I absolutely adored this book. I was initially unsure as to whether or not I'd like it - based on the description of the book, it wasn't something I'd usually read. I really only started it because I had gotten it for free, and I was looking for something short to read. Generally, I like my stories to be epic tales filled with heroes and magic, princesses needing to be rescued, that sort of thing. But occasionally, a book so utterly based in the real world will find its way through, bringing with it a certain magic of its own. This was one of those books.
The writing was beautiful. Each line felt like poetry, each word chosen so that it would fit just right next to the others. The story wasn't important. The characters weren't important. The word choice was that impressive.
That's not to knock the story and characters. The story was engaging, and the characters were very well written. Even the "villain" of the story was handled well. By the end of the book, you don't hate her for what she's done - you understand that her life has led her to make those choices, and you feel bad that things had to end the way they did. Or, that's how I felt at any rate.
The main characters (Ella and Fabbia) are incredibly likeable. Well...I will admit that Fabbia was the stronger character of the two. That was sort of the point of the story though, and Ella will hopefully become as strong a woman as her mother.
I also really liked the balance the story kept between fairy tale and realism. The story itself feels like it could have really happened, but there's just enough of a hint of magic in there to make it stand out from typical fiction. It doesn't even have to be real magic - empathy on that level, and bringing dreams to life are magical enough on their own.
Reading this book just left me feeling really, really happy. I'm almost hesitant to read the sequel. I don't want to ruin the spell this book has cast on me.