Upright Women Wanted

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Upright Women Wanted

This is a great novella that also suffers from being a novella. The concept is so interesting and while this book gives you just enough information to understand what’s happening I really wish there had been more. I would have loved more world building because the interesting future dystopian world this takes place in really deserved it. The characters were all very interesting too, both main and supporting characters.

The only issue I had was that the attraction that the main character Ester developed was extremely fast, instantaneous in fact. This really just feels like another mark towards the fact that this book needed more time so that this relationship could have developed a little bit better.

Despite it being fairly short I do think the ending was more satisfying than I had expected it to be.

Full Review with Spoilers

I went into this book with high expectations. A sapphic retelling of a classic fairytale is something I will always jump on. I was extremely happy to see that this book delivered and then some. The entire story is told from the perspective of Alyce, the traditional villain of Sleeping Beauty. The books acts as much like an origin story as much as it is a retelling.

Alyce is a fantastic character. She is told she is essentially evil and dark her whole life, that she is something other. It was heartbreaking to see how she deals with this her whole life and as much as she tries not to be that person, it definitely shaped who she is. She does what is essentially considered bad things because it is what is expected of her and what she is brought up to believe is the only thing she can do. Aurora is also a great main character. She is a princess and at first glance Alyce’s total opposite. The relationship that builds between them through the book is so well done. It was great to see them connect over their general dislike of everyone around them then it progress to Alyce trying to help her break the curse that will kill her when she turns 21. I loved seeing Alyce’s emotion progress and escalate even if she could quite see it for what it is.

There was a very interesting magic, social structure, and history developed in this book. I especially loved how the decline in ruling from a Queendom to a Kingdom where the queens have essentially given all their power to her husband over time really hinted at the same type of direction the story was going to take. The author did a great job placing these hints and connecting everything in a smooth flow that never felt like an information overload to the reader.

The storyline flowed so very well. There was a fantastic mix of emotional drama, angst and the sweeter buildup on the romance side. The romance was definitely not the focus of the story, though it was very much there. It really focus on Alyce’s build up to becoming a villain. And it was such a ride! Once Alyce crosses that line into actually killing people I have no idea what I should feel. Up to that point we get to see everything that has just been stacking against her and in a way we really see the justification for her actions. I ended the book completely blown away by the turn of events. We see Alyce exactly how we expect, guarding a sleeping princess against a kingdom that hates her.

Overall

This was a great retelling that gives the reader a new way of looking at a classic and very well known fairytale. Good story telling and great character development make this an extremely enjoyable read and one you won’t want to put down.

This was such a different and unique story for me. I adored the future dystopian setting with historical vibes. I never thought I would be able to comfortably call something a future western, but that sums this up perfectly.

Esther is a very relatable character. She’s very naive and confused. I liked that the story starts in the middle of events. It does break my heart that her best friend and secret lover was executed do to being discovered as basically a rebel sympathizer. Because of this Esther runs away and hops in a wagon run by Librarians.

I have to admit this was a shock. Naturally I have a certain concept in my head for what a librarian is, but the ones in this book threw me for a loop. They are badass women that travel around delivering “government approved materials.” Secretly of course they are also part of the rebellion, hiding in plain sight and all that. I loved this concept and loved even more the utter confusion Esther had to deal with. The people she thought were upright respectable women following the law where exactly the opposite, and exactly what she needed. I loved seeing Esther finally coming to terms with her sexuality now that she could see that she wasn’t so strange and uncommon.

I loved the bigger story happening along side Esther’s personal journey. The Librarians, Bet and Leda, are smuggling a group of girls into safe territory where they can life without fear of the government. Naturally, things go wrong because one of the girls is actually a rebel assassin that none of them wants to be involved with.

Esther’s attraction to non-binary Cye, an apprentice librarian riding with Bet and Leda, was ridiculously cute. I did however think this attraction happened far too quickly. It was instantaneous and while I don’t dispute that sometimes that happens, I felt like Esther’s feelings needed a bit more development. She’s both coming to terms with herself as well as the feelings she had for her best friend.

The only thing negative about this book is that it’s a novella. The world and time this takes place in is so interesting and we barely really scratch the surface. I would have loved more world building and back story. Honestly too I would have loved more time with all of the characters. I think the too quick emotional development from Esther could have been remedy with a longer story as well.

Overall,

I loved this book and would love to visit this world again someday. It deserves to come back and stay with us longer.

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