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Thief Liar Lady

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The Summer of Scandal continues, and in this review we're taking the downstairs to the top of the house. I love a good fairy tale retelling, and I love a good con, so I was extremely excited to get a gift copy of Thief Liar Lady to read. (Thanks to NetGalley and Ballantine!) The story follows Ash, a lovely lady who met her prince at a ball, and is all set to achieve happily ever after...

But in Thief Liar Lady, things are more complex than they seem. Ash is embroiled in a variety of political intrigues - in fact, she's orchestrated this whole marriage to begin with. And time is running out to make a bunch of people happy - family, political allies, and a pesky hostage prince who's distractingly interesting. If Ash fails, it'll be a scandal, a political incident, and likely a matter of life or death. A new version of a tale as old as time - but how well does it stack up?

Not the usual Cinderella Story

Thief Liar Lady is a retelling of the Cinderella story, with a twist, or two or three. Aislinn, known familiarly as "Ash", has followed all the fairy-tale beats. She turned up at the ball and stole the Prince Everett's heart. He chased, she waited, he found her. Happily ever after?

But the story's not that simple - because unlike the Disney version, Ash has a plan. In fact, Ash has multiple plans, all stacked inside each other. She's got duties to her stepfamily, and her blood relations. The kingdom is embroiled in war, and Ash is deeply invested in the outcomes. And she's reluctantly befriending a hostage prince, who seems to distract more than help. This version of Cinderella has a lot more to fight for, and a lot more to lose.

As perhaps evident, Sofia has given Ash a lot more agency than we're used to seeing in Cinderella stories. At times, it feels like she's making fun of the simplified version of the tale. (Everett's exaltations of her bravery kept bringing me back to "have courage and be kind" from the latest Disney remake. Given that Everett's not the most perceptive... hard not to see it as a direct jab.) In theory, this should be completely exciting for a girl raised on sweet Disney princesses.

But... somehow, this was a bit of a tough sell. Perhaps it's because Sofia only reveals Ash's motivations relatively late in the novel. Or maybe it's because Ash's competing motivations make it difficult to see what she wants. I found her a little tricky to "see" as a character, despite her multitude of actions...

Magic and machinations

...due in no large part to the complexity of the plot and the setting. Thief Liar Lady takes place in a world with soft magic - Ash can use lustre powder to influence others' thoughts and feelings. Then there's the war, ongoing, between Solisti and Eloria. There's Ash's complicated relationships with her family, both step and real. And there's the palace politics - who likes who, and why their support matters. All of this requires a reasonable amount of exposition, without necessarily adding depth. This will certainly be a matter of preference, but I found that it was too much for my taste.

All that exposition meant, too, that I got to spend less time actually watching the characters. There were hints of deeply interesting people, but less of a sense that it was "turtles all the way down". Whether it was Ash's stepsisters or her grandmother, the narration constantly alluded to rich experiences without describing them. That exposition extended primarily to the time around the ball and the plan for it, not further back - but that's where it felt all the great questions lie. Forget Ash's plans for attracting Everett's attention at the ball - I want to know how she learned all her skills. And like so many stories that spice up the Stepmother character, I found myself wanting to know her story at least just as much.

What makes a good retelling?

I've read a lot of fairy tale retellings in my time. I had a whole phase in high school where I massively abused the inter-library loan system to read every single one I could get my hands on. And, in my opinion, the best retellings love the work they're based on. That is - they capture the core values and heart of the characters, not just the plot beats.

For me, Cinderella is about someone who does good, who maintains her positivity in the darkest of times, and comes out the better for it. Cinderella creates beauty and joy even in squalor, and others support her in large part for that trait. Sofia's Ash has some of those qualities - she's perseverant, she's caring - but somehow it feels like she gets lost in all this plot. It's a fun retelling, but it maybe misses some of the qualities that make Cinderella distinct, turning her into a Modern Heroine instead.

Reader's notes & rating (⭐⭐⭐)

Thief Liar Lady is a fun way to immerse yourself in an entirely different world from the one we inhabit. If you're looking for an escape into a world or romance and intrigue, this is a great pick. (I was, at the time of reading.) A great potato-chip book - you keep wanting to read each chapter, and in the right mood, it's quite satisfying. But maybe a pass if you're looking for a more nourishing literary meal. Three stars.

Read this if...

