Cinder and Ella by Melissa Lemon

Comes out: November 8, 2011

Pages: 208

Publisher: Cedar Fort

Format: eARC

Source: Publisher (NetGalley)Age Group: Middle Grade/Young Adult

After their father’s disappearance, Cinder leaves home for a servant job at the castle. But it isn’t long before her sister Ella is brought to the castle herself—the most dangerous place in all the kingdom for both her and Cinder. Cinder and Ella is a Cinderella story like no other and one you'll never forget.

Rich settings, a clever twist, and a hint of darkness seeping into the story make it fantastic. Cinder and Ella are very likeable. They are the only ones who seem to have a bit of sense in their family, and from the first page, you are drawn to them.

So many twists are in this book, but they work so well. The prince is dark, evil, and seductively charming, which brings a whole new meaning to "Prince Charming". It is fresh and interesting to see what his character contributes to the story.

And the setting is just beautifully written. Vivid details pop out at you and you find yourself longing to go to the kingdom. Although slightly tainted by darkness, it's part of what makes the setting so alluring. With the darkness and evil swirling through the atmosphere, it sets up for an amazing climax.

The castle is remniscent of such kingdoms painted in stories such as Gail Carson Levine's creations. I had flashbacks to some of my favorite childhood books.

The relationships within the family were truly fascinating. Katrina and Beatrice weren't really painted as "evil" as so much "incredibly selfish". They forced Cinder to get them things and screamed and threw tantrums. That much I was expecting, but I wasn't expecting Cinder and Ella's relationship to be rather complex. Ella's rebellious attitude was refreshing and perfect to add a bit of edge to the story, although Cinder refuses to believe that the prince is evil.

The brainwashing that the prince seems to spread throughout the kingdom reminds me of King Leck from Graceling. Secretive and very persuasive, his lies are spread throughout the kingdom. I absolutely adored the richness of the story and how it wasn't just Cinderella with a different names. This was a twist in the STORY of Cinderella, not just added details. It made the whole story delicious to read.

I liked the struggle between Ella and the prince. The balance of darkness and light was fun to read about. It isn't a lot of action, but there is a little bit. Not so much Graceling as Fairest. Although the part about the "trees" was slightly confusing.

There was also - surprisingly - a bit of romance! Ella and Tanner. I am a sucker for romance, so everybody knows that I love it when there's romance in a book. Also, this isn't related to the actual story, but the cover is beautiful.

Overall, this is a fun and fresh read that has a bit of a dark edge. It's wonderfully refreshing and would be a great summer read. I loved it!

Recommended for anybody who loves: Graceling; Cinderella; Fairest; Gail Carson Levine; Hoodwinked; Into the Woods (the book); Into the Woods (the play); etc,.

Possible book club questions:

How do you think Cinder and Ella's relationship developed throughout the book?How do you think Ella matured a bit more?What was the response of the king and queen to the news about their son? How was this either positive or negative? Discuss.Why do you think the mother of Cinder and Ella just gave up?What do you think was the toll that her father had on Ella?Why do you think there was the emphasis on "light and darkness"?