Mandy Reviews: Sophie Masson's - "Moonlight and Ashes"

Moonlight & Ashes by Sophie Masson is a gorgeous retelling of the Cinderella fairytale – though probably not as you know it.

Based loosely around the German Cinderella – Aschenputtel – this isn’t a story where you’ll find Fairy Godmothers and Princes who come along to rescue poor Cinders (renamed Selena here) whose fate is out of her own control. Nope, this gutsy heroine does it all herself … with a little help from a hazel twig and some pretty cool magics.

Moonlight & Ashes kicks off where we expect it would. Selena is a slave to her evil step mother and sisters, while her father remains distant and aloof, not seeming to care what becomes of his daughter with his first, deceased wife. Her existence is miserable by all accounts – her step sisters now own the beautiful dresses and jewellery that were once hers, her place is with the lowest of the servants, scavenging for food and a friendly ear. Society has shunned her and the family renamed her as Ashes. But this Cinderella has a secret, bigger than any of them can imagine, told to her by her dying mother: she is a Moon Sister.

Many years ago, magic was outlawed and the last of the Moon Sisters were captured or killed by the Mancers, a menacing and politically powerful association of men and sorcerers. Theirs is the only magic authorised by the government. Selena is, of course, terrified of being found out by the Mancers, and will do anything to stay under their radar and away from magic. She denies anything to do with her Moon Sister heritage. Then, on her sixteenth birthday, she dreams of her Mother and the hazel twig. And this is where things get interesting.

I loved Moonlight & Ashes. I loved that Selena is strong enough to not only take charge of her own life but also the lives of those who she cares for. She’s a fantastic heroine. Far from perfect, Selena makes plenty of stupid mistakes and takes risks that will have you cringing as you turn the page. The story moves quickly, with the Cinderella ball and prince storyline pretty much over and done with in the first eighty or so pages. From there, it’s all adventure, deceit and honour. Ah, and the romance bit. Well, this is based on the Cinderella fairytale you know. Yep, capital F Fairytale – and who doesn’t appreciate a little true love? Just don’t think you already know how this romance ends…

I do wish there had been space to investigate and learn more about the co-stars of this story such as Andel, the barge-dwelling philosopher, Olga, the Ruvenyan Werewolf and Tomi, who I felt was over-looked. They were seriously engaging and interesting characters. Maybe we can cross our fingers for a spin-off there?

Moonlight & Ashes is the first Sophie Masson book I’ve read, so when I looked the author up I was pretty happy to find she had a bit of a back-list. Like, in the vicinity of fifty novels. Fifty! I’ll be checking some of those out. And so should you.

Moonlight & Ashes by Sophie Masson

Published by Random House

Paperback, 318 pages

ISBN – 978 1 74275 379 9

  • Deborah

    oh, you have lots of fun in store if this is the first Sophie Masson you’ve read! contemporary realist, historical realist, original fantasy, retellings of fairy tales (well-known and obscure ones), for children, YA, and adults…

  • mandy wrangles

    oooh, thanks Deb! I can’t believe I’ve missed out til now! There’s nothing better than finding a ‘new’ (well, new to me) author with a huge back-list, is there?

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