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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?

384 pages, Hardcover

First published October 7, 2014

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About the author

Elissa Sussman

6 books1,170 followers
Writer, reader, pumpkin pie eater.

I'm not very active on Goodreads, but I love hearing from readers. Visit my website to see how you can contact or connect with me!

Elissa Sussman is the author of the novel FUNNY YOU SHOULD ASK, as well as the young adult novels, DRAWN THAT WAY, STRAY, and BURN.

She has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College, an MFA from Pacific University, and in a previous life managed animators and organized spreadsheets at some of the best animation studios in the world, including Nickelodeon, Disney, Dreamworks, and Sony Imageworks. You can see her name in the credits of THE CROODS, HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG, and TANGLED.

She lives in her hometown of Los Angeles with her husband and their two dogs, Basil and Mozzarella.

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Profile Image for Alyssa.
1,069 reviews838 followers
September 28, 2014
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog***

Stray by Elissa Sussman
Book One of the Four Sisters series
Publisher: Greenwillow
Publication Date: October 7, 2014
Rating: 4 stars
Source eARC from Edelweiss

Summary (from Goodreads):

“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?

STRAY is the first in a collection of intertwined stories, all set in a world where magic is a curse that only women bear and society is dictated by a strict doctrine called The Path. A cross between The Handmaid’s Tale and Wicked, with a dash of Grimm and Disney thrown in, this original fairy tale will be released October 7th, 2014 from Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins.

What I Liked:

Ah! Original fairy tale plus fantasy plus subtle romance equals win! So much win! This book was awesomeeeee! I'm not used to fairy tales being full-length novels, but that's how they originated (most of them, I believe?). However, I LOVED this story. I LOVED Aislynn's struggles as a maiden, as a fairy godmother, as a girl trying to find her way.

Aislynn has really powerful magic. Her abilities sometimes spill over, getting her in trouble at her academy. She is a princess trying to push down her magic and find a suitable match so she can be married at sixteen and settle down. Everything is about staying on the Path, which is dictated by the headmistress of the academy, the Adviser of the family, even a little by the fairy godmother of the maiden... but not by the maiden. When Aislynn and her magic and her actions become too much for the academy, she is redirected to another academy, to be a fairy godmother (think NUN) of the lost and confused princess of two really important people (can't remember their names). Aislynn knows things aren't right, but she doesn't want to stray...

I thought I was going to have a hard time with this one because there is heavy emphasis on the Path, and what is good for everyone. This idea is a lot like destiny, I suppose, but like, someone chooses everything for you, so it's not... I don't know but I didn't like this idea of the Path at all. But that's just it - the author does an amazing job of developing the idea of the Path, and basically making me hate it.

It made me a bit angry how blindly Aislynn and all the maidens and fairy godmothers blindly followed the Path and the headmistresses and the Advisers and everyone - but again, this is a testament to how well Sussman built this world and constructed this idea. I hate the blindly following submissive thing, but I think the author did a really good job with this idea. It's one of those things that you hate, but then you're like, well, the author WANTS me to hate this.

So basically... the author did a fantastic job with the world-building. This is an original fantasy world, so it had to be creative and unique, and it was (in my opinion). I've never read anything with fairy godmothers portrayed as basically nuns? Cold, heartless nuns, but that sort of thing. Sussman definitely captured my attention, when it comes to the world-building and craftsmanship! And the story did too, of course.

I think I liked Aislynn, definitely more towards the middle and end of the book. Basically once she is out of the academy. I felt soooo bad for her when she was exiled to the next academy to be a fairy godmother. That's such an awful punishment, really. And the I hated the headmistress and her cruelty. I wasn't sure how to feel about Princess Linnea... in the end, I'm pretty apathetic towards the princess. Meh.

The story itself is quite intriguing. I wanted to know how Sussman would tie in the overall story arc with Aislynn's banishment to another academy. How would Aislynn having powerful abilities influence the story, how would that come into play with the evil queen, how would it help/hurt the princess? Would Aislynn get her own happy ending?

There is a subtle romance in this book. It's more like a friendship with romantic feelings. The only thing is, I sort of only saw Thackery functioning as a love interest. Was that the intent? I was hoping for more from the sexy gardener. He didn't do much besides tell jokes and pick flowers and help people escape sometimes... but that's okay, he's a fabulous love interest. I like how the romance is subtle but totally there but very underlying.

The ending was good! It wraps up like a standalone should, but I'm curious to see if Sussman will write companion novels in this world. I know there will be more novels, since the summary of this book says so, but will they be sequel stories, or companion stories? Tricky tricky...

What I Did Not Like:

I might have already mentioned my dislikes in the likes section (how backward of me, I know). I didn't really have much to complain about or anything - I wanted more from Thackery, as a protagonist, and not just a love interest. I wanted him to play a more important role, or be more manly or something. I just feel like he was part of the background - there, but not something/someone to really notice. Kind of.

Would I Recommend It:

I really enjoyed this book, and I would totally recommend it! I mean, I would recommend anything fairy-tale-related, to be honest... I don't think I've read an original fairy tale that I didn't like. Fairy tale retellings - different ball game. But this one is an original fairy tale, and it's awesome, and it's fantasy, and you should read it!


4 stars. An excellent debut novel! I hope to read (and love?) the next books by this author!!
500 reviews2,413 followers
January 9, 2015
Want to win some super cute STRAY swag? Enter our international giveaway!

 photo StraybyElissaSussman_zps688becef.png

Every now and then, I surprise myself by reading something I wouldn't normally pick up (based on the cover, yes. Cover snob, right here!) and find that I've discovered a gem. That's how Stray was for me. The cover's a bit dull, and while the synopsis is interesting, it wouldn't be something I'd have on my must read immediately! list. It's been getting a few mediocre ratings and reviews as well.

Boy, was I pleased to find out that Stray was such an intriguing and elegant read. I wasn't expecting to finish this as quickly as I did, but I was seriously drawn into the world Elissa Sussman created. I'm a sucker for all sorts of fairy tales with dark mysteries, whimsical worlds, confusing (in a good way) characters with their own stories, and Sussman definitely gave me what I was looking for.

There are no truths, only stories.

My favorite aspect of Sussman's debut is definitely the world building. Although we don't really get a huge background of the world (like how things became the way they did and such), I still thoroughly enjoyed reading about this magical and whimsical world Sussman brought me to. Again, many things were left unexplained, which is why I was so intrigued with the world's system: they had fairy godmothers (not the funny ones Disney always gives us, but ones with more depth), family advisers, kings, queens, and all those stuff I absolutely love.

There are some things you can never return from. Some things you can never undo.

The writing definitely added to the authenticity of the book. It was very light, the kind of writing you'd expect from a fairy tale or retelling. I felt like I was floating into the world... am I still making sense? Well, that's how I felt.

While all women are wicked, not all are weak.

The book also teaches readers many things. My favorite life lesson probably has to be one related to the quote above: We all have our wicked sides, but the people around us, those who really love us, will embrace our wickedness. We don't need to really expel our bitterness--it will always be there. Maybe we don't always have to be good (but please still try, people. We don't want the universe to explode). Sometimes we can't help it.

Aislynn is the perfect example of that. She tried to be the good girl, but eventually learned to use her magic and "wickedness" to her advantage. At first, she came off as a bit stuck-up, but she grew throughout the novel and I came to at least respect her by the end. It definitely helped that there were many interesting characters around her. There's her fairy godmother, Tahlia, who has a dark past of her own. Bridget, a friend, shares kindness whenever she can. Thackery was such an adorable and sweet love interest. And of course the infamous Queen Josetta who we have yet to meet.

Overall, Stray's definitely worth the read. But if you're expecting a lot of magic, adventure, intense action and all that, you won't find it here. I think this first book was meant for self discovery, and as sort of a build up for the books to come. Now that you know what to expect, PICK THIS BOOK UP. Please and thank you.

*Thank you to HarperCollins/Greenwillow for the eARC! (And boy, was it a gem.) All quotes were taken from the uncorrected proof and are subject to change on the finished copy.
Profile Image for Debby.
583 reviews540 followers
April 17, 2021
2 stars

*sigh* Stray is yet another example of a first book in a series that barely scratches the surface and is way underdeveloped in hopes of getting people on the hook for the next installments. When I wasn't confused about the messy plot and world building, I was mostly just... bored.

