway

“The sky was glorious that morning, so blue and sharp that it looked like it could shatter, raining shards down on all of them, but instead it stayed in place while the rest of their world fell apart.”

We all know the story of Cinderella, enslaved by her evil stepmother and ugly stepsisters when her beloved father passes. She wishes upon a star, and, poof! Her dreams become true and she can finally escape from her horrible stepsisters to a land of charming royalty.

But before the two sisters became wicked, what changed them? They had a father who left them one day, a callous mother with a terrible temper, and a feeble stepsister unable to protect herself from their mother’s wrath. Scrutinized and criticized by even their own mother and villagers, the two sisters were misunderstood and abandoned.

Drizella, the older of the sisters, is a sensible young woman who is almost entirely sure that life is meant to be difficult and struggled through. It’s not like life is perfectly mapped out and lined up like the constellations that secretly fascinate her. Besides, a woman’s expected duties are pointless without learning anything new.

Anastasia is a dreamer who sees the world not for the cruelty and struggles it forces her to endure, but as a vast place to explore and even find romance in. Unfortunately, her sympathetic nature is muted by despair.

Though they are determined not to let evil lead them down a forlorn, empty path, can they remain hopeful forever?

I found this novel pleasant and a change of pace from the fantasy-fairytale books I usually read. I do remember reading another book—Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly—that was a more challenging read with a complicated storyline but had a similar idea to The Wicked Ones.

The stepsisters’ lives weren’t handed to them tied with a bow, it was paved through resentment and struggle. The reader can sympathize with the stepsisters and see their perspective and growth as characters.

Originally, I thought this book was simple and predictable, but it is really just a good novel to sit back and read. The fairytale sweeps you away and you can learn about the stepsisters’ detestable characters.

Through this novel of suffering and strife, the reader learns how the past of the stepsisters’ fostered the black-hearts that they have today.

The Wicked Ones by Robin Benway is available to download for free from Libby.

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