Ember by Bettie Sharpe
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Everyone loves Prince Charming. They have to—he’s cursed. Every man must respect him. Every woman must desire him. One look, and all is lost.
Ember would rather carve out a piece of her soul than be enslaved by passions not her own. She turns to the dark arts to save her heart and becomes the one woman in the kingdom able to resist the Prince’s Charm.
Poor girl. If Ember had spent less time studying magic and more time studying human nature, she might have guessed that a man who gets everything and everyone he wants will come to want the one woman he cannot have.
BOOM. FAVORITE SHELF.
“And there you have the whole of it, the truth behind the tale of the Cinder Girl and the Charming Prince. All ended happily, but you do not seem happy to have heard it. Why not? Oh, I understand. You wanted to see heroes rewarded and villains punished. You wanted the prince to be noble and his princess to be kind.
Poor dear. I warned you this was no fairy tale.”
And so ends one hell of a retelling. Bettie Sharpe takes everything you ever thought you knew about Cinderella and flips it on its head.
I have to admit, this particular story has never been my favorite of the classics – I’m more of a Beauty and the Beast fangirl – but when I saw a bunch of my friends raving over this “erotic retelling”, my interest was piqued.
Let me tell you, this is so much more than just smut.
In this rendition, our young heroine isn’t some helpless damsel in distress trapped in an abusive home until her “true love” rescues her. She’s not some flaxen-haired beauty with doe eyes and a tendency to spontaneously break into song. She’s a redheaded witch named Ember, with a twisted right foot and a temper to match her fiery mane.
“…she’s a witch, if ever there was one. She cut off her own finger and made the witch’s bargain with the spirits of fire. She writes her spells in blood. When Lord Campos blacked my eye, she sent a plague of rats and ravens to drive him from the city. And she keeps a little doll made in his image to poke with pins or singe with fire whenever she needs amusement.”
Her stepsisters aren’t enemies, but allies, and her stepmother isn’t her nemeses, but a close friend and confidante. Oh, and all three happen to be prostitutes.
Then there’s Prince Charming, a.k.a. Adrian Juste. You see, in this fairy tale, he isn’t some nameless nitwit with a shoe fetish, but a man cursed to live a life in which everyone loves him on sight. Literally. As in, he was actually cursed at birth to be irresistible.
Women all but tear their clothes off in his presence, men who might seethe with jealousy over this instead worship the ground he walks on, and even enemy armies lay down their weapons for fear of harming his handsome visage.
Sounds awesome, right?
Imagine never having to work for love, never having to earn anyone’s trust or admiration. You’d either become a tyrant, or the loneliest person in the world.
Not even Cinderella’s magical abilities lend her protection from his charm, and from the moment she lays eyes upon him, she’s swept up in his spell. But there’s a catch. At the last minute, she’s able to break the hold he has on her and wrench her gaze from him.
It’s hard not to notice the one face turned away from you in a crowd full of your worshipers. The prince notices. And becomes obsessed with hunting her down.
What results is a beautifully written FEMINIST fairy tale even better than the original, if you ask me. It’s filled with thought-provoking narrative, hilarious dialogue, unapologetic badassery on the part of the female lead, wonderful female relationships, and women rescuing themselves.
Plus, there are those steamy scenes all my friends raved about. By the way, I really don’t recommend reading them while on your lunch break.
Because your boss might wander into your cubicle to ask you a question.
And you might nearly self-immolate with the strength of your blush.
Not that I would know.