Fairy tales have existed for centuries, with stories that have been so universally loved that they’ve been passed down from generation to generation, becoming a huge part of cultures around the world. Many people, even those who would express no real interest in the genre as adults, will likely remember hearing the stories of Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty as children. Thanks to that popularity, there have been many retellings and re-imaginings over the years, but Wish of the Wicked isn’t content to just tell the same old story, as this time we follow an incredibly important figure: the fairy godmother.
The story begins by introducing us to the queendoms: nations ruled over by powerful female monarchs in a tradition that has kept peace for generations. The queendoms are assisted by the Entente, a group of magical beings who advise and assist the human rulers in order to make the world better. Farrow is one of these Entente, a young girl training to use her magic, though she sometimes struggles to do as well as her sisters. She is instructed by the three fates, sisters who each have a strong connection to the past, present and future, and who care for and train the younger Entente.
When Farrow is brought to the capital with Hecate, the Fate of the Future, her entire life is changed. Margit, the cruel new queen of their queendom, receives a vision of her future from Hecate, but rather than listen to the advice of the Entente as all previous queens have done, accuses her of witchcraft and of trying to endanger the queendom, and has her burnt at the stake. In the ensuing battle, in which all of the other Entente come to fight, Farrow sees all of her sisters die. Now, alone in the world, the young girl sets out to find a way to survive, and to get close enough to the queen in order to get her revenge, even though her magic is lost to her.
I was more than a hundred pages into the book, following the story of Farrow and her mission to kill the evil queen that had stolen her life from her, when I realised that the book I was reading was not the one that I had expected. I had completely forgotten that this story was supposed to be tying into the tale of Cinderella. It’s not until page 234, about halfway into the book, that the name Cinderella is even used for the first time. Rather than being a simple re-telling, Paige has created a deep narrative and world that contains the character of Cinderella, but doesn’t revolve around her.
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This might be a shocking turn of events for those wanting to come to the book and immediately jump into a familiar story with some new bells and whistles attached, as the author doesn’t even broach one of the key players in the tale until a good portion of the book has already gone by. But it works, and it works really well. By the time Cinderella is mentioned it’s like a sudden shock of ‘Oh yeah, that’s what this is leading towards’, as you’ve ended up becoming absorbed into the rest of the narrative. And it is absorbing; Farrow proves to be an interesting and engaging protagonist, and there are several really interesting characters that feel like they could easily head up their own books.
Wish of the Wicked is a retelling in the broadest sense. It’s more of a deep dive into the universe that could have surrounded Cinderella. It manages to create a fascinating world whilst being very character focused, and the small pieces of lore and information that are dotted throughout the book are given in such a way that the reader doesn’t feel overwhelmed. There are also a number of twists in the story that on occasion you can feel coming, and you end up having this wonderful sense of building anticipation. Paige does a fantastic job, to the point where the you can’t help but feel excited to see what comes next.
Wish of the Wicked is out now from Bloomsbury YA.