You're excited about a Cinderella retelling that gives her some agency

You're intrigued by the idea of multiple, intertwined plots, but you don't have specific expectations for what that might mean

You're here for the fancy dresses and elegant affairs

Skip this if...

You want Hard Political Fantasy

You're not really into love triangles

You want your villains to have strongly-realized motivations

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This is a twist to the Cinderella story that I like. She is good, though has her own plans for why she went to the ball to get the prince. I like her relationship that she has with her stepsisters who are usually much more maligned and evil. Lustre is interesting and a pretty cool magic. And there are so many different sides to the people in this story. More like real life and I like that. Aislinn (or Ash as she likes to be called) is a nicely strong character and I do like the ending she got. This was a good story.

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What if Cinderella was actually a con artist? A unique twist on a fairytale that's had a million different retellings at this point, even if the execution was a bit lacking.

This book starts a few weeks after Aislinn (or Ash) has secured the bag, so to speak, and the plot takes a while to get going as she's recounting how she tricked the prince into falling for her. There's a lot of international politics and magic dust at play, and Ash's true motives are revealed slowly, which made things confusing. It was also a bit too long, in my opinion. One particular scheme at the end there could have been cut and nothing would have changed.

All that said, I did think this book made some fun and unexpected choices, and I enjoyed Ash's inner voice. Her dynamics with both her foolish Prince Charming and unfoolish(?) Prince Hostage were what kept me reading. And I do always love a thief liar lady!

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Thanks to NetGalley for the eARC.

Unfortunately I couldn’t get into the writing style and premise of this book. I DNF the book pretty early on

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Thief Liar Lady by DL Soria

400 Pages
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Rey
Release Date: July 11, 2023

Fiction, Sci Fi, Fantasy, Fairy Tall Retelling, Cinderella

This is a retelling of Cinderella with a twist. The Solis kingdom took over Eloria and kept their prince Rance as a hostage to keep unity within the lands. There is a birthday ball for prince Everett. Seraphina, Ash’s stepmother, plans for Ash and her daughters, Cecile and Adelaide, to attend the ball. Ash is presented as Aislinn and with the magic of luster powder, Everett falls in love with her. What they don’t know is Aislinn is a part of the underground rebellion. She needs to break into the dungeon and release Jameson Cross, the infamous leader of the Elorian rebellion. Things do not go to plan when Jameson kidnaps her and he is caught and sent back to the dungeon. The king and the rest of the royals suspects that she was involved with his escape, but they cannot prove it.

The book has a steady pace, the characters are well developed, and it is written in the first person point from Ash/Aislinn. I love the twist on the original fairy tale because instead of being an orphan girl who cleans cinders, she is a fighter in the rebellion. She reminds me of Princess Leia of Star Wars. If you like magical fairy tales with sneaky characters and twists, you will enjoy this book.

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Thief Liar Lady is a retelling of Cinderella meant to tell the true story of how Ash became Lady Aislinn and married a prince. As Ash prepares for her wedding to Prince Everett, she dismisses the rumors of pumpkins and true love to reveal the complicated story of how she ensnared a prince.

There is romance and magic, but the political intrigue is what make this retelling interesting. Soria provides a detailed backstory of the kingdom along with current events to set up Ash's motivations to become a princess. Magic is a critical component, but I wish the system was explained better.

I mostly enjoyed this retelling. I moved quickly through the story, but sometimes it felt like nothing was happening. However, as the ending neared, there was a torrent of events. The resolution also seemed rushed. I almost wanted the book to be extended to provide a more satisfying political resolution.

This is one to consider for fans of retellings and political affairs. (3.5 stars rounded to 4 stars)

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I have read and enjoyed two of Soria's YA novels, so when I heard she was releasing a Cinderella retelling where Cinderella is a thief and a liar, it immediately became my most anticipated book of the year. All this to say my expectations were sky high, and that could be part of the reason Thief Liar Lady did not work for me.

The idea here was great and I could see the vision Soria had for the world and characters. Unfortunately, the execution of that vision fell flat. We are thrown into the story after Ash has already been engaged to the prince for a few weeks and see her backstory and their whirlwind romance through flashbacks only. This leads to too much telling and not enough showing. Ash's motivations are unclear for far too long. What is driving her to volunteer for such a dangerous mission? Why is she so compelled to carry out her stepmother's plans? What kind of relationship does she have with her stepfamily? We don't know any of these things until too late in the story. I think it would have worked better to start the story earlier and show some of these aspects.