Stray follows the story of Aislynn, a princess growing up in a world where she is pressured, above all else, to be pure. Women are born with magic (and seen as almost instinctively evil), but are forbidden to use it because it would cause them to "stray" from their Path - basically their goal in life. A princess or lady is expected to learn the arts of music, flirting, horseback riding, and other completely pointless things in order to procure a husband. If they do not succeed or are tempted by their evil magic, they are Redirected to become fairy godmothers (who are basically servants). Basically, if the patriarchy angers you, you may want to stay away from this book. You have been warned. The book isn't advocating for the patriarchy in any sense, but it is its foundation, and the society they live in is swamped with these traditional, outdated values. I would suppose that the series will eventually work towards tearing that down - but it definitely didn't do so in this first installment.

Aislynn, sadly, bored me to tears. The book is told in third person - which I usually prefer - but in this case, it really made the main character an emotionless paper doll. Fine, she did show some emotions in the latter half of the book, but the first? I didn't get ANYTHING from her, even as she was stripped of her status as princess and sent off to become a fairy godmother. A fairy godmother traditionally has their "loving heart" removed, which I thought might explain the lack of emotional response she had to everything that happened to her, but even BEFORE the heart was removed, she was bland and boring and I can't find a single fuck to give. If my whole life was being changed in an instant from princess to servant, I'm pretty sure I'd feel (a) panic, (b) confusion, (c) rage, (d) fear. Aislynn chose for (e) none of the above. *headdesk* It doesn't help that the hammering about purity and following your preordained Path in life are all elements I would ascribe to a Mary Sue. And later she has visions that seemingly tell her where to go/what to do, and everyone just instantly believes in her without her explaining that these are probably important foretelling dreams. *sigh* Mary Sueeeeeeeeeeee.

There's also a romance that I just completely shrug my shoulders at. It's not a major part of the plot, and it's not completely instalove either, but after just one conversation, the two are seen as a done deal. I didn't feel the chemistry between them at all, and I hardly found that that one short conversation was reason enough for them to think about each other so much, have their bouts of mild jealousy, and later kiss almost completely out of the blue. It was just underdeveloped and did not make me swoon at all.

The plot was weird and messy. It felt like at any time, storylines could be picked up out of nowhere or dropped into an abyss. Aislynn is a princess, then she's not, then she is again, then she's not. This character disappears, but that's probably not important. Here's this super important item - but we're barely going to tell you what it's for or why it's so important. These characters are evil, but we won't even begin to tell you why or how that was built up. And there's this Evil Queen, but she might or might not actually be evil, though she's kind of raising and army, but also kind of not. I just. What. It was so hard for me to follow. I just didn't see the point of any of it. It felt like there were ten thousand loose threads and they were all squished up and knotted into a huge ball, but I can't tell how any of it fits together, and I'm pretty sure there are a million plot holes. But with such a boring main character, I can't bring myself to put in the effort to try to work it out.

The world building barely scratched the surface. In essence, I can see the appeal, because it really has a traditional fairy tale vibe. Princesses prided on purity, helped by fairy godmothers, living in castles, waiting to meet their princes. But the ideas behind these Paths that they're following were not explained at all. I have a hard time accepting the foundation of a society based on principles of "just 'cuz". There's magic, which could be cool, and Aislynn has trouble controlling it, but since they're not allowed to use it, we barely see it. I don't get why it's forbidden anyway - and considering they have "custody charms" which limit magic for servants, if it really was so important for princesses to not have magic, couldn't they just have used those on them too? And the whole Evil Queen and her dark empire - what the hell is up with that? They keep referring to it as if it's such a threat, but there's never any mention of wars being fought or the Evil Queen actually trying to actively conquer the rest of the world. These are all things that I'm sure will come in future books in the series but you can't give me so little to go off of in a first book and expect me to be actively anticipating the next one. Nope. I'm bored.

Summing Up:

There was such potential here to play off of the charm of traditional fairy tales and create a whole new, exciting world, but instead Stray just filled me with boredom. Even scenes that should have swept me away - like the Introduction Ball - were briefly and hastily described and concluded, so I just never really got into this story. The plot confused me way too much, and overall, this is just a first book in a series trying to get you on the hook by not explaining anything. Well I'm not biting this time. I'm out.

GIF it to me straight!

Recommended To:

Big fans of traditional fairy tales with more patience than me o_o

*ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the contents of the review.
Profile Image for Taylor.
767 reviews420 followers
January 9, 2016
I LOVED that Stray is an original fairy tale. I loved Aislynn and I loved the writing. I loved this book.
I did feel like at times I was so caught up in how much I loved the concept, that I forgot to be critical. It was really great that I was so caught up in the story but I think that the concept carried me though most of the book. It was pretty slow at times and even a little boring. I didn't notice while I was reading but looking back, it was pretty slow in the middle.
I'm really curious to see what happens in the next book so I'll definitely be checking it out.
Profile Image for Nemo (The ☾Moonlight☾ Library).
625 reviews302 followers
September 22, 2014
In a misogynistic world where women’s natural magic has branded them dangerous, stupid, and in need of controlling constant guidance, Aislynn is living the dream: she’s a princess in a fairytale world complete with fairy godmothers, handsome princes, and happily ever afters. Except that when Aislynn accidentally uses her natural magic to defend herself, she’s Redirected onto the fairy godmother Path, sent to a new Academy, and must serve another princess.

Stray is an interesting book. It’s been branded as ‘a new fairytale’, except that is brings in lots of elements of other faiytales such the aforementioned fairy godmothers, magic, the Glass Slipper, spinning needles, and wolves, without really building much of its own tale. In Stray, the horrible misogynistic world built leaves all young girls in the most horrifying and vulnerable of positions: they are not allowed to use their natural magic. Advisors and fairy godmothers keep girls under constant scrutiny until they are handed over to their husbands, who keep a record of their magic use. And when they cross a line (which is undefined, as some girls are Redirected for much lesser crimes than other) and are Redirected, they are expected to be experts at all sort of domestic magic. Aislynn is yelled at constantly because she can’t heat tea or alter dresses using her magic. It’s an awful position to be put in, and I couldn’t help but think of the pressure put on virgin girls in the real world to suddenly become porn stars the instant they lose their virginity.

Contrary to just about every book ever written, Stray suffers from one mighty setback: it shows us too much without telling us anything at all. There are so many mysteries left unsolved at the end of the book I have to wonder if it was done on purpose or if the author is simply incompetent. A wolf that Aislynn has been dreaming about suddenly appears literally out of nowhere and no one asks any questions, Aislynn included. Aislynn’s own fairy godmother leaves cryptic clues that only serve to deliver more questions, and doesn’t answer anything. Aislynn spends a lot of her time being a failure of a fairy godmother and baking, except that at one point she’s Redirected (again) to become a princess (again), which begs the question that why on earth did we have the fairy godmother sections except to show that Aislynn isn’t very good at magic, except those random moments when she’s exceptionally good at it? It may have been to show the developing relationship between the gardener and the other servant, except that those relationships (however realistically portrayed) go nowhere as well.

Two-thirds into the book the plot takes a drastic change. This is with the introduction of the wolf. Aislynn’s back to being a princess. No one has any real idea of what’s going on, and as the reader I was just as lost. There was no clear goal in the novel and no real hurdles to overcome. It felt more like a ‘slice of life’, a series of montages showing how Aislynn couldn’t do anything right, how she was punished, and how she wasn’t quite bright enough to figure out someone was keeping tabs on her. She didn’t even have a goal of escaping the horrible society she was trapped in. The whole thing felt kind of aimless, even though the first two thirds seemed like a dystopian novel, which made it more difficult to read because as I said, no one had any goals and the villain that was being built up to be the villain turned out not to be a threat after all. Despite the dystopian feel to the fairytale world, there seemed to be no central conflict. Just ‘Aislynn can’t do anything right, except when she does.’

On top of that the characters in one location are replicated almost exactly in another location (the creepy pedo old man, the dour old woman who needs her heart back), and they hate Aislynn for no reason. AND THEN the contradictions started kicking in. The party Aislynn finds herself in think she’s being targeted for attack (no reason for them to believe this) when someone else was shot first, and then one characters says another character, who’s been as dour as the old woman mentioned previously, actually likes Aislynn.

