Read up to 33%, followed by heavy skimming-slash-scouting to see if there was anything worthwhile up ahead. Overall feeling is this is not what I signed up for.
The premise is deeply intriguing: a gender flipped retelling of Aladdin. I was drawn at first to the beauty of the ancient Middle Eastern setting, the POV of a plucky female thief, and the prospect of a smart-alecky female genie (no dice on that one, but it's ok). Huchton did and continues from what I've skimmed to score points on the setting, landing this book firmly in the saved-for-a-rainy-day-with-nothing-else-to-read camp.
But characters make or break a story for me, and while it was tolerable in Shadows on Snow
I found myself rolling my eyes far sooner than I anticipated or desired.
So the general plot is fully kicked off when Alida decides to trade her life in return for that of a criminal falsely accused for the crime she committed, and what do you know...yep, this is what gets the prince to fall in love with her.
His golden gaze lifted to mine, an awed confusion in his expression. "For four days, all I've been able to think about are your words in the square. You could've been free if you stayed silent. Why would you step forward that way? Why forfeit your life?"
All my suspicions of Alida's specialness were confirmed when it turns out she's secretly royalty and the destined heir to overthrow the evil queen. (Sorry for the spoilers, but this is like the oldest fantasy cliche in the universe...no one could not see it coming.) At this point, the long-lost backstory started surfacing and overtaking the plot, I started to get bored and commenced the skimming.
A little while later I found this, when she reunites with the prince again:
Seeing his grief, my heart ached for him. It must've been horrible for him, thinking me dead, still hearing the scream the red feather man stole from me. Even I shuddered at the memory.
Wait what? "Grief"? "Horrible for him"? Lady, the guy knew you for three days.
Just to top it off though, he has to reminisce about how awesome and beautiful she is (who remember, he knew for three days) in front of her, who he doesn't know is her
"I'm not any less angry about so much wasted beauty."
I tried not to, but I started a little. Beauty? Not once had I considered myself such a thing. "You...thought she was beautiful?"
Sameer visibly cringed. "I mean...Well, yes, but not..." He scrubbed at his face and turned to me, taking my hands in his. "When I said you remind me of her, it isn't in the way you look. The beauty she possessed is the same I see in you. There's something in your spirit--a kind consideration, honesty, and wit--that feels so familiar to me, when you speak I wonder if you aren't perhaps the same person."
I know it's a fairy tale, but honestly, who talks like this? I'm sure if the story had remained faithful to the original gender roles, the woman wouldn't be reminiscing about the man's "wasted beauty." Talk about putting someone on a pedestal.
I am still interested in giving Ride the Wind
a try because I love the "East of the Sun and West of the Moon" fairy tale to death, it's quite possibly my favorite. I also loved Jessica Day George's retelling in Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow
, so I have something to compare it to as well.