As it was, I never came to care for or believe Ash as a character. She was nowhere near as competent as the story needed her to be, and this is where some pacing issues came in. For much of the book, Ash just wanders around the castle not taking any action, and I was bored. She was passive and only reacted (poorly) to situations that arose instead of taking any action of her own. For someone who is constantly telling the reader about the rigorous training she's been put through, she didn't put any of that training to use.

I also encountered several plot holes and anachronisms which took me out the story. I get this is a fantasy world, but it seems to be set in a time similar to the 16 or 1700s. Yet we have men wearing suits and ties, people drinking cocktails, and women talking about their lipstick. The magic system, which uses a magical dust called lustre, is never fully explained. It's mentioned there are different categories of spells that can be done with it, but Ash seemed to be able to use it for whatever she needs at the moment. She was apparently trained to detect and resist the influence of lustre, but uses it liberally on the royal family and guards. If it's possible to detect and/or resist lustre, I find it hard to believe that the royal family and their guards would not have received this kind of training. There are also multiple instances where Ash secretly visits the dungeons to carry out part of her mission. What she does there is a huge deal that many people get questioned about, but she is never discovered. On a later visit there, her accomplices are made to wait outside so they're not seen by prisoners. Upon seeing Ash, the prisoners make an uproar. How was she never seen by prisoners and found out previously? There are a couple other things that left me scratching my head, but I'm trying not to give spoilers, so I'll leave it there.

Overall, I was left pretty disappointed in this one. I think it could have been improved with a little more editing and attention to detail. I will still pick up Soria's next release since she always has great ideas and I've enjoyed her work in the past.

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(3/5 stars) This book, for lack of a better pun, was lack-lustre. A retelling of Cinderella, where Cinderella (here: Ash/Aislinn) has ulterior motives and isn't the innocent scullery maid you thought she was, this novel just fell flat for me. The worldbuilding and magic (lustre) system were underdeveloped, and it was hard to even tell the time period I was supposed to be imagining. It was hard to sympathize with Ash/Aislinn because her motivations were so muddy, and I honestly considered DNFing this book multiple times. I pushed through, but I'm not sure I can fully say that I'm glad I did, even though it did eventually pick up.

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I really enjoyed the reimagining of Cinderella. How one perspective of the story is not at all how it was! I loved seeing the story told from a comical standpoint. The pacing was amazing and I really enjoyed the magic sprinkled in! I wish there was more of it! Overall, 4/5 stars

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Title: Thief Liar Lady
Author: D. L. Soria
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4 out of 5

I'm not who you think I am.

My transformation from a poor, orphaned scullery maid into the enchantingly mysterious lady who snagged the heart of the prince did not happen--as the rumors insisted--in a magical metamorphosis of pumpkins and glass slippers. On the first evening of the ball, I didn't meekly help my "evil" stepmother and stepsisters primp and preen or watch forlornly out the window as their carriage rolled off toward the palace. I had other preparations to make.

My stepsisters and I had been trained for this--to be the cleverest in the room, to be quick with our hands and quicker with our lies. We were taught how to get everything we want in this world, everything men always kept for themselves: power, wealth, and prestige. And with a touchingly tragic past and the help of some highly illegal spells, I would become a princess, secure our fortunes, and we would all live happily ever after.

But there's always more to the story. With my magic running out, war looming, and a handsome hostage prince--the wrong prince--distracting me from my true purpose with his magnetic charm and forbidden flirtations, I'm in danger of losing control of the delicate balance I've created...and that could prove fatal.

There's so much more riding on this than a crown.

This was an interesting read—if a bit confusing at times. I liked Ash a lot, and the other characters were a lot of fun. This is only loosely a retelling of Cinderella, and I enjoyed the differences a lot. I would say this was fun read, although the characters frustrated me at times, too. Worth spending a weekend reading, even if you aren’t into fairy tale retellings.

D. L. Soria lives in Birmingham, Alabama. Thief Liar Lady is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Random House Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)

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Thief Liar Lady took me by surprise with its depth and complexity. Initially expecting a light Cinderella retelling, I found myself immersed in a politically dense and unexpectedly dark world that left me captivated (and at times, disturbed) until the very end.