Overall it kind of felt like the author wrote two-thirds of the book and realised the story couldn’t continue with Aislynn as a fairy godmother, so the story went off in another direction in an attempt to inject some danger and/or goals, much the same way Twilight was simply a romance until James was introduced to include a Big Bad and a direct threat to Bella.

Will I read the next book in the series? Honestly, probably not. I’m too disappointed by this jumble of half-plots and messing around doing nothing constructive. I feel that the novel could have been so much more, but then I re-read the blurb and saw how little it actually promised. I was just way too excited about the idea of a princess with magical powers. That’ll teach me.

Bonus points for hinting at possible lesbianism between two supporting characters.

Thanks to Greenwillow and Edelweiss for providing a free review copy for an honest review.

pre review:



*runs excitedly in tiny circles*
Profile Image for Robin & Fo.
70 reviews29 followers
Want to read
April 30, 2014
"Princess Aislynn knows all about the curse. It's magic is a part of her, like her awkward nose and thin fingers."

Wait... what?
I don't know how to visualize an 'awkward nose'...

Anyway, the synopis sounds quite interesting!
And it's good the fairy godmothers are finally portayed differently!

Because when we think of a fairy godmother we probably all think about

Or this one....

So, now we'll just wait untill October.. oh well..
Profile Image for Nasty Lady MJ.
1,059 reviews16 followers
February 7, 2015
To see review with gifs click here.

Once upon a time, I would’ve forced myself to finish if not at least read most of Stray. But I’ve grown up a lot since I started regularly blogging (circa 2012). And I’ve grown fed up with books like Stray.

I’m going to be frank, this book should’ve never seen the light of day from an agent’s slush pile let alone a publishing house.

It’s that bad.

However, it’s a perfect book to talk about the craft and some common mistakes in writing. So, I think I can do a somewhat decent review on discussing these issues.

Problem One: There is WAY Too Much and Not Enough Going On:

This book is sort of like being on an acid trip. Or what I imagine being on an acid trip must be like since I’ve never been on one, unless you count drinking three bottles of grape soda and singing “Yankee Doodle” very loudly in rural Illinois when you’re nine an acid trip.

I don’t. Watching Sponge Bob would probably be a better comparison.

The point is, that nothing that happens in Stray really makes sense despite Sussman is a huge fan of info dumping and telling rather than showing-it never works. Even with these info dumps, I’m sort of left in a case of other confusion. Because the world in Stray is pretty isolated save for the fact that we know our dumb ass heroine (better known as Aislynn) likes to bake and still has a heart despite the headmistress going all Once Upon a Time on her.

Oh, and something about how there’s lots of kings and queens, while there’s really like one reigning queen who’s like the Evil Queen from Snow White but called the Wicked Queen.

Does any of this make sense?

If you’re like me, just get a glass of wine at this point.

At the same time while you’re confused with this big old mess, don’t expect anything to happen except for Aislynn to eat lots of things and complain about the color coordinated clothing system.

Problem Two: Did I Mention that Aislyn is Dumb?

Dumb doesn’t even begin to describe Aislyn. I think she gets a Golden Bella and then some when it comes to her lack of intelligence. I might’ve been able to buy some of it if she’d been younger, might’ve, but I don’t. I think I know what Sussman was trying to do with this character. Screw ups can be fun to read about. And let’s face it, no one wants to read about a perfect character. But Aisyln is sort of the Mary Sue of screw ups to the point it’s just painful to read her POV.

Plus, she makes some real idiotic choices.

Oh, and falls in love instantly. And is too special for her heart to go all Once Upon a Time bye-bye. It’s no wonder why I hate her.

Problem Three: Wrong Genre:

I really think this book would’ve benefited from being middle grade. It could’ve been a cute middle grade book if a lot of editing was done and the whole purity subplot was diluted somewhat. I think it rings more MG than YA for me because the character just reads really young (despite being either fifteen or sixteen). It would make a lot more sense for Aislyn to be younger, it would’ve made her behavior seem more natural.

Instead, she seems like an overgrown cast member of Sophia the First.

Problem Four: Tell Rather Than Show

This booktended to do rampant info dumps of telling rather than showing. And I get it, first book in the series, of course you’re going to info dump a bit…but this was way too much. Way too fast. I couldn’t get into this world and even though I was told what the characters motivations were, but based on what was shown to me they felt too stilted and stiff.

Again, like a bad kid’s show.

Problem Five: Balancing Mystery versus Manners

I spent a good semester in my Writing Projects course talking all about this. Mystery versus manners is in some ways, an extension of showing versus telling-except what you want to tell and show.

While there weren’t a lot of things shown, the things that that were shown, were mere glimpses were rather fascinating but they did nothing to add to the plot. They were just sort of there yelling-look, this book could be good if it ever learned writing basics.

As for that information that was dumped upon us, it was essentially useless to the part of the book I read other than that fairy godmothers wear purple.

Overall Thoughts:

This is one case where I blame myself more than the book. I was warned and I should’ve known better. But I was still intrigued, and you only have one life to live so I was like why not. Needless to say, I learned quick not to give in to intrigue.
Profile Image for Anatea Oroz.
302 reviews515 followers
April 25, 2015
I haven't read much fairy tale like books, if you don't count the ones I read as a child. Actually, I'm pretty sure I haven't read any. I don't know why I picked up Stray, but I guess I just wanted to bring a little diversity into my reading, and with the beautiful cover that Stray has, I ended up reading it. I am surprised by how much I enjoyed Stray. It's a kind of fairy tale interlaced with a really great world-building and fantasy elements & a cute and subtle romance.

Aislynn is currently attending Nerine Academy in which she shall learn everything there is about her future life and finding a proper husband, but also how to control her magic. She is to follow the Path. On the night of her Introduction Ball where she is supposed to choose her husband, an uncontrolled outburst of magic happens, and she is redirected. Meaning, she won't have the chance of living a normal life and starting a family, but she is to be a fairy godmother (read: she'll help other girls on following the Path). Is Aislynn going to continue with her schooling as a fairy godmother, or will she stop following the Path and stray?

Like I already mentioned, the strongest part of this book is the world-building. Elissa Sussman does such an amazing job at describing and creating the world that is so magical and intriguing and you just can't help it, but be sucked right into it. The whole idea of the Path is very unique in my opinion. There is a set of rules that you're supposed to follow, a certain way to live your life, and if you don't follow all the rules, you stray, and with that you lose every privilege you previously had, like food or a place to sleep. You're up on your own in a world in which it's not easy to survive.

"I will accept the Path I am taking. I will not stray. I will not yearn for what I cannot have. I will heed the words of my advisers and guard my loving heart against cursed magic. Ever after."

Another thing that I really enjoyed in Stray, is the romance. It is very subtle, but still very present. It never gets into the way, but it's always there and it's a nice thing when you don't have to read an awesome book, but it gets ruined with an awful lot of romance parts, or even worse, with insta-love!

Stray is the first book in the Four Sisters series, and even though every book is supposed to be a standalone, I am really glad they are placed in the same world. I must admit that I am really excited to read them. I think Stray would be a great read for everyone who likes retellings or fairy-tales. But even if you're not that much into it, maybe you should give this one a try and discover that this genre also has a lot of potential.

If you want to read more reviews like this, visit my blog Anatea's Bookshelf.
Profile Image for Sara Raasch.
Author 16 books5,738 followers
March 28, 2013
Ooo this sounds like the YA version of Mercedes Lackey's Five Hundred Kingdoms! YES PLEASE.
Profile Image for Sharon.
506 reviews258 followers
August 25, 2016
You know it's a good book when you stay up until 4am to finish it.

The concept of fairy godmother was unique in Stray, in that the fairy godmothers were rejected royals who had messed up somehow by either using too much magic or being unable to get married by the end of their 16th year. Then, they had to help other royals as an example to the royals to not screw up like them.

The protagonist, Aislynn, was somewhat bland to me in the beginning because you could already tell that she was ignorant in the ways of the world. She had low self-esteem and she was rather single-minded in her need to hide her magic and to get married. She was the typical social cast-out whom all the girls hated for being different. I sympathized with her, but I still did not quite see her appeal until later on. However, I guess that was the beauty of the book because her character truly developed throughout the story. She went from being ashamed and dependent to being confident and independent. Her life after she became a godmother helped her learn more about herself, how to take care of others, and to embrace her magic. The character developments were brilliant and realistic. Props to you, Sussman.

