In the wake of a war that literally separated night from day, Lyra is born once upon a nightmare in the kingdom of Eldoria where it is perpetually day filled with beauty, warmth, and light. Night still reigns in Nerezeth, an underground kingdom filled with darkness, cold, and creatures drawn to both.
Painfully pale and too sensitive to light to ever step outside, Lyra is able to soothe or entrance with her voice although she is unable to form words. When her aunt, who is as ruthless as she is ambitious, moves to steal the throne a witch saves Lyra and secretly raises her disguised as a boy called Stain.
To save her kingdom and the prince of night, Lyra will have to reclaim her identity and make herself known without her voice in Stain (2019) by A. G. Howard.
In this standalone version of “The Princess and the Pea” instead of being too delicate to sleep on a pea under a tower of mattresses, Lyra must prove herself equal to the violence and brutality that the prince of night routinely faces.
Within the framework of “The Princess and the Pea” Howard adds myriad fairy tale elements including the aforementioned wicked aunt, evil cousins (Lustacia, Wrathalyne, and Avaricette), a stolen voice and impersonation plot reminiscent of “The Little Mermaid,” and more making for a unique if crowded cast of characters and a sometimes convoluted plot. Vivid writing and vibrant descriptions bring Lyra’s world, particularly Nerezeth, to life in all of its monstrous glory.
Stain is a sensuous retelling set in a distinctly gothic world perfect for fans of the author and readers seeking darker retellings.
Possible Pairings: Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust, Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly, A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow, A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer, Gilded by Marissa Meyer, Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige, Hold Me Like a Breath by Tiffany Schmidt, Beyond the Black Door by A. M. Strickland, Realm of Ruins by Hannah West
*A more condensed version of this review was published in the Winter 2018 issue of School Library Journal*