Once upon a time, seventeen-year-old Norah Hart believed in the lure of fairytales and happily ever afters. That was before she was forced to live in a fairy tale nightmare.
A psychotic, couture-clad, shoe obsessed Princess.
A not-so-charming, alcoholic Prince.
A hot Big Bad Wolf that she absolutely cannot fall for—no matter how well he kisses.
If Norah had known she’d be attending a boarding school for the nut job reincarnations of fairy tale characters, she would have insisted on going to Moscow with her father. But getting out isn’t as easy as she thought. Especially once Norah realizes she, too, is a storybook character. An Unknown. The first one in over one hundred years. Soon Norah learns she has the ability to rewrite the stories, putting everyone’s Happily Ever After in jeopardy.
Some princesses will do whatever it takes to protect their endings. Even if it means betraying the one closest to you.
Let me start with what I didn't like in this book before moving on to what I did since its a far shorter list to name what didn't work for me. As the oldest of three (technically four as I have younger stepsister as well) I've often felt a responsibility towards my siblings and their general happiness. I've failed, far more often then not, because at the heart of things what I want for them and what they want for themselves to be happy are not the same thing.
I've learned to accept this and just do whatever I can.
So here's Norah and her younger (by 2 years) half sister April. They share a father, but not a mother (which is very important to know later on so Packhurst makes sure its repeated fairly often) and since puberty hit they've not been able to get along for more then five minutes. April hates being Norah's shadow and Norah hates that April doesn't try to be more out there. They've gone to therapy over this and in Norah's case she keeps trying to get April to basically change everything she is. April wants none of that, in fact she'd be perfectly happy if Norah didn't exist at all.
And thus do we get the circular sibling hatred of Norah and April cropping up in between the rest of the plot. At first I didn't understand why April had to be in the plot at all since...well other then to be a sideline worry when Norah isn't thinking about Wolf. The importance of April being around doesn't come along til about halfway through the book and it was so unneeded. So. Very. Unneeded.
Okay now that I've unleashed about that let's talk about what I *did* like. Wolf. A lot of it is Wolf. I've found the "Big Bad Wolf" attractive ever since the Fables (by Bill Willingham) series entered my life. Bigby, with his gruff exterior and severely awkward attempts at being charming, is just so cute. Wolf, yes the guy's name is Wolf and he's tied in with the whole "Big Bad Wolf" legacy, is definitely more suave and smouldering hot. He'd fit right on in with those guys from MTV's "Teen Wolf" (that's not quite a compliment).
Wolf banters and seduces with words and looks and actions. He starts off as your typical player--all smooth lines, arrogant belief in his sexiness and seductive playfulness--but becomes more invested the more he and Norah bait each other. Okay so he's not above being a jerk, but he has legitimate reasons that Norah can't fathom because she didn't grow up in that world.
Norah starts out grating and while she calls BS on the whole "we're fairy tale princesses come to life teehee!" shenanigans she felt a little too good to be true at times. She stands up for the weak, is as good at combat skills (swords especially...Katniss made archery cool and Arya is doing a lot to make swords cool for girls) as the men and doesn't stand for injustice in any form. Though I'd have to wonder why she didn't play the social game a little bit better. It takes her a while to understand some things that someone with her social history should have at least seen.
Her "persistence" as April puts it wins out though. Mostly. She makes friends with Kate (who may or may not be Goldilocks?), stands up to Danielle (Miss Cinderella) and doesn't get caught in a love triangle no matter what tricks Packhurst tries. She doesn't WANT to be in a love triangle, hell she didn't particularly want to be in LOVE at all, but these things have a way of happening and she'd be damned if she let it distract her from her main goal. Wolf is being a jerk? Fine! She'll go off and plot and scheme on her own then laugh when Wolf realizes his mistake (which he does, several times).
Insofar as playing with fairy tale tropes, Packhurst does that and inverts some things as well. I found her "lost version" of The Little Mermaid to be interesting as well as her explanation how new versions become more popular and thus replace those older versions. The world building isn't as defined as I'd like (magic! Magic makes it all happen so why question MAGIC), but I'm willing to put that aside until the next book.