The aspect that I truly, truly appreciated from this book was that, unlike many other YAs, it was not just about love. We saw Aislynn form friendships--friendships that allowed Aislynn to open up her eyes and grow as a person. Brigid, Thackery, and others cleared away her prejudices against the lower classes and magic. In addition, I loved the lessons that things are never how they appear. We saw Aislynn figure out some of the truths in the mysteries surrounding fairy godmothers, strays, the Wicked Queen, etc. I was literally not bored for a minute because I was interested in the plotline and what Aislynn was going to find out. Sussman did a great job in showing how people were indoctrinated from what people told them, and her storytelling was gradual, never overwhelming us with too much information at once.

I mean, of course, there was romance, but it was the subtle kind of romance, in which the love interest supported the protagonist and helped her to become a better person. He was not in every darn page and Aislynn was not constantly thinking about him. SHE HAS A LIFE--YES. However, when he did show up in a scene, it was a lovely thing to read because although romance was not the focus of this book, the romance that we did see was something sweet and believable. Truth be told I had been tired of reading about protagonists who always whine about love and tired of love interests who are so moody and secretive and always pushing the girl away. The amount of romance in this story was perfect, and YES, the love interest was swoonworthy.

Stray was a great read! I was surprised by how much I liked it. There were many good components in this book that as a whole made this book entirely enjoyable to read. A lot happened in this book, especially because this was the 1st book to the quartet (?, I am assuming it is a quartet) and introduced us to key characters and gave us the 1st look into this new world . The ending, while answering a few questions, left many mysteries left to be solved. That's OK because Aislynn's primary storyline has ended and we shall find out what happens in the sequels. Each book centers on a different character, I believe.

Things that you might want to know
Was there a love triangle?
Happy ending?
Anything that irked you?
Did any good character die?
Did you cry?
Any comparisons to this book?
Should I read it? YESSSSS.
Any other questions, feel free to ask! :)
Profile Image for Mel (Daily Prophecy).
1,080 reviews465 followers
September 14, 2015
I started with a 3/3.5 rating after finishing, but then I wrote my review and found out I didn't like it that much after all. Confusing book!


Let me say this right away: this book isn’t going to be for everyone. It’s slow-paced and character- driven, the world-building needs more work and you have to deal with old, traditional ways that suck. I liked it, but there were moments I wanted more. This book feels more like a step-up for the real story, but my overall opinion is that it’s enjoyable.

“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.”

Aislynn is a disappointment. She can’t control her magic , she is too close with her fairy godmother and she is disobedient. The leader of the Nerine Academy is afraid she will stray away from her Path, especially since her best friend disappeared. She is send to another academy to be Redirected; instead of dazzling parties and handsome princes, Aislynn will be trained to become a fairy godmother. Hidden away in the clothes of her new function, Aislynn becomes the godmother of princess Linnea. When Aislynn receives a mirror from her old fairy godmother, she finds out there is a lot more going on at her academy.

The world where Aislynn lives in is hard. She is constantly punished for the fact she can't perform the magic tasks they ask from her. She is badly treated and pushed around without having anything to say about it. I was fascinated by ‘the Path’ and how people can ‘stray’ and become outcasts like the Wicked Queen Josetta. When the Academy decides you aren’t on the right track, they change your future and therefore your ‘Path.’ You should never question them and always comply to their wishes. You have to stay true to the vows you made to the strict patriarchal doctrine of the land.

It’s obvious from the beginning that Aislynn's curious nature and big mouth are going to get her in trouble, especially in combination with her wild, uncontrollable magic. I liked how strong she was and how she accepts her change of life without too much complaining. The down-side was that she fell bland to me. I never connected with Aislynn and honestly, she is very boring. When you are taken from your Path, I would expect emotions, but I guess she has learned not to question them?

The hints of magic, never too much explored, make me curious for the sequel. I want to see what Aislynn is capable of and how it’s going to help her after the confrontation at the end of this book. There was a lot of magical failure in the book, probably to show us what a disappointment Aislynn is supposed to be, but there are some lucky moments where she gets it right. I want her to break free to explore her limits.

There wasn’t much romance, unexpected for a fairytale retelling, and I was pleasantly surprised by it. Granted, there is something going on between characters, but I didn't really care for it. It needs more time and a more prominent place in the story to become interesting. It's the same with the world-building. It's good, but it could have more structure. We are left with a lot of details that doesn't seem to come together. I also hope that the sequel provides more information about the Wicked Queen. The short mentions of her and the revelation at the end of Stray make me curious.

As I said, the pacing is slow and the middle part is mostly about character development, but I will give the sequel a try. It wasn't the best book ever, but if you have some patience and a lot of love for fairytales like me, I think you might appreciate what the authors is trying to achieve - but it needs work.
Profile Image for Tanja (Tanychy).
588 reviews252 followers
October 10, 2014
Review also posted Ja čitam, a ti?

We discussed this a great deal in the past so I guess that sadly I got another book to put on my "I like the idea but not the characters or vice versa" shelf, as Stray was just that. It gave me an insight into a really interesting and magical world but at the same time it gave me a main character I couldn't connect with.

Stray takes you to another world, which has some elements you are familiar with but still combines them in the interesting manner and with that creating an equally interesting world. It's a world where girls are bound to follow the Path or they will go Stray and with that rejected from the society. One of the rules of the Path is not to use your magic abilities aka "Conceal don't feel. Don't let them see" but some rules are there to be broken.

So there is Aislynn our main character here, whom I cannot but describe as boring most of the times. She really didn't have anything that appealed to me. She was just a pawn that told us the story. There was no connection between us, or actually between me or any other character. Sometimes I felt like that was the role they played and it fits their position, but at other times it bored me.

Another trouble here is the whole point of all this. This story offers you so much of everything, but when you think of it at the end you know nothing. I have holes in my brain about this world, about some characters and their point in this whole world. Also just a side note: you cannot give a wolf that name, just no! It bothered me to no end.

Not to be completely negative, in Stray you'll find a nice romance. It's actually how I like them in fantasy stories. It's there and you can see it develop but at the same time it never shadows the plot or the world. It just follows it and never takes over.

Still the official Goodreads page promises us more books that are set in this world, and with that I truly believe that at least one character I'll be able to connect with. Till then.
Profile Image for Gray Cox.
Author 4 books164 followers
February 24, 2018
She didn't want to be new. She wanted to be who she was. (pg. 258).

When I picked up this book I didn't bother to read the blurb, it was one of those impulsive moments at my library. So when I got home and read the blurb I inwardly groaned, not another book based off The Golden Thread! Not another purity metaphor story!

But nevertheless, I gave this book a chance, and boy, am I glad I did!

It was really good. I really enjoyed it! Stray is set in your typical fairytale/fantasy setting, but yet it has an interesting twist.

Would recommend for fairytale lovers who like rebellion in books.

Conservative warnings:

While being clean of bad words and smut, this book does have an older man trying to take advantage of Aislynn, causing her to lash out (good for her!) this scene is very subtle, and would probably go over younger reader's heads, but here's a warning just in case.

-There is also an indication of a relationship that once went on between a girl and a maid, although both deny it.

-Thank you, Libby for reminding me! All of the characters in this book DO have magic powers, so if that's something you don't read, be warned.

All in all, I enjoyed this greatly!
November 21, 2014
When I saw that this was a fairy tale retelling and that this author worked on Disney's Tangled, I immediately added it to my TBR. I love Tangled with a passion that rivals most little kids. And I'm such a sucker for anything fairy tale related, I just binge-watched 3 1/2 seasons of Once Upon a Time in like 2 weeks. I had no idea that this was about fairy godmother's until I read Nick's review, and that only made me want to read it more because I don't think I've ever read a story about fairy godmother's. Not one that centers around them, at least. I love the idea of this book, it was completely original and so creative. I think I might have liked the premise of this more book more than the actual story...

