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Bargain on 11th May 18
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Bestselling romance novelist J.M. Stengl steps into the realm of fairy tales with this sparkling new series of love, laughter, light, and–of course–magic.

Trained by an enchantress but obliged to work summers for her living, fifteen-year-old Ellie Calmer serves as a maid at a world-famous mountain resort. Her lowly rank keeps her always at a distance from the powerful, beautiful guests who spend their summers at Faraway Castle, yet Ellie dares to dream of one day exchanging even just a few words with shy Prince Omar of Khenifra.

But when rare magical creatures show up in Faraway Castle’s gardens, Ellie’s life is suddenly complicated. Cinder sprites are causing fires and potentially endangering the beautiful resort. The resort director has sent for an exterminator to deal with these so-called pests. Can Ellie find a way to use her humble magic to save the cinder sprites and Faraway Castle before disaster strikes?

CINDER ELLIE is a prequel novella to J.M. Stengl’s FARAWAY CASTLE series. Recommended for fans of Marissa Meyer, Melanie Dickerson, K.M. Shea, and Chanda Hahn.

Bargain on 11th May 18
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"As an introduction to the Faraway Castle resort, this short story is a good taster for fantasy or paranormal readers - and hints at a budding fairytale romance."

Reviewer: .

Ellie is a maid in the Faraway Castle resort, a job trickier than it looks when the staff or magical creatures are under glamours to avoid disturbing the (rich and thoroughly entitled) guests. When magical fires start breaking out, she and the staff have to conspire to save a rare magical creature from an over-officious manager and guests who just see "vermin"...

This book isn't as long as it looks. It contains the titular short story about Ellie Calmer, followed by a suggestion you buy the novel to read more about her, followed by a long sample chapter of another title. This is largely a slice-of-life piece, meant to give you a look at the world and characters, and as something to whet a reader's appetite for more, the story works quite well. It has good and creative world building, establishes the characters, and sets up plenty of hooks for a novel. The Faraway Castle resort is genuinely one I'd like to read more about- a magical resort where the staff hide magic to make the guests more comfortable.

I did come away with a few questions, like why the Gamekeeper outranks the Resort Director, but in a short story I can accept them going unanswered. It isn't a particularly high stakes story, more a slice of life covering how Ellie gets a job that - presumably - she holds in the novel. That said, fantasy and paranormal fans should find something enjoyable here: endangered magical creatures, a world with magic just under the surface, and a royal romance stirring that might bring romance readers to get the sequel.

As a short story in its own right, with no great thrills or drama, I'd rate it a fair, possibly even average. However, it isn't meant to be standalone, and as an introduction to the world, a hook, or an extra for those who've read the main story, it is excellent.

Rating: 3

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