So I wasn’t planning on giving a novella a full review… but *WOW* this packs quite the punch and has more than enough depth to warrant as much attention as I can give it. There are going to be vague spoilers for Cruel Prince, so watch out if you still plan to read it.
Why was this so brilliant? Well, because it was completely unexpected. I was thinking this was going to be a simple short story that explained the actions of Tarryn and humanised her a little after her decisions in Cruel Prince. It’s not that at all. If you’re looking for a great explanation that redeems this character… sorry, you won’t find it. In fact, I think it’s actually been miss-marketed in that regard. This isn’t the story of how a heroine went astray- this is a villain origin story.
Right away, we’re plunged into Tarryn’s unapologetic apology. In a thoroughly unsympathetic tone, she reveals why and how she betrayed her sister- time and time again. If nothing else, I was impressed straight away by how distinct and persuasive the voice was. It was a subtle portrayal of a character and really opened a window into her mind. Whether you take her side or not, you’re going to have to admit she’s a very lifelike figure.
For me, this was a great twist on the YA trope of having the heroine do terrible things, but somehow get away with it cos *THEY’RE THE GOOD ONE*. It deals with the holier than thou attitude a lot of YA heroines have and twists it on its head. For me, this undermined that trope completely. The funny thing is Tarryn genuinely believes she’s the heroine in a fairy tale.
In fact, it’s because she views everything as a story that she thinks she can get away with whatever cruelties she commits. She doesn’t actually see how she’s done anything wrong and thinks she’s deserving of forgiveness just because. It’s a really twisted take on what it means to be a heroine and how someone might go down a wicked path.
Thus it perfectly embodies the idea that the villain is the hero of their own story. For all this tale’s simplicity, it’s actually a remarkable view into the human psyche. No, this doesn’t deliver anything new, but it’s quite the journey anyway. And yes, this is only a novella, nonetheless it’s also an ingenious twist on the YA genre and rather a pleasant surprise I might add. Sure, it doesn’t “save” the character’s reputation- and I won’t be expecting her to improve in Wicked King– however it is an excellent character study and is brilliantly executed:
Rating: 5/5 bananas
So have you read this? Do you plan to? And have you read any novellas recently that have blown you away? Let me know in the comments!