“Blood is blood…and one way or another, we all bleed.”
Drizella and Anastasia only know one thing for certain: they will never end up like their mother, Lady Tremaine. When their father left them as young girls, he took what was left of their family’s fortune and their mother’s dignity with him. A few years and one deceased stepfather later, the only version of Lady Tremaine that Drizella and Anastasia know is a bitter and cruel head of house. Anastasia and Drizella have promised themselves―and each other―that they’ll be different. They’ll find love, see the world, and never let their hearts go cold.
But both sisters are all too aware of what it can mean when cast into disfavor with their mother, and fueled by Lady Tremaine’s tendencies to pit the daughters against one another, Drizella and Anastasia are locked into a complicated waltz of tenuous sisterhood. On the cusp of the royal debut party―their one chance to impress the Prince and live up to their mother’s expectations―the sisters at last get a glimpse of what life could be like outside of Lady Tremaine’s intentions: Drizella discovering a love of science and Anastasia sparking a secret romance. But never underestimate the power a mother whose greatest talents lie in manipulation, and the sisters may learn that even the cruelest of hearts can spill blood.
This first book in the new Disney Villains Dark Ascension series by National Book Award-winning author Robin Benway explores the complex sibling rivalry between the two wicked stepsisters from Cinderella that turned them into the characters we know today.
Title: The Wicked Ones
Author: Robin Benway
Publication Date: January 10, 2023
Publisher: Disney Press
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retellings
When the man slips his wife’s wedding ring off her finger, he makes sure to do so very, very gently. After all, he would hate to wake her up.
He’s waited until the house is sleeping around him, until his small children are finally settled in their beds, their tiny giggles dying down into sighs before giving over to steady, shallow breaths. His wife is sleeping on her side, facing away from him but with her hands outstretched toward the bed where he should be, reaching for a man who will never be in that space again.
The small gold band comes off so easily. He’s never had the heart to tell her it isn’t real gold. He wonders if she’s never had the heart to tell him that she knows and still loves him anyway.
It’s an interesting thing, being loved, he thinks as he tiptoes to the other side of the bed and reaches under the duck-feathered mattress for his bag, the one that holds the few valuable possessions his family has, the ones that only he will now possess. He thought he knew love when he met his wife, or when his children were born, the two girls just pink wriggling things that reminded him in the moment of newborn puppies, eyes screwed shut, mouths open wide in a scream.
To be loved is to have a responsibility, he thinks as he checks the bag to make sure it’s all there: the jewelry his wife’s mother left her; a few francs he squirreled away over the past several months; an opal-backed hairbrush that belongs to one of his daughters, he isn’t sure which. The people who love him have come to rely on him, and unfortunately, he is not a reliable man. He is not responsible.
He is just a man, he tells himself as he looks back at his wife. Who could ever expect him to be more than that? His wife is still young, face only starting to show the barest cracks of age. The tiniest lines have begun to gather around her eyes, but it’s easy to say that they’re from smiling too much, even though her smiles have appeared less as the debts have grown. She is beautiful in her sleep, less austere, her brown hair fanned out across her pillow. He’s always loved her hair; it was the thing that first drew him to her when they saw each other on the street all those years ago, back when he still imagined himself to be capable of reliability and responsibility.
He would be lying if he said he didn’t think about cutting it off and selling it on some nights, of taking the shears and holding the thick strands in his palm. Four or five snips and it would be done. She would be angry, of course. She would probably even sob, but he could have said that it was for their family, for them. Didn’t their daughters need to eat? Weren’t they tired of avoiding the bill collectors who posted notices on their front door? It was just hair, after all. It would grow back.
But he never did it. The man is many things: a liar and a cheat. A thief, a gambler, a drunk. But, he thinks, he has never been cruel.
He tells himself this as he watches his wife now, as her hands twitch in her sleep, her legs giving a slight kick. She has never slept well; she awakes in the middle of the night and gets up to look out the window, searching for something that they both know isn’t there. He knows there is unhappiness, because she never talks about it. When the man once asked about her childhood, her body went so stiff and straight that he began to suspect that the memories were not in her brain, but her bones, buried deep in the marrow. To get at them would mean breaking her open, and again, he is many things, but he is not cruel.
He watches his wife now, waits for her to move again, but she never does, not even when he kisses his palm and ghosts it over her glorious hair.
What a fortune he could have made from it.
He takes his bag and leaves the bedroom, then eases himself down the hall so that the floorboards don’t creak too much. During the day they’re rarely noticeable, but in the silence of the countryside night, they sound as if a cannon has been fired. Even under their daughters’ small feet, the floors are rickety and splintered. The man and his wife can hear the girls coming into their room at night even when they’re still ten meters away, even before they quietly complain about an ache or pain or dream and he lifts them up into their bed. He’ll miss their small warm bodies pressed between them, but it’s better this way. His daughters’ memories will only be good. He will never have caused them pain. When they think of their father, they’ll remember a man who held and loved them, who tossed them high into the sky but always made sure to catch them on their way down.
They’re certainly better than the memories that his father left him.
Robin Benway is a National Book Award-winning and New York Times-bestselling author of eight novels for young adults, including Far From the Tree, Audrey, Wait!, the AKA series, and Emmy & Oliver. Her books have received numerous awards and recognition, including the PEN America Literary Award, the Blue Ribbon Award from the Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books, ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults, and ALA’s Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults. In addition, her novels have received starred reviews from Bookpage, Kirkus, Booklist, and Publishers Weekly, and have been published in more than 25 countries. Her sixth novel, Far From the Tree, won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, the PEN America Award, and was named one of the best books of the year by The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, NPR, PBS, Entertainment Weekly, and the Boston Globe. In addition to her fictional work, her non-fiction work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Bustle, Elle, and more. Her latest book, A Year To the Day, was published on June 21, 2022, and her next book, The Wicked Ones, the origin story of Cinderella’s wicked stepsisters, will be released by Disney Books on January 10, 2023.
Robin grew up in Orange County, California, attended NYU, where she was a recipient of the Seth Barkas Prize for Creative Writing, and is a graduate of UCLA. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her dog, Hudson.
1 winner will receive a finished copy of THE WICKED ONES, US Only.
Ends February 4th, midnight EST.a Rafflecopter giveaway
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