Author: Sarah Cross
Genre: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Retelling, Young Adult
Publisher: Egmont USA
Publication Date: April 2012
Hardcover: 336 Pages
Mirabelle’s past is shrouded in secrecy, from her parents’ tragic deaths to her guardians’ half-truths about why she can’t return to her birthplace, Beau Rivage. Desperate to see the town, Mira runs away a week before her sixteenth birthday—and discovers a world she never could have imagined.
In Beau Rivage, nothing is what it seems—the strangely pale girl with a morbid interest in apples, the obnoxious playboy who’s a beast to everyone he meets, and the chivalrous guy who has a thing for damsels in distress. Here, fairy tales come to life, curses are awakened, and ancient stories are played out again and again.
But fairy tales aren’t pretty things, and they don’t always end in happily ever after. Mira has a role to play, a fairy tale destiny to embrace or resist. As she struggles to take control of her fate, Mira is drawn into the lives of two brothers with fairy tale curses of their own . . . brothers who share a dark secret. And she’ll find that love, just like fairy tales, can have sharp edges and hidden thorns.
Stand alone or series: Can be read as a standalone novel, but I fear the first book in a series
How did I get this book: Bought
Why did I read this book: You know, I recently watched Snow White and the Huntsman with Ana when she was in town. That movie was laughably terrible – acting was bad, script was terrible, and overall the “romance” and story completely lackluster. I needed to read some kind of fantasy/fairy tale retelling that would restore my faith in the subgenre – and Kill Me Softly looked like just the ticket (even though I really dislike the cover, which is super generic, and the title, which I will always associate with the awesome Christopher Pike book of my childhood).
I should preface this review by saying that SPOILERS ARE AHEAD. I don’t like to dole out spoilers in reviews, but Kill Me Softly is so very bad that I need to divulge and discuss the story in all its ludicrous glory. (As Ana would say, CAPS LOCKING OF RAGE, ahoy.)
Mirabelle is on the verge of her sixteenth birthday, and finally decides that it is time to fill the major, gaping hole in her life – by seeking out her past. See, when she was just a child, on the eve of her Christening, Mira’s parents died in a violent fire leaving Mira an orphan. Raised by her two loving godmothers, Mira’s first fifteen years of life pass without event – Mira’s godmothers are incredibly overprotective and impose many rules on their teenage ward, prohibiting her from dating, or staying out late, or touching sharp objects. Most infuriatingly, Mira’s godmothers flat-out refuse to give Mira any sense of her parents or past and forbid her from ever returning to her hometown of Beau Rivage. So, on the eve of her birthday, Mira decides to run away to finally get some answers. Leaving a fake trail for her godmothers to follow (pretending to be a lovestruck teenager with an impressive backlog of emails to a fictional boyfriend in California), Mira carefully concocts her plan to run away to her hometown to find her parents’ graves and hopefully receive some closure.
When Mira gets to Beau Rivage, however, she quickly learns that things in the small town are a little…strange. There’s a pale slip of a girl with hair of blackest night and lips red as blood (with a pathological fear of apples). There’s the charmingly handsome boy, whom woodland creatures seem to follow around everywhere he goes. And, most infuriatingly, there are the two brothers with blue hair – the elder a suave gentleman in a suit that offers Mira his help and a room at his casino, the younger a surly teenager that goes out of his way to be rude to Mira and scare her away. Mira learns that almost everyone in Beau Rivage is part of some kind of fairy tale curse or blessing – and Mira herself is involved, too. Cursed to touch an object that will put her to sleep for a hundred years or until her prince finds her and awakens her with a kiss, Mira is playing the part of Sleeping Beauty in Beau Rivage’s pageant of fairy tales come to life. Mira also finds a way to lose her heart to a boy whose kiss means death, and is determined to figure out why her godmothers lied to her and how she might escape her fate.
To say that I was underwhelmed by Kill Me Softly is a gross understatement. I was repelled by the imbecilic heroine, flummoxed by the completely idiotic and nonsensical character motivations, and utterly bored by the lack of actual cohesive story. So yeah. Kill Me Softly was kind of terrible for me from start to finish.
But before I dive into my rant, let’s start with the very few good things about the book. I like the idea of Beau Rivage, where fairy tales have come to life, sort of (though the novelty of this type of story is kind of lackluster, given the rise of ABC’s Once Upon a Time and given the many other fairy tales among us stories, like Bill Willingham’s Fables). I like the idea of “cursed” or “blessed” humans that have to follow a fatalistic script, but also have the ability to change their destinies and make their own choices along the way. I like the idea of different classifications of curses and fairy gifts, and the strange birthmarks that those touched by said curses and gifts bear. These are cool ideas and I like the creativity of Ms. Cross’s universe.