Aislynn's life would probably be considered perfect by most. She is a princess attending a prestigious academy while waiting for a suitable match to be arranged for her before she turns 16. She attends classes, balls and has her own fairy godmother. All her focus should be on staying on the Path. But Aislynn, like all females have magic in them that they must control. If they can't control it, they are considered Stays and they are set to become fairy godmothers. In this story, fairy godmothers aren't what we would normally think of. Not like Cinderella's adorable godmother or even that slightly crazy fairy godmother in Shrek. Being a fairy godmother is just a fancy name for nun/servant. Aislynn has always struggled with controlling her magic and has even taken some non-healthy ways on dealing with it, but when her magic becomes to much for her to handle she is stripped of her princess title and sent to a different academy to become a fairy godmother.

Being a fairy godmother is a bleak life. You are not allowed to date, marry or have kids and you are pretty much the servant/snitch of a princess. Aislynn is assigned to be Princess Linnea's fairy godmother who lost her parents when she was younger. I wasn't sure how I would feel about their relationship but I really ended up liking it... eventually. While Aislynn came off as naive at times, especially in the beginning, I really like how she grew into her character throughout the book, especially the end. I really liked her interactions with Linnea and Thackery and the rest of the people she meets at the new academy. I loved how each character managed to surprise me a little and made me look forward to seeing them in the next book.

While I really loved the idea and the concept of forbidden magic, forbidden love and fairy godmothers, there were some parts that were a little bit confusing to me. I want to know why it's considered bad to use magic, the history of fairy godmothers and a few more details that I wish were explained more. I'm aware that this is part of a series (Although I thought it was a stand-alone when I first started reading it) and I'm hoping that we get more answers in the upcoming books. I wasn't a big fan of the romance and I wanted more of it. I would have at least liked to learn a little bit more about Thackery's personality and once again, I hope we get more in the next book. Although it felt like this dragged on in some parts, especially towards the middle, I love the originality of this. I'm looking forward to the next book and would recommend this to fans of fairy tale retellings.

Audiobook Comments: I've listened to a few audiobooks narrated by Caitlin Davies and I think she does a really good job. I wish she did a better job at her guy voices, but overall, her performance enhanced the story.

3.5 out of 5 stars!

Mood Board: Stray by nereyda1003

Read full review & more of my reviews at Mostly YA Book Obsessed

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Profile Image for Jessica.
738 reviews73 followers
June 17, 2014
What a breath of fairytale fresh air! A riveting account of ever after as seen through princess who may be redirected to a role of fairy godmothers. I absolutely adore fairy-tale re-tellings. I never get tired of reading a book that enraptures me in its fracture retelling finery. I’m always ready to read a good (or watch) a good dose of ‘Ever After’


This book’s scope of retellings focused on murky characters such as ‘fairy godmothers.’ Stray, in essence, was a wondrous bibbidi bobbidi boo of YA magic:


The plot is a intricate weave of unanswered questions concerning this world, spotty characters, and Aislynn's purpose. Sussman's questions and even plot points are being set-up for future novels and remain unresolved, so their lack of finite execution has yet to worry me. After reading the first Shadow and Bone (Leigh Bardugo) and Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Laini Taylor)---I feel that, I don’t mind going ‘WTF?!’ for any length of time (I think I'm conditioned now to the point of expecting fantasy books as 'series' rather than stand-alones)---the point being: as long as my questions are answered further down the line---and there are no outstanding plot holes, I'm okay with reading in the pursuit of answers. Sussman's writing is captivating enough to ask that, quite frankly, next time I would appreciate the author to....


The world-building, and setting is fascinating. The layer of guessing, just adds to either your (frustration, or enjoyment) of this book. While plot purposes could be held questionable (and to some definitely accountable), my main enjoyment was character connection. Sussman did a fantastic job of bringing Aislynn, her problems, her connection to her world---ALIVE. She breathed life into Linnea, Thackery, Brigid---and other secondary characters. I enjoyed experiencing their world through Aislynn's eyes, as she (albeit fretfully) decides whether to stay on the path or stray.

In essence, if you like fairytale re-tellings, some action-adventure, and great characterization---Stray is a fabulous read. I will have plenty of readers who will EAT THIS BOOK ALIVE (or at least cradle it to their chest in HUGS)----and I’m genuinely excited for the sequel.

Needless to say, If I’m ever set on a path (or given the option to stray from it) in order to achieve my ever after:

want a castle

Thank you Edelweiss for the ARC!
Profile Image for Jaime (Two Chicks on Books).
825 reviews400 followers
October 7, 2014
4.5 stars! I would have given this a 5 but the beginning was pretty slow. But once the story got going I was so wrapped up in Aislynn's story! I do wish there had been a bit more romance buy I hope that will be remedied I'm book 2! I loved Thackary! Oooh and I loved that Elissa added the bookbinder bread recipe at the end!
Profile Image for Dark Faerie Tales.
2,274 reviews546 followers
August 17, 2014
Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

Quick & Dirty: Stray is an enchanting original fairy tale that will completely captivate you. It surprisingly covers a lot of realistic issues in a fun and interesting way. I can honestly say that I have never read anything quite like this before!

Opening Sentence: Aislynn’s hands were bleeding.

The Review:

Princess Aislynn has never really felt like she was good enough. She is a princess so she figured she would grow up to be graceful, beautiful, and the curse would never be a problem, but that’s not what happened. There is magic inside her that is always fighting to get out and she doesn’t always have the purest thoughts. Girls that don’t learn to control their abilities are much more likely to stray from the sacred path that has been put in place to protect everyone.

All girls of noble birth are introduced to society at the age of 16 and if they aren’t married by the time they turn 17 they are sent to become fairy godmother’s to other noble girls. It is finally Aislynn’s 16th birthday and she couldn’t be happier to be introduced to society. But something terrible goes wrong at her ball and instead of meeting prince charming she is shipped off to become a fairy godmother. She is assigned to Princess Linnea, an orphaned girl that has had a rough childhood. As they get to know each other Aislynn comes to realize that she wasn’t as different as she thought and that maybe magic isn’t such a bad thing. There is so much Aislynn doesn’t understand, but she knows that there are people out there that will do anything to make sure she doesn’t stray!

Aislynn is a very interesting character to get to know. She has some wonderful traits but at the same time lots of flaws as well. She is a very caring person and she is always trying to do the right thing, but at the same time because she is so naïve she makes a lot of mistakes. In a lot of ways this was really a coming of age story and I enjoyed watching Aislynn grow into a woman. Even though she started out as a shy girl that was easily influenced, she quickly learned that if she wanted to be happy she was going to have to pave her own path. She was a very easy character to like and connect with.

I adored Thackery and he was probably my favorite part of the story. He is sweet, clever, brave, and stubborn. Pretty much from the first moment I met him I was completely taken with him. To be perfectly honest there isn’t really a lot of romance in the story but there is just enough to make you want more. Their relationship developed slowly and it was done so perfectly. For the most part, Thackery is a pretty minor character in the story, but I am hoping that we will get to see him a lot more in the next book.

Stray is a beautiful dark fairy tale that completely captivated me. To be totally honest, there were parts of the story that dragged and some things were a little confusing. So it obviously wasn’t perfect, but I found that its flaws were easy to overlook because the story was so intriguing. I loved the characters, they were engaging and easy to connect with. The idea was very unique and I can honestly say I haven’t ever read anything quite like this before. It did start out a little slow but it caught my interest enough that I wanted to keep reading and I found that my interest never wavered throughout the story. The ending was pretty abrupt and I am glad that there is going to be another book because I still have lots of unanswered questions. I wouldn’t say that this book is for everyone, but if you like fairy tales or want a unique young adult book, I would recommend you give this one a try!

Notable Scene:

Madame Moira held the glass jar aloft. Inside was a glowing orb, pulsing and blinking like a firefly. Its bright blue light filled the room. The headmistress quickly sealed the jar and, with a ring of keys, unlocked one of the doors in the wall. She placed the jar inside, the glowing thing that had once been a part of Aislynn swiftly locked away.

Aislynn waited for pain. She waited for a sense of loss, of unfathomable sadness, but nothing came. She felt the same. Had it worked? She glanced over at the apple on the headmistress’s desk. The heat that had been there earlier when she had thought about Thackery was gone. She thought about Everett too, and there was no twinge, no ache. Her heart beat steadily on, no longer stopping at the thought of him.

It felt wonderful.

