Cinder, the changeling child, is now the king of the World Below, ruler of the high fay and all of the magical creatures great and small who live within his ream. But what used to be a place of marvels and wonders is slowly fading as the magic is vanishing, especially along the edges of the kingdom. Many blame the young prince. His supporters call him too young, his detractors call him a false king, and all Cinder wants is someone to be on his side. He’s doing his best, but he’s still a stranger to this world.
Back in the world above, Ed is trying hard to be human, but he doesn’t fit in, with his court manners, his strange way of looking at the world, and the last, lingering touch of the fay in the way he moves and speaks. Even his parents don’t know what to do with him. Everyone’s trying, and they’re trying hard, but Ed is as out of place here as he was i the fay court. Finding his birth parents didn’t magically fix anything.
When Ed’s parents — Cinder’s human family — are allowed to visit, it’s a brief moment of happiness for everyone until assassins strike at the new king. With his parents in the middle and the kingdom falling apart, Cinder will have to make a journey to the heart of magic and hope he can somehow fix it. With Ed and Alexis at his side, along with mom, dad, and Whick, it’s the adventure of a lifetime. Hopefully Cinder and Ed will live to see a happily ever after.
This book is a direct sequel to Estranged, with maybe months passing — I doubt it’s more than a year — after the events in the first graphic novel. Ideally, you’d read the first book before jumping into this one, otherwise the story will be a bit harder to get into, and the twist at the end won’t have as much of an impact. Plus, it’s a beautiful book and deserves your attention.
Cinder was raised human, with human parents and a sister who loved him. And now he’s shown them that … well, that he’s not theirs. That he never was. Instead, he’s the son of a man and woman he’s never met, heir to a kingdom that doesn’t want him, and he’s trying to do his best. Unlike the other high fay, Cinder has no reason to hate the lesser creatures, goblins and gnomes and whatnot, and no reason to treat them cruelly. Instead, he treats them like people, which causes many high fay to look on their young ruler with contempt and hostility. Cinder isn’t having an easy time of it, trying to find himself in a world that even he doesn’t want to be in. But even if they don’t like him, they’re still his responsibility.
In the fay court, Ed knew he didn’t belong, knew he was a pet at best, a novelty for the amusement of the court. In the human world, with new parents, with new food, clothes, light, and air, he’s a bit lost. The dream he had of going home and belonging is only a dream, but he still loves them. A part of him still misses, will always miss, the place he grew up and the people he called mother and father. When there’s a chance to go questing again, to be among his people and to help save them, of course he’s going for it. It’s familiar and it’s something he can be good at.
In the middle of the charming, fairy tale adventure is a more emotional story as Cinder has to see his parents agian, the people he left when he chose to return to the realm of the fay. He has to see Ed, who took his place — or rather, Ed who took his place back — and feel how much he lost. And Ed has to stand by as his mother and father embrace the changeling who took his place. Ed also has to face his own complicated feelings to the woman he called mother, to the reasons she picked him out of all the humans she could have kidnapped, and to feel that tug, that desire for the love he so desperately wanted and never got. And, right now, while his parents are doing their best to love him, it’s difficult and painful and will forever be touched by what went before.
For all that his is a YA comic with adventure and exciting battles and the standard good versus evil storyline, there are some emotional moments that are not only beautifully written, but beautifully drawn, as well.
While Cinder has to find the balance in his life between who he is and who he needs to be, Ed, has to put behind him what he wanted and what he clung to. Ed has to put aside his dreams of a perfect parent. What he has instead, what Ed is willing to give his life for, are the people who have been there for him, stood by him, and will fight to the death for him. For Cinder and Alexis and Whick, Ed will give every bit of himself.
While there are hints of Cinder’s affection and growing love for Fawntine, a royal attendant fawn who feels much the same about Cinder (and their twin blushes are cute), this is more about the love between siblings and the strength of a family — those you’re born to, and those you find. I love the story, and we’re set up nicely for book 3 with a beautiful splash page. I also love the gorgeous artwork which has only improved. The watercolor style is perfect for the whimsical designs, and I loved the frog/turtle golem. I loved the guardian. I loved the pictures of the city and Thrush and Trill. Pretty much, I loved it all.