Author: A. G. Howard
Publisher/Imprint: Amulet Books
Edition: Hardcover, 516 Pages
Publication Date: January 15, 2019
A Spine that Shines? Superbly!
Initial Thoughts & World-Building
I loved Stain! I’m so excited to finally share my review with you! (I was waiting until my pre-order prize package arrived so that I could post these lovely pictures.) This is the second book I’ve read by A. G. Howard, and I was blown away by this dark fairytale inspired by The Princess and the Pea. It also feels as if Howard has mixed in elements of other popular tales, such as The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White. Nevertheless, Howard’s book is marvelously complex and well-crafted, and she really makes it her own. Her characters possess a richness of depth that I don’t always sense in those of other YA books. The plot is engaging and often takes unexpected turns. Princess Lyra’s evil aunt schemes to put an impostor on the throne, and Lyra must prove herself to claim back what rightfully belongs to her and break the curse that has befallen her kingdom.
Speaking of the kingdoms, give yourself plenty of time to just absorb the amazing world that A. G. Howard has created in this story. The land has been split in two; Nerezeth is the kingdom of night, lit only by moonlight, and Eldoria – Lyra’s kingdom – is the kingdom of daylight, suffering from too much sunlight. Different creatures live in each kingdom, and the human inhabitants possess different complexions and abilities – such as telepathy. The pace might feel slightly slower than other YA books, but I was never bored. I was too caught up in the mesmerizing world and what was happening to the characters.
As I said, I was extremely impressed with the characters. I was able to empathize with almost all of them, and even enjoyed reading about the minor characters. Here is a brief overview of some of the main characters:
- Lyra is our silvery-haired princess of the “Prophecy,” meant to break the curse on the two kingdoms. Lyra has super long white eyelashes and purplish skin. She also cries purple tears and is able to control shadows! She loses the ability to make any sounds with her voice, and her memories are taken from her as a young child. She must remember who she is, then figure out how to prove that she is the true Eldorian princess. Lyra communicates mainly through sign language. Yes! Sign language! I get really excited when I find sign language used in YA books! Later on, she learns she can also communicate with Nerezethites through telepathy.
- Vesper is the prince of our tale, on his way to becoming the king of Nerezeth. He is literally turning to gold (yes, think Midas), because he drank liquid sunlight! He needs Lyra, the “moonlit princess,” to reverse the effects of the sunlight and “cure” him. He is not your typical fairytale prince, but his romance with Lyra is sweet and not overwhelming.
- Crony is perhaps not your typical witch. She possesses the power to steal memories from dying corpses. But she rescues Lyra in the forest and raises her disguised as a boy named Stain. There is much more to Crony than her ugly exterior.
- Luce is Lyra’s fox-like sylph companion. He is endearingly protective of her and eager to help her win back Eldoria’s throne. He has unfinished business with Griselda, and he feels he may never completely appease his guilty conscience for an act committed years ago.
- Griselda is Lyra’s aunt, the regent of Eldoria. This woman has no conscience. She employs brutal techniques to get what she wants, to put her perfect imposter on the throne. In the end, it is difficult not to at least feel pity towards her.
I loved the overall message that the inside matters! A person’s outside can be deceiving. I did notice that there were some moments of more “telling” rather than illustrating the action; there were scenes near the end of the book that I wished I could’ve experienced through Lyra’s eyes rather than Crony’s. But the ending proves to be satisfying and wraps things up nicely. Stain is a wonderful book! It is the best I’ve read yet from A. G. Howard. If you like high fantasy, give Stain a chance. I think you’ll be impressed. Has anyone read Stain yet? Any thoughts to add?