FTC Advisory: Greenwillow/HarperTeen provided me with a copy of Stray. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.
Profile Image for Sarah Louise.
778 reviews349 followers
January 19, 2016
Stray has a very unique fairy tale quality of its own, while also incorporating fun, subtle connections to other fairy tales that we know and love. In the kingdom where Princess Aislynn resides, the use magic is forbidden. That is, unless you are a fairy godmother. Becoming a fairy godmother is not an aspiration to hold, however.
"Isn't it your responsibility to make sure that the tea remains hot? Isn't that your very purpose? Does The Path not say 'Give me a fairy godmother, so I may not wish. Give me a fairy godmother, so I may not want'?"
The use of magic is considered sinful, forming a label over the perpetrator's head as a stray, a rejection of the devoted path chosen by the Academy. Princess Aislynn must follow her path towards finding a suitable husband by the end of her sixteenth birthday, or risk having her path redirected to the Order of Fairy Godmothers.

Due to her uncontrollable magic during times of distress, the path for Princess Aislynn is redirected where she finds herself as a fairy godmother to the Princess Linnea. Initally the thought of a princess being forced out of her original duties seemed absurd. Surely these rules are unjust and would lead to countless rebellions, especially with the fairy godmothers permitted to use magic.

The history surrounding the paths and fairy godmothers was definitely unique and intricate, however, and the punishment for not following your assigned path is severe. The duty of a fairy godmother is much like a servant, while also ensuring their assigned maiden remains on the proper path for the rest of her life. There were moments reminiscent of Cinderella, as well, which I really enjoyed. Of course, the relationship between the maiden and her fairy godmother is really special, and complex. I especially enjoyed Aislynn's connection with her own fairy godmother before she is redirected.

Aislynn was a pushover, in a way. Her fear of magic forced her to remain within her duties rather than live her life willingly. Her obedience kept the story more character driven as she embosses her life as a fairy godmother, but the action definitely builds up along the way, as well as the formation of wonderful relationships.

The romance formed in Stray is adorable. Thackery, which is totally an unfortunate name, is quite charming, but also a little insecure, and I enjoyed his curiosity towards Aislynn. What I enjoyed most about the romance, however, is that his occupation is a gardener. Not a prince. Not a guard. A gardener. Their relationship is more of a slow burn for the majority of the book, too, which is my personal favourite.

There is quite a few villains along the way, and although some were predictable, others were not. The mention of an Evil Queen and her huntsmen is incorporated throughout the story, as well. Although the Evil Queen has an underlying purpose to the plot, her character is not fully introduced in Stray. I'm anticipating the second installment, Burn, will combine her path with Aislynn's, which will provide further explanation of the magic system.

Profile Image for starryeyedjen.
1,640 reviews1,232 followers
November 25, 2014
The audiobook version of this title was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts are my own.

This review can also be found at The Starry-Eyed Revue.

I love revisiting old fairy tales that are given a refreshing new take. But while Stray was unique, it wasn't like any of the fairy tales I've read before. It does focus on princesses and fairy godmothers and evil queens...but in the most confusing mash-up ever.

"The Path" just seemed like a regimented way for a young princess to act and should she stray from it, via any number of allegations of gross misconduct on her part, she would become, well, a stray. Or find that her "path" no longer led her to a prince and a happily ever after but instead to a life of indentured servitude, by way of becoming a fairy godmother. That's essentially what happens to Aislynn...she can't control her magic and finds herself being whisked away to become fairy godmother to the Crown Princess at another academy.

I'm still not sure why or how girls who have magic of their own even need fairy godmothers, though. The magical system -- those who had it and how they used it -- left me frustrated, as did the lack of world-building. I was just left with soooo many questions when I finished this story. I know it's only the first book in the series, but it should have given me enough information to make me want to come back for the next book...and I'm not sure that I do.

I loved Caitlin Davies' performance of the End of Days series by Susan Ee, so I immediately thought this would be a winner, as far as the audiobook went. And it probably would have been, had I connected to this main character the way I did Penryn in Angelfall and World After. But because I found Princess Aislynn so annoying and her actions so foolish, I found it difficult to get into this audio even one iota as much as I did that other series.

This book was just entirely too slow for me, with none of the explanations I needed. There was also very little romance to be had. And when I find a protagonist as exasperating as Aislynn, there's little likelihood that I'm really going to enjoy the book in the end. I wish I'd liked the story more, but I think this is just one of those cases where I let my expectations get the better of me.

GIF it to me straight:
Profile Image for nick (the infinite limits of love).
2,120 reviews1,348 followers
October 4, 2014

I had no idea that Stray was about fairy godmothers before I started it, so finding out was a nice surprise. I can't say I completely loved this book. It had some issues that prevented me from doing so, but I still thought the world Stray was set in was interesting and I'm curious to find out more about it in the subsequent books.

Aislynn as a heroine was interesting, but I can't say she was the kind of character who would stand out to me. She had this fierceness to her that I thoroughly enjoyed and I liked watching her character develop, but she was missing a little something special to make her really spark as a character. I did want her to fight a bit stronger when it came to societal norms that were placed upon her, but I think that came about from me being a new generation who can't stand to see the mistreatment of women. Regardless, I thought Aislynn did mature a little as the story went by, which was more than enough to satisfy me. Thackery was the highlight for me. He was a sweet guy and he was Aislynn's love interest, but more than his romance with her, I loved seeing the shades of his character slowly being revealed to the reader. There were some surprises when it came to him and I'm excited to see how his story progresses along with the series.

The plot in itself was something I enjoyed. I admit that in certain parts it felt like it was dragging, but overall the story was one that had me hooked. I also thought the world that Elissa Sussman has created is a complex one with a lot of possibilities. I love that she derived her world from fairy tales, but still managed to make it unique. It's very much a misogynistic world and some scenes might make you uncomfortable, but it's also peppered with some realism and makes you grateful that you don't belong to such a society. There were some questions that I thought were left unanswered, but because this is a series, I'm holding out hope that they will eventually be answered. It has a fascinating concept, one that I thing could have done with a little more work, but it was still remarkable and I have no doubt that it will become stronger as the series progresses.

Elissa Sussman's debut was a successful one for me. It was by no means perfect. It had its flaws, but it's a series that I believe will only get better. I'm excited for the prospect and I can't wait to see what the author has up her sleeves.
Profile Image for Isamlq.
1,578 reviews710 followers
May 13, 2014
I wish I loved this. But mostly it's was me waiting and waiting and then waiting some more for the story to move beyond all the hating on what certain women could do plus a lot of asking why that was the case. There are glimpses into men and what they could do, as well as a hazy history of four sisters and interpretations of what they've come to, and in line with that- how their society is arranged:

Royals with power on one hand, the women in it bestowed with the same, only to be limited by so many from so many different angles (guided from the front, warned from behind.) But it is the who is doing what that should have been fascinating but ended up frustrating because not much is made clear!

Sure there are interesting additions in taking the fairy god mother role and twisting it into something: less. There's even the predictable bits of benevolent father coupled with Man as Wisened man-guide (nothing new there), but frustrating nonetheless because ... Why? and How?! Basically, I'm left with lots of questions like Who is this Josetta? And what of this Talia? Etcetra. Worse: the Aspects that were made clear--- felt unimportant. Like Brigid and her merry brigade of Do-gooders (of unclear allegiance and motivation. Drat! I take it back! Nothing important or unimportant is actually made clear. Although... I must confess, the whole pain as release was an interesting angle... Too bad that got covered in this mess of paths and strays, peopled with more than one mean girl, more than one heartless a man, and -dear lord!- more than one cold woman; all of whose presenece, it felt was made to keep the MC down; that is unless she wasn't busy baking! I didn't get this at all.

That said, much thanks E!
Profile Image for Sarah Elizabeth.
4,723 reviews1,277 followers
October 10, 2014
3.5 stars
(Source: I received a digital copy of this book for free on a read-to-review basis. Thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss.)
16-year-old Princess Aislynn needs to find a husband, but she can only do this if she is able to keep her magic in check. Unfortunately this is difficult for Aislynn, and soon she finds herself in trouble, and ‘redirected’ (expelled).
Can Aislynn cope with her new position? And will she ever learn to control her magic?

This was an interesting story, with a fairy-tale feel.