The protagonist, far from the traditional meek Cinderella, is a clever and mysterious con artist who follows her stepmother's schemes to secure her future as a princess. The book doesn't shy away from exploring the darker aspects of Ash's past, and she and her stepsisters are taught to be the most cunning and quick-witted in the room. Their goal is to claim power, wealth, and prestige under their stepmother's strict and abusive guidance - even if it means resorting to illegal spells.

As Ash's magic runs out, rebellion looms, and she finds herself entangled with the wrong prince, her carefully crafted plans start to crumble. The complexity of the characters and their disturbing childhoods adds depth to the narrative, and the forbidden flirtations between the protagonist and the hostage prince create a sense of danger and uncertainty.

What a refreshing twist in a beloved classic.

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House for the eARC. This is my honest review.

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From the first chapter I knew this book would be right up my alley! It’s Cinderella after the glass slipper fitting, with a Little Thieves twist! Can happily-ever-after survive the aftermath? Definitely will be picking up this book from my local indie bookstore at the earliest opportunity.

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This book sounded so good and the cover is gorgeous but I just could not get into the story or the characters at all unfortunately. Maybe it was a me thing or wrong mood wrong time. I'll have to give it a go another time. Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a chance to read an early digital copy in exchange for my honest review. I ended up DNF'ing at around 15%.

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This is such a unique retelling of Cinderella! It was full of some interesting characters who I adored. I thought the storyline was fun and intriguing. There was a little bit of romance, but it didn’t overshadow the plot.
If you enjoy a fun retelling with a morally grey mc, you will enjoyed this!

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Thief Liar Lady is a retelling of Cinderella in a way that I’ve never seen before or imagined. In this version, every part of the original tale was just a long con set up by her family. Magic is also involved, but not by way of a fairy godmother this time.

I really enjoyed the layers that this had, with political intrigue and a large cast of characters with questionable intentions. The magic system was unique and interesting. The romance aspect was there, but certainly did not overshadow the other plot lines.

I would recommended this to lovers of fairy tale retellings, especially those looking for a different than usual take on things.

Thank you so much to Del Ray and NetGalley for this arc in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

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Unfortunately I DNFed this book. I found it to be extremely slow and couldn't continue reading because it was dragging so much. The concept was super interesting so I'm sad! I would definitely give this author's books another try, but this one wasn't for me.

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I voluntarily read an advanced copy of Thief Liar Lady by D.L Soria. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for this ARC.

This was a fun retelling of the Cinderella story. I loved the concept that the romantic meet-cute between Cinderella and the Prince was contrived by Cinderella for political reasons. The mix of politics and spy hijinks (with a dash of magic) was exactly what I wanted in the story, and I give this book a solid 3.5/5 stars.

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Y'all know I love a good fairytale retelling, so I was very intrigued when I first saw this one. It turned out to be a fun and unique twist on Cinderella. I did have a few issues with it, but I ended up enjoying it.

This had a slow start. In fact, there were a couple of times I thought about DNFing it because it just wasn't holding my interest in the beginning. But I'm glad I kept reading because things started to pick up when Rance showed up. He turned out to be my favorite part of the book. He was so interesting and mysterious. I wanted to learn more about him. There ended up being a lot of palace intrigue, which really piqued my interest and kept me entertained. I will say that it took a while (well over half the book) before I started liking Ash. She wasn't a sympathetic character at all, but I enjoyed watching her growth. There was more cursing than I expected, and it felt out of place to me. Also, I could've done without the open-door bedroom scenes.

All in all, this was a mixed bag of a read. But despite the issues I had with it, I had fun and am glad I read it.

I received an advanced copy of this book via NetGalley and voluntarily reviewed it. All thoughts and comments are my honest opinion.

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If you like fairy tale retellings with a twist and morally grey heroines, a little romance but more as a side thing, and subtle socio-political commentary…pick this one up. I thought it was fun, a little longer than it needs to be but I loved the twist on Cinderella and once it gets going I was really invested in the characters.

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Ash (better known as Lady Aislinn) knew what she was doing when she met Everett at his birthday ball and used magic to have him fall in love with her. Under her stepmother’s tutelage, Ash had learned to lie, use her body, and use illegal magic to capture a man. Now that she has the prince, she needs to make it to the wedding, and she will be in the clear. Ash is marrying the prince for his money and title, and so much more is riding on her wedding. But, when she meets the hostage prince, the dashing Rance. Then everything she has worked so hard for is shaken. Ash cannot let Rance distract her from her plans. But when the unthinkable happens, and Rance is implicated, Ash must decide: Will she stand by her Prince Charming? Or will she follow her heart?

