Stray by Elissa Sussman had a strong beginning and middle, but the ending was very disappointing. Perhaps it’s because it’s the first in the series, but I finished the book feeling confused rather than anticipatory and wishing I had gotten more from the characters.
I am grateful for my father, who keeps me good and sweet. I am grateful for my mother, who keeps her own heart guarded and safe. I am grateful for my adviser, who keeps me protected. I am grateful for the Path, which keeps me pure. Ever after.
Princess Aislynn has long dreamed about attending her Introduction Ball, about dancing with the handsome suitors her adviser has chosen for her, about meeting her true love and starting her happily ever after.
When the night of the ball finally arrives and Nerine Academy is awash with roses and royalty, Aislynn wants nothing more than to dance the night away, dutifully following the Path that has been laid out for her. She does not intend to stray.
But try as she might, Aislynn has never quite managed to control the magic that burns within her-magic brought on by wicked, terrible desires that threaten the Path she has vowed to take.
After all, it is wrong to want what you do not need. Isn’t it?
I like characters who face conflict within themselves; I love characters whose conflict seems to come from some sort of perception of darkness or wickedness inside them. These types of characters are so appealing to me because they always seem a little unpredictable.
Aislynn fell into that category and I loved her. She was funny and brave and so determined to do the right thing but constantly failing that she felt real. Her actions were scary sometimes, though, and I couldn’t understand it. Regarding a certain situation (I won’t specify for spoiler reasons) I felt like she really had other options and when another character was doing the same thing, I really couldn’t understand it. We’re not given a reason as to why this was the only option, and because it’s so…unhealthy, I really wasn’t comfortable with it or the logic behind it.
I was so, so disappointed in Aislynn and Thackery’s romance! I really liked Thackery: he had a great combination of dashing charm, moodiness, vulnerability and distrust that I felt like he would be interesting. And he was. But Aislynn and Thackery together were not interesting. The chemistry was there but when things actually happened, it just fizzled. I think this is in large due to the fact that there was like no description of their kisses. Like, I want to know what Thackery tastes like. What he smells like. How the weight of his body heat affects her. I want it all. Let me live vicariously through them. But alas, it was not to be.
The plot was great until the ending. In the beginning it was very full of things happening and the storyline was always changing, adjusting, and forming. What exactly was happening became clearer but where the story was going was still mostly unpredictable. I liked that. Towards the end, however, two things happened.
First, events became way too convenient. Aislynn can’t even keep a cup of tea warm with her magic, but suddenly, without any sort of practice or marked effort, she’s able to conjure a wall of fire? Stop a blade mid-air? And just at the time when it’s desperately required? It was way too easy. Even considering a reasonable suspension of belief, I couldn’t accept it. Second, the storyline became muddled and confusing. New pieces of information are thrown at us within the last forty pages or so and I have no idea what to do with this information. Where does it go? Who is it for? Do I cook it? I had to go back and re-read because I was wondering if I had missed something. I understand that this is probably supposed to set up the next book, but I felt like it was too much and far too vague to be really useful or necessary right at the end of the story.
So even though the romance was non-existant and the ending was murky and unclear, I did enjoy reading this book, and I’ll definitely continue reading the rest of the series.