Aislynn was an okay character, although I wanted her to try to own her magic instead of being afraid of it. I did feel sorry for her at points, and I appreciated the way she tried to keep out of trouble, even if trouble seemed to find her.

The storyline in this was okay, and it really did have a fairy-tale feel to it, with the wicked queen and magic mirrors. I wasn’t sure if this was supposed to be a retelling of something, but if it was, I don’t know what it was a retelling of because it was pretty unique.
There was a hint of romance, but again I felt sorry for Aislynn and all the problems she got in the quest for love.
The ending was a little confusing, and I might have to go back and re-read it again. I’m not 100% sure what happened, but it was clear that this wasn’t the end of the story.
Overall; interesting fairy-tale story,
7 out of 10.
Profile Image for Savannah (Books With Bite).
1,399 reviews185 followers
November 2, 2014
I always have a heart for fairytales so I definitely wanted to give this book a try. This story is quite unique and gives the reader a story to look forward to.

Plot: This is about a girl who has magic, yet this magic is restricted. I found that in the beginning of the story the plot moved slowly. It wasn’t until the middle did it finally start to catch up. Things moved along nicely with the plot line, giving the reader more insight on magic, fairy godmothers and the world that Aislynn lives in.

Magic: I found this part hard to understand. They have magic but have to control it to the extent of not really using it. And if they do use it, they get moved out of society in being fairy godmothers. Their taught to use their powers but not really. I just found it how they treat magic like it was good but BAD as well. For me, it was like geez make up your mind. Either they use it or not.

Ending: The ending ends well with lots of questions answered yet more left unaswered. I wonder what the lives of the other girls will become and how magic being exposed will do to the people.

I found this story to be quite unique. I never really read anything like it and it has inspired me to want more. I like to know more of the history of this world and where it will lead to. Stray is an amazing story of magic and having faith in your path.
Profile Image for Abbie.
1,526 reviews
September 28, 2014
This is the tale of Aislynn who is different from all the other girls at her academy. She was raised to follow her Path and be a good little girl. She was born in a time where women had magic but had to suppress it and devote their lives to becoming either a wife or a godmother.

I actually thought the plot was interesting but then the story dragged and I didn't like the romance and the foolishness of the main character. I had so many questions left unanswered and felt disenchanted with the book in the end.

Perhaps I'll give the next installment a chance.
Profile Image for Jo.
1,120 reviews60 followers
October 11, 2014
I just couldn't get into this one. The plot felt like it was thrown together and there were certain points that didn't have a reason for being there other than they seemed like a good idea at the time. The wolf although cool served no purpose. The world building felt incomplete. Just when I thought I had a handle on the world, the rules changed. Suddenly, Aislynn is able to be a princess again. I just felt lost through most of the book.
Profile Image for Taylor Joy.
50 reviews47 followers
February 25, 2016
Profile Image for Kristen.
436 reviews543 followers
November 8, 2014
This and other reviews can be found on my site: My Friends Are Fiction

The Story:
I had incredibly high expectations and hopes for Stray. After reading the summary I knew I had to read this one sooner than later so was thrilled to receive the print ARC. Upon reading it though, I started to wonder if this book was going to be for me. The writing wasn’t bad, but because it was based on fairy tales some of the references seemed heavy handed. People in this world have saying like, “thank the glass slipper” which was too much for me. It really veered on corny for my liking. I was tempted to DNF but decided to keep reading because of how much I’ve been looking forward to this story.

I was happy that the further I read the more I enjoyed the story and the less frequent the corny fairy tale references were. I still never fully grasped the world building in this one though. Why were only the women afflicted by magic? Who created The Path and why did everyone go along with it? I had so many questions and none of them were answered in this first book. It looks like there will be other companion stories but for my enjoyment I needed more from this book.

I expected a much darker story since it was compared to The Handmaid’s Tale but I was never at the edge of my seat, disturbed or overly concerned for the main character. I guess this was evidence of my disconnect to the story. Honestly, this one read more like a middle grade book to me because the depth I expected wasn’t ever there. I think someone going into this without the expectations that I had might have a better reading experience. Overall, the story felt a bit rushed to me and the conclusion seemed too easily wrapped up.

The Characters:
I wasn’t overly impressed with any of the characters though they weren’t poorly done either. As with the world building and story itself I never really connected to anyone. I didn’t find them a chore to read but I also wasn’t swept away with their stories. The main character, Princess Aislynn, was okay but I struggled to really fear for her. I did appreciate that she took matters into her own hands and grew stronger as the story progressed. Her romance was done well though not as present as I would have liked.

The side characters were fleshed out for the most part excluding the villains. I enjoyed learning about the lives of the Fairy Godmothers and felt that though things were lightly touched upon there was some creative ideas presented. The villains were largely ignored which I believe made it hard for me to really feel the intensity of the story or for me to connect. They were very one dimensional and absent from the storyline. I never felt they were a true threat.

Final Thoughts:
Overall, I felt that Stray was a disappointment. Perhaps my expectations were too high which led to me not meshing with this book the way that I’d have liked. There were some interesting ideas broached but I felt that not enough detail or world building was presented to really create a successful story. I believe that if you were to go into this one expecting more of a casual tale with the feel of a middle grade novel you’d be pleased since they book was fast paced and kept my interest for the most part.
Profile Image for Sara.
434 reviews3 followers
March 7, 2015
Formal review written for WASHYARG (Washington Young Adult Review Group):

Seemingly inspired in equal parts by Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and traditional fairy tales, Stray is the story of 16-year-old Aislynn, a princess living in an extremely misogynistic society. Women are born with magic, but are taught to repress it from the time it appears (usually around puberty). Girls must be married by the time they turn 17 so their husband can watch over them and make sure they do not stray from the Path. Aislynn is a princess, attending balls and entertaining suitors, but when she has an episode of uncontrolled magic during her Introduction Ball, she is Redirected to a new Path – that of a fairy godmother. Fairy godmothers have one role in life – watch over their assigned princess, serve her, and report all instances of her straying from the Path. During her journey down her new Path, Aislynn begins to realize that perhaps she wants more to life than happily ever after. Sussman deftly builds her world, weaving loads of exposition gracefully into the fast-paced narrative. There is the requisite love story, but it is refreshingly not the main focus of the, and Aislynn’s transformation from naive princess to empowered woman is wonderful to watch unfold. Lovers of both dystopian fiction and fairy tale retellings will devour this story.
Profile Image for Sara the Librarian.
747 reviews323 followers
November 6, 2015
Do you know what a warm bath book is? It is just what it sounds like. You step in and with a barely caught breath you are enveloped in it. You feel yourself floating. You are almost falling as your whole being is caught up in it. You don’t care about anything else. It’s as if you’ve always been there. It’s like that moment right before falling asleep when your mind is just beginning to tread the edges of a dream. And you find yourself thinking you could stay there, right there forever.

I’m glad in a way that warm bath books don’t come along very often. I think my poor heart might burst if every single thing I read captured me like that. It’s like that saying about how boring it would be to be happy all the time. You have to be sad sometimes so you know what happy is. I guess you have to read “so so” and “eh” books so you know the warm bath books when they come.

I am overjoyed to tell you that I’ve just finished one of those books.

With her debut novel Stray the brilliant Elissa Sussman hasn’t so much burst onto the YA fantasy scene as she has cast a dark and lovely spell upon it. I was thrilled to lose myself in the warm and misty waters of the story she’s woven here.

We begin in darkness with a lost princess in a torn ball gown kneeling in the mud. She is crying and blood is dripping from her hands. They will come for her soon and when they do they will strip her of everything and everyone she loves. They will take away who she is. Try though she might she has not been able to quell the dark. The magic that simmers and burns her insides. Magic that keeps her from being the perfect, pure princess she yearns to be.

This is princess Aislynn and this is her world. It is a world full of skulking evil, malice and hate. Here nameless kingdoms are ruled by puppet kings and simpering queens who might be put aside at any time if they have an “outburst” of sinful, magical power. Princes are raised to marry well and rule with a firm hand and princesses are taught from birth to be beautiful, subservient and ever conscious of the darkness inside each and every one of them. Should they ever try to use the magic each is born with or not learn how to bury it down inside themselves where it can never be seen they are as good as doomed. Little more than slaves to the ones they once called their peers. Poor, lost Aislynn has never been able to stop her power or learn to use it and now she is destined for redirection, a life of slavery and loneliness forever.