When I saw this would be a retelling of Cinderella, the book caught my interest. For some reason, I have seen many fairy tale retellings on my Goodreads home page, and when I saw that Random House had this as a wish on NetGalley, I decided to wish on it. I wasn’t expecting it to be granted, and when I got the email, I was thrilled. I was glad when Random House granted this wish because I enjoyed the book (even if I had a few quibbles about it).

Thief Liar Lady is a fast-paced book. Because it is a fast-paced book, the plot line lags slightly towards the middle (around the wedding and the events after). It didn’t affect how I liked the book or my ability to stay focused on it(I have outside influences that do that).

Thief Liar Lady takes place entirely in the country of Solis. Solis didn’t seem like a place that I would like to live. If you were a native Solisian, then you were alright. But there was much hatred and mistrust if you came from the kingdom that Solis had been at war with. I could go on about genocide and religious suppression, but I won’t. Just remember that it happened in this book and was heartbreaking to read.

Thief Liar Lady’s storyline centers around Ash and the various activities that she is involved with. I loved that the author took the Cinderella fairy tale and had it take such a turn. I loved its what-if factor (What if Cinderella had an agenda). I also loved the backstory that the author built up for her. Ash was mistreated by her stepmother, there is no doubt about that, but she and her stepsisters were equally mistreated and trained, just like Ash. I did have a quibble with how Ash’s story was laid out. I wouldn’t say I liked starting the book in the middle of the story. It left me feeling off balance while reading. Also, I felt off balance while reading Ash’s backstory (how she got engaged and why). It was thrown in with no lead-in. This book’s use of magic (or lusture) was interesting, but Ash relied too much on it. Also, if Rance trained Puppy to detect lusture, why didn’t anyone pay attention when she started going nuts everything Ash was around?

I liked Ash. She was very straightforward with her intentions and why she was marrying Everett. She showed early in the book that she wasn’t easily manipulated. By the middle of the book, I liked that she decided she wouldn’t let people walk on her. That scene with Ryland was gold. I did worry for her when she started caring more for Rance than she should. I knew she was head over heels for him by the cottage scene. That’s what made everything that happened afterward so bittersweet.

I liked Rance but didn’t know what to think about him. He was an enigma and remained an enigma until the end of the book. I did have questions about his feelings for Ash throughout the book. I questioned how he felt until the end of the book.

I liked Everett, but I couldn’t tell if what I was seeing was the actual prince or the prince that had been repeatedly dosed with lusture. So, reading his scenes with Ash made me a little sick. Here is what seems to be a nice guy forced to be in love with someone he would have never looked at. The author focused his entire character on Ash, so I wonder if the guy I was seeing when the magic wore off was real.

The romance angle of Thief Liar Lady was well written. The central romance between Everett and Ash slowly leads to a love triangle between Everett, Ash, and Rance. And that slowly gave way to just Ash and Rance. As I mentioned above, the romance between Ash and Everett was forced because Ash had Everett under magical control. I didn’t get to see the build-up. Instead, the author highlighted the downfall. The romance whose build-up was highlighted was Ash and Rance. It was a prolonged build-up. It seemed to stall out there until the rebels kidnapped Ash and Rance. After that, it got going.

The storyline with Ash, her grandmother, and the rebellion was sad. Ash believed what she was doing was for the best. But, I feel her grandmother used her for information and didn’t care about her. The scene at the cottage only cemented that for me.

The storyline with Ash, her stepsisters, and her stepmother made me angry. The author gave little information about Ash’s childhood, but the glimpses were abusive. Ash and her stepsisters went through hell growing up. I wondered when the control Ash’s stepmother exerted over those girls would snap. It did towards the end of the book, and the fallout was explosive.

The end of Thief Liar Lady was not what I thought it would be. I loved how Ash fixed everything. It was unconventional, but it worked. The author was able to wrap up and end all of the storylines in ways that satisfied me.

I would recommend Thief Liar Lady to anyone over 16. There is no language, but there is violence and sexual situations.

Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Rey, NetGalley, and D.L. Soria for allowing me to read and review Thief Liar Lady. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

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