That said, there’s a whole lotta bad that buries all of that promise. First, there’s the problem of the moronic heroine, Mira. It’s hard to connect with a book whose protagonist is as willfully idiotic as Mira, who lacks any actual clear judgment, decision-making skills, and common sense. She runs away from home on the eve of her sixteenth birthday, and has planned out months of backstory by carefully crafting fake emails from herself to a fictional boyfriend (which seems pretty smart). She figures out her escape route, even oiling rusty hinges and paying off a classmate from school to get her to the bus station (also, pretty smart). But that is the extent of Mira’s planning skillz – she, apparently, has completely forgotten that in running away, she actually needs to find some kind of shelter, find a way to get food, and, oh yeah, actually find her parents (really not smart at all). But it’s ok, because once Mira arrives in Beau Rivage, she sets up camp in the town casino, where she is immediately noticed by not one, but TWO hot, rich brothers (separately). Blue, the teenager, is an immediate surly jerk and tries to get her to go away. Then she catches the eye of 22 year old Felix, who sees the innocent little 15 year old sleeping in one of the hotel displays, and immediately offers her a private suite, to which she can charge room service, go shopping, whatever her heart desires – and because that’s not creepy at all, Mira accepts and immediately falls in love with Felix (in fact, after less than 24 hours together, she is telling Felix she wants to sleep in the same room as him and buying sexy lingerie). GAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH.
This is to say nothing of the fact that Felix, the guy she has supposedly FALLEN IN LOVE WITH after about a day (because he’s so handsome and has bought her off with a free room in his casino), is also a cursed character that will suck the life out of her after any kiss or romantic interaction. Of course, Felix hasn’t uttered a peep about his curse to Mira or warned her about his true nature, but that’s ok because everyone else in Beau Rivage tells Mira to Stay Away. Of course, everyone only says STAY AWAY without giving her ANY FURTHER INFORMATION, purportedly because of the nature of Blue and Felix’s curse prevents anyone from speaking to the specifics. And yet, some 100 pages later, these same characters can reveal the broad strokes about “Romantics” like these two brothers, and what their curse entails. Meanwhile, Mira is supposedly in love with Felix, but spends ALL her free time with Blue in a painfully, headdeskingly obvious love triangle. (And the extent of this romantic development is Blue snarling at Mira, Mira threatening to hit him all the while thinking about how frustratingly good looking he is. Insert copious eye rolling here.)
And honestly, it is painfully obvious that Felix and Blue are playing parts in the Bluebeard fairytale curse. (Hello, they both have blue hair, are super rich, super creepy, and seem to stockpile women. Did I mention the blue hair? GIVE ME A BREAK.)
But that’s not all!!! All of this asinine and recursive story is happening against the backdrop of Mira’s screwy, ridiculous reactions and half-assed character motivations. First, she ignores everyone else’s warnings and advice (though to be fair, the warnings to “Stay Away but I CAN’T TELL YOU ANY MORE” are idiotic, as mentioned above); then, she snaps at everyone that tries to help her. When Mira learns about Felix’s curse, what does she do? SHE RUNS RIGHT BACK INTO HIS ARMS. Never mind that he hasn’t freaking told her about his curse (any warning flags there??)! Never mind that he’s a 22 year old that runs a casino (*SNORT*) and she’s an innocent, sheltered 15 year old. (On a side note, the fact that NO ONE seems to bring up this huge age gap as a deterrent – though everyone is vocal enough about Felix’s curse – really, really bothers me.)
Also, Mira has supposedly left home and run away to Beau Rivage to find her parents, right? But as soon as she gets there seems to completely forget about the reason she left! Once she’s in town, she turns over her half-assed search to Felix and contents herself with going to the beach and pool parties with the local teens. Awesome! When she finally has the information about her parents – thanks, again, to Felix and his off-camera investigations, and with no effort on Mira’s part – does she complete her character arc by calling them up? Why, no! Instead she moons over Felix and Blue, and is preoccupied with her own ridiculous teenage love triangle hijinks.
Beyond the character motivation issues, there are also abundant plausibility problems – such as a 22 year old dude kids running a casino (right, because that is very believable), drinking alcohol willy nilly (I remember procuring alcohol as a much harder thing to do when underage, but then again, these are gorgeous rich fairy tale kids so who knows). The icing on the cake, however, happens in the book’s later chapters where apparently, wishes are given out like candy and breaking/modifying a curse is a matter of making a wish of one’s conveniently placed fairy godmothers. SO Blue’s curse – his Bluebeard tendencies and his ability to suck life from his paramours – is fixed with a wave of the wand. SERIOUSLY. Just like that. (Oh yeah, and Mira ends up with Blue, not Felix, who tries to kill her. But it’s all ok because she immediately realizes that she has actually been in love with Blue and not Felix. Right.)
I could go on, but I think I’ll just leave it at that. Kill Me Softly is a huge waste of time. Save yourself and read something else.
Notable Quotes/Parts: From the Prologue:
Birthdays were wretched, delicious things when you lived in Beau Rivage. The clock struck midnight, and presents gave way to magic.
Girls bit into sharp apples instead of birthday cake, choked on the ruby-and-white slivers, and collapsed into enchanted sleep. Unconscious beneath cobweb canopies, frozen in coffins of glass, they waited for their princes to come. Or they tricked ogres, traded their voices for love, danced until their glass slippers cracked.
A prince would awaken, roused by the promise of true love, and find he had a witch to destroy. A heart to steal. To tear from the ribcage, where it was cushioned by bloody velvet, and deliver it to the queen who demanded the princess’s death.
Girls became victims and heroines.
Boys became lovers and murderers.
And sometimes . . . they became both.
You can read the full excerpt online HERE.
Rating: 3 – Really, Really Bad
Reading Next: Secondhand Charm by Julie Berry
Buy the Book: (click on the links to purchase)