But on the edges of this world there are those who would fight this carefully cultivated way of life and the men who hold its reigns. They work in secret, ferrying young women who would otherwise be doomed to safety and always on the lookout for others who might be willing to join their cause.

The question is can Aislynn find the strength to break free of the destiny laid out for her and forge one herself? And who or what does that destiny lie with?

What a wonderful, unique journey this book was. Sometimes I think what I love best about really good fantasy is the world building. Sure I love a good romance as much as the next girl and there’s plenty of that here but what I loved even better in Stray are the small things, tiny hints of the lost world Sussman’s characters inhabit. I was reminded of the broken towers and lost cities of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy as Aislynn began her journey toward understanding the power she has been taught all her life to regard as evil. Slowly we learn with her that this wasn’t always so. There was clearly a time before when what she has was considered a gift. There was a world, a marvelous and wild one it seems filled with magic and chaos and beauty that has since been replaced by dull, grey order with only the pale shadow of what once was lingering like a ghost at its edges. Sussman does an absolutely masterful job of hinting at the place this world used to be and might be again without spelling it all out. I love it when an author puts that much faith in her readers.

I love the subtle references to classic fairy tales sprinkled throughout. Characters swear “by the glass slipper. ” Every noble born girl is debuted at a grand ball where she must meet her one true love. Kings are guided by advisors with ambitions of their own. Girls are cared for by “fairy godmothers” the only people in this nameless world permitted to use magic though only for things like warming tea and making dresses. There are evil queens high in hidden towers surrounded by briars and magic mirrors with secrets hiding behind the glass.

This works beautifully as a set up novel but its a great tale all on its own. We are immersed completely in Aislynn’s life though thankfully not at the cost of the story. A story, I assure you, that is chock full of daring escapes, dark villains, and an honest and true love. Aislynn herself is a wonderfully drawn heroine with a fully realized character. She begins her journey, as many fairy tale heroines do, as the “perfect” princess. Delicate and malleable she yearns only for rescue and a prince to sweep her off her feet. By the books end she has become in a believable and very organic way her own rescuer. Though in losing control of her she loses all social standing among her kind and can no longer be called a princess she learns that the world beyond her sheltered, tiny portion of it brings with it more passion and depth of feeling than she ever knew existed. I loved reading that journey that does so closely mirror the one that every little girl takes as she grows up and the world takes on a different shape, things that never mattered before suddenly do and fairytale endings begin to mean much more than just true loves first kiss.

Margaret Atwood’s name has come up more than once in reference to this marvelous book and I’ll agree that there are touches of books like The Handmaid’s Tale here particularly in the totalitarian structure of Aislynn’s daily life; everyone fills their designated role and wears specific clothes and engages in specific practices to fill that role. I can’t deny the feminist bent to Sussman’s writing. Clearly women of this world have been subjugated and shamed by men because of the power only they possess. But Sussman manages to blend fairy tales and feminism into a seamless tapestry that delights as much as it informs. If “Tangled” and “Frozen” can give us heroines who fight back against their oppressors and find strength in themselves rather than a hero prince I say more power to them. What I especially like about Stray is that it tells a similar story but also places importance on the value of true friendship and the power of allies and friends. Yes women can stand on their own but there’s no shame in standing with others.

Sussman’s also provides a terrific supporting cast for our fair princess from Aislynn’s misguided but ultimately deeply loving parents, the cabal of “advisers” who watch over the royal families and clearly have an agenda all their own, the rebels fighting an evil they don’t yet understand and of course the awkward but endearing Thackery Aislynn’s would be true love. Its very clear that every character we meet has a role to play in what’s to come and Sussman does a superb job hinting and teasing at what may be in store for them without being ham handed about it.

When my oldest son is afraid I tell him that being brave doesn’t mean not being afraid to do something it means doing something even though you are afraid. Aislynn’s struggles, triumphs, and tears could not possibly capture that sentiment more clearly. She fights and she falls and then she gets right back up again. What better message could a young woman or man take away from a book?

It was with a barely contained “You go girl!” that I finished this. I quite literally cannot wait to see what happens next in this thrilling, romantic, heroic, broken fairy tale. So go jump in the tub and take a warm bath all of you!

Profile Image for Christina (A Reader of Fictions).
4,230 reviews1,650 followers
December 16, 2014
For more reviews, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.

Before Stray was added to my Sadie Hawkins queue, I’d mostly made up my mind to skip it. See, my lovely friend Debby (Snuggly Oranges) read it and let’s just say that she didn’t care for it. Wait, no, that’s not strong enough. She pretty much disliked everything about it. Obviously, I trust Debby. We agree on a lot of things. Her not liking Stray tells me that it’s not a shippy book, which was accurate by the way. Perhaps because Debby had warned me and lowered my expectations, I didn’t feel as negatively towards it as she did, but I still feel like it was a very meh read all around. Not impressed, but not offended either.

The world building is a mess. I mean, yay for fairy tales and all, but I feel like I have yet to see fairy tale schools actually done well. They always seem to tip over to the sexist. Ladies take courses on deportment and make up while men do whoever the fuck knows what. It’s pretty obvious that this system isn’t being held up as ideal, but I also don’t see any outright condemnation of the system. Aislynn finds it stifling certainly and doesn’t want to live within in it, but she’s still following the Path by the end. I’d guess that more will be said and could see this series taking up a feminist mantle. The evil guys do seem to be representatives of the patriarchy at any rate. However, not much has been done with respect to this so far.

My big issue with the world building was that it was utterly nonsensical. Young ladies of wealth are sent to schools whenever they exhibit magical talent. This usually happens around fourteen, but for the more powerful, like Aislynn, might happen younger. This is where they learn about dancing and flirting, so that, during their sixteenth year, they can find a husband. Each girl has a fairy godmother, who assists her and, much like Big Brother, reports back to the administration any instances of her charge using magic. The sole goal in life of the girls is to find a husband once they’re out in society. I’ll not go into the weird tiered system of kings, so that many of the girls can be princesses, because I frankly didn’t understand it.

If the girl does too much magic, she has strayed from the Path and must be Redirected, as happens to Aislynn, When this happens, she’s forced to become a fairy godmother. They can use magic in service of their assigned lady. Aislynn is immediately assigned to one of the highest ranking girls in the kingdom, because reasons. The fairy godmothers wear habits and have their hearts taken away and learn magic. Aislynn, again because reasons, has feelings even though her heart is taken away. She’s just special, I guess. She is unlike any other fairy godmother. She can have a romance and break rules. Whatever.

Then there are the servants, aka the only people who appear to actually do anything of use in this kingdom. They ALSO have magic. This is my issue. There are all of these rich people ruling over the country. Half of them are trained not to use their magic. Then there are all of these people in subservient roles who are taught how to use their magic really well. Yet, they only use their magic in service of their masters. If I were a Redirected princess, I’d take everyone out with my fairy godmother magic fu. I suppose the removal of the emotions is meant to squash any rebellious tendencies, but wouldn’t that just make me more logical and inclined to see how I could fight most effectively?

Aislynn, much like her book, is meh. I don’t loathe Aislynn. She’s just sort of there. The only time she ever really seems like a person is when she’s cooking. Otherwise, she ventures to oft towards special snowflake syndrome. I don’t like that she’s the only fairy godmother to retain some of her feelings. I want there to be a reason. Did someone fuck up when taking her heart? If it’s just that she’s special, I want to barf on this book. Her magical abilities also come and go at really convenient times to move the plot along. She finally seems to master them without any training whatsoever. In fact, training made her worse. How convenient. Indeed, a lot of things just sort of drop into her lap, like the end of the book where a wolf friend just appears to defend her and reveal plot points to her. Her love interest, Thackery, is alright. The romance was sort of kind of cute, at least from his side.

Ultimately, I’m just not really sure what the point of all of this was. The world doesn’t work for me which places everything else on this really shaky foundation. If I cared about Aislynn, then I could ignore that, but I really don’t think there’s anything to her. I didn’t unship the romance, but it was mostly just there. I’m not sure if I’ll read the next book or not. I’m not planning on it, but a pretty cover or curiosity to find out what the point was might lure me in.
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