Monday, January 7, 2019

ARC Review & Giveaway: Stain by A.G. Howard

Title: Stain
Author: A.G. Howard
Publication Date: January 15, 2019
Publisher: Amulet Books
Pages: 512
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//I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review//
A high-fantasy gothic fairytale inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s The Princess and the Pea.

Once upon a nightmare, her fairy tale begins...

After Lyra—a princess incapable of speech or sound—is cast out of her kingdom of daylight by her wicked aunt, a witch saves her life, steals her memories, and raises her in an enchanted forest ... disguised as a boy known only as Stain. Meanwhile, in Lyra's rival kingdom, the prince of thorns and night is dying, and the only way for him to break his curse is to wed the princess of daylight, for she is his true equal. As Lyra rediscovers her identity, an impostor princess prepares to steal her betrothed prince and her crown. To win back her kingdom, save the prince, and make peace with the land of the night, Lyra must be loud enough to be heard without a voice, and strong enough to pass a series of tests—ultimately proving she’s everything a traditional princess is not. 

It's no secret around my blog that A.G. Howard is one of my absolute favorite authors. I fell in love with the Splintered series in 2014 and have loved everything she has written since. I also adore fairytale retellings! When I heard about Stain, I knew there was a good chance it would be one of my top reads of 2019, and I'm pretty sure I was right.

This haunting story is about Lyra, princess of the kingdom of daylight, and Vesper, prince of the kingdom of night. Each is a misfit in their own land, but are promised to each other in order to bring peace between the kingdoms. Lyra cannot speak, but has the voice of a songbird, and cannot go in the sun without being burned, while Vesper has daylight in his blood. After Lyra's father dies, her aunt schemes to take back the throne and casts Lyra into the Ashen Ravine, the place between the day and night kingdoms, where she's raised with no memory of her true identity.

I loved Lyra so incredibly much! Contrary to what you might think, Lyra is not a character who would feel a pea beneath a pile of mattresses. She is strong and scarred and powerful. This book begins with Lyra's childhood and I loved every minute spent with her, watching her grow into a strong woman willing to do anything to protect those she loved. Then there's Vesper, the handsome, mysterious, swoon-worthy prince of night and Lyra's betrothed. Their romance is extremely slow burn, but oh so worth it in the end! It easily could have fallen into instalove territory, but A.G. Howard did an incredible job of making it work without that terrible trope.

Of course there was a whole host of other fantastic characters. Two of these are Crony and Luce, a witch and wingless, shape-shifting sylph who raised Lyra for most of her childhood in the Ashen Ravine. I enjoyed them both, especially Luce, who had such an interesting backstory and a sly, snarky personality. But my favorite was Scorch, a fiery Pegasus and Lyra's unlikely friend in the Ashen Ravine! Their friendship was possibly one of my all-time favorites. The villainous evil queen and her daughters were delightfully evil - the exact kind that you cannot wait to see meet their demise!

While I absolutely fell in love with the characters, my favorite part of Stain was the world building. This book is long and I can definitely understand why after encountering such an intricate, well-written world. The mythology was thoroughly fleshed out and made everything feel that much more real. I felt like I could picture it all in my head! There were so many different creatures and magical details that all came together in a way that really worked. The kingdom of night was definitely my favorite. I would love to see some fanart of that stunning land of night and ice and thorns.

A.G. Howard really did an incredible job at creating a beautiful, gothic retelling that's an entirely new take on a classic. The writing was lush and felt like a fairytale. There were twists that I never saw coming and, although the beginning is a bit slow while detailing Lyra's childhood, I never became bored. And, like any good fantasy book, this one has a wonderful, detailed map that I'd love to have as a poster!

Stain was everything I was hoping it would be and more! The world and characters were incredible, and very quickly fell in love with the beautiful writing. Although this book does have a nicely wrapped up ending, I would definitely love to see more stories written in this fantasy world! If you're a fan of retellings or YA fantasy in general, you don't want to miss this book!

Must be 18 or have a parent's permission to enter. US only. Ends 1/31/19.
Winners will be contacted via the email within 1 day after the giveaway ends.
If winner does not respond within 3 days, a new winner will be chosen.

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