GENRE(S) Contemporary Fiction, Romance
PUBLISHER Solstice Publishing
Ariel, by Fia Essen, tells the story of Ariel Morton, an ex-pat living in Singapore. She's been living in Rock Bottomville after being left by her boyfriend, losing her job and driver’s license, largely estranged from her family, and racking up a huge credit card debt. Worse, her boyfriend, Duncan, told everyone that she broke up with him ostensibly to save her ego. She lost her job while nursing her sorrows. Worse yet, Ariel accidentally drove while under the influence of Duncan’s Valium (she thought it was migraine medication). She has been lying to everyone around her for months regarding how she managed to end up in Rock Bottomville.
When she receives a mysterious message from The Muse Agency, a mysterious consultancy that offers select people unknown services, she ignores it, certain that it was intended for someone else. When the fourth letter from the agency arrives, she decides to go in for her consultation. There, she meets “Colin”, an employee of the agency and becomes a client of Celine Valois, the star of the Muse Agency.
From there, Ariel’s life changes completely in an almost magical way; from reconnecting with her family, to saving the day at her place of employment, to failing to learn to speak Greek in a weekend, to launching a revenge mission on Duncan. Ariel learns to be more forthright with her thoughts and start telling the truth, recognize the gifts that she has, set realistic and achievable goals, and find love.
Ariel is a charming story of learning to stand up for yourself and not make assumptions regarding what other people think of you. Ariel is a quirky and relatable heroine and her family, landlady and friends are equally delightful. Singapore is well painted through the eyes of an ex-pat and there is enough action to keep the pages turning. For anyone who has been stuck in a rut, it is certainly an entertaining and hopeful read.
If anything, Ariel’s path to redemption and happiness is perhaps a bit too smooth, and suggestive of some sort of magic wrought by The Muse Agency. The main tension is Ariel’s constant surprise how well things can go for her when she communicates with her family and friends and adopts honesty as her main policy. There is no, or very little, dark night of the soul at the book's climax. The small bit of conflict is resolved quickly, although since Ariel starts out in Rock Bottomville, one could argue that her dark nights of the soul all happened at the beginning of the book.
Ariel is a fun and uplifting read about learning to believe in yourself, keep moving forward, and see the good in your life and the people around you. A quirky modern-day Cinderella story where the rewards are greater than just finding a prince (although there is a decent facsimile of a prince involved, too).
5 stars - excellent, highly recommended. This book did exactly what it set out to do, with originality, style, and maybe even a twist.
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Follow Fia on Twitter: @FiaEssen
Fia's official website: http://www.fiaessen.com/
Jennifer Ellis is the author of A Pair of Docks and A Quill Ladder, a fantasy adventure series for kids and adults, and In the Shadows of the Mosquito Constellation, about a kinder and more romantic dystopic future. Her most recent release is Reversal in the Apocalypse Weird world. She lives in a ski town and works as an environmental researcher. Find her at www.jenniferellis.ca.