January 11, 2023

BLOG TOUR The Wicked Ones (Dark Ascension #1) by Robin Benway

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the THE WICKED ONES by Robin Benway Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

About The Book:

Title: THE WICKED ONES (Dark Ascension, 1)

Author: Robin Benway

Pub. Date: January 10, 2023

Publisher: Disney Press

Formats: Hardcover, eBook, Audiobook

Pages: 320

Find it: Goodreadshttps://books2read.com/THE-WICKED-ONES

"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.

Check out this excerpt!



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. 

The girls’ bedroom door glides open without a single  squeak even as the floorboards gently protest. They still share  a bedroom despite their now very advanced ages of six and  seven, even though they squawk and fight and have tearful episodes several times a week over who did this and who took those and who said that. He lets his wife handle those  moments, lets her separate them into corners and fix their  ripped dresses and wipe their eyes. From the moment they  were born, he’s always been in awe of his daughters, of how  strong and tough they are. They remind him of everything he  is not, of everything he can never be for them, and it shames  and angers him in equal measure. 

He would say he never resents them for it, but that would  be a lie. 

Now, though, tucked into their beds, he feels only fond ness, a warm, syrupy emotion that all parents have when they  see their sleeping children. His older daughter, Drizella, is in  her bed by the window, sleeping facing the moon and stars  that peek in from the dusty curtains. She is the daughter who  looks up at the night sky, pointing without asking or demanding an answer, and he laughs and names the constellations  over and over again, making up the ones he doesn’t know by  heart. He is the one who always grew tired of their game first. 

They named her Drizella after his wife’s mother, who  arrived a week after the baby was born only to look at the  child, sniff twice, and announce that any girl born with that  much black hair was doomed to trouble. “She looks like she  came from a coven” were her exact words, which made the  news of Drizella’s name that much harder to deliver. The man  saw the light go out of his wife’s eyes that night. It took weeks  before it began to flicker back.

Drizella’s hair is still black, now twisted up in rags so that  she’ll have perfect ringlets in the morning. His wife twists  tight and fast so that tears spring to the girls’ eyes, but they  know better than to cry, know that crying will only make her  pull tighter, tug harder. The man sometimes wishes he could  intervene, but she is their mother, and he is only a man. 

Girls, he thinks, always need their mother. 

He leans down, setting one hand on the straw mattress  for balance, and gently kisses the top of Drizella’s small head.  He tries to impart as much love as he can, enough devotion  and adoration to carry her through the rest of her life, but  there is only so much that a small body can hold. One day,  Drizella will grow up and the love that her father presses into  her hair tonight will only become smaller, will occupy less  and less space until it becomes a tight knot behind her ribs,  a quiet stabbing reminder of what has been and what is no  longer there. 

The man will never know this. He thinks he’s done the  right thing. After all, she hasn’t even woken up. He would  hate to disturb her sleep. She’s only a child; she needs her rest. 

He goes across the room to Anastasia. She still sleeps with  her thumb in her mouth. Sleep is the only time she can do so  safely without having it yanked out, having it soaked in vine gar so that it’s sour and puckered. “If you keep doing that,” his  wife tells her, “your teeth will grow ugly,” but that doesn’t faze  Anastasia. She’s his redheaded stubborn one, his lucky copper coin. The day she was born, he won big at a local chicken fight  and burst into their bedroom waving fistfuls of francs while  the midwives fanned his exhausted, sweating wife. He didn’t  even hear the baby’s cries at first, not until she realized she  was being ignored in her cradle and decided to raise the volume by a few decibels. He cheered with her, then went out to  celebrate, the money and the alcohol both gone by midnight. 

He leaves her thumb in her mouth, hating to deny her  a small comfort, and gently smooths the blankets over her.  They’re cotton when they should be wool, threadbare where  they should be thick, scratchy where they should be soft. Children don’t need too much, though, he tells himself. They have  wonder and imagination on their side. Didn’t he eat garbage  scraps as a child and tell himself that it was as good as a holiday feast? A thin cotton blanket seems like nothing compared  to that. He doesn’t think of the upcoming autumn, how the  cracks in the walls and windows will let cold air in all night  long. He doesn’t think of his two daughters sleeping in one  bed for warmth, desperate not to be alone, aching for the kind  of comfort that he won’t be there to provide. 

He will miss his girls so, so much. 

He thinks that’s the same as loving them. 

He fixes their blankets one last time and slips out of the room. The old rugs that line the stairs are starting to show  signs of wear, sunspots dappling the rich colors with bleached spaces, but he doesn’t notice. He is a man who knows how to make decisions, who knows how to follow through, who can leave without looking back, not even once. 

When he shuts the front door behind him for the very last time, no one, not even the mice nestled in the house’s walls, notice that he’s gone.

REVIEW of The Wicked Ones (Dark Ascension #1) by Robin Benway
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Format: ARC (Courtesy of Publisher) and Audiobook (Borrowed from Library)

Have you ever felt like a movie only gives you half of the story?

I frequently feel like I’m missing certain perspectives when I watch a movie - it’s frustrating when you don’t have the full picture of things, especially for large-scale productions. 

Everyone knows the story of Cinderella, but not as many pay attention to her “Wicked” step-sisters Anastasia and Drizella. Both have a bad reputation for being ugly, vain, and borderline cruel to their more famous step-sibling. The Wicked Ones by Robin Benway gives readers a look into their origin story and how they became the characters everyone knows. The movie Cinderella 2 gave a smaller glimpse into their personalities (and gave them more development as individual characters), but this was so much better. Never fear though, Evil Stepmother Lady Tremaine largely remains the same cold and calculating villainous figure she’s been for so long, though this story does dive into her backstory a bit as well. If you want a book that’s more focused on her, I recommend Serena Valentino’s Cold Hearted (part of her Villains series). 

I was surprised to find myself feeling sorry for the sisters from very early on in the book. Their father left them and took everything of value that they owned, and that event shaped their mother and hardened her heart. I appreciated how this book explored the sisters individually as well as their relationship to each other, instead of just treating them as one entity. Ella’s father comes up in this book, and it was interesting (but not entirely surprising) to see how his neglect of his relationship with his step-daughters affected their relationship with Ella in the future. Some new characters are introduced to the story through the book, and I particularly enjoyed Madame Lambert. 

Overall, this was a very entertaining and thoughtful read. I enjoyed Billie Fulford-Brown’s performance in the audiobook version of the book, and how she brought the two sister’s perspectives to life. I do caution those who might be affected by themes of parental neglect and abandonment, as those feature heavily into the book and the overall storyline.  

Thank you to the author, the publisher Disney Press, and Jaime at Rockstar Book Tours for providing me with a complimentary review copy of the book as part of my participation in the tour. I appreciate the opportunity to read and review The Wicked Ones immensely! Please note - I voluntarily read and reviewed the book. All opinions expressed in the review are my own and not influenced in any way. 

CONTENT WARNINGS: Emotional Abuse, Verbal Abuse, Parental Neglect, Parental Abandonment

About Robin Benway:

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.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon  | BookBub


Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive a finished copy of THE WICKED ONES, US Only.

Ends February 4th, midnight EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

Week One:



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Kait Plus Books

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YA Books Central

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Week Two:



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Books With A Chance of Traveling

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Eye-Rolling Demigod's Book Blog

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Week Three:


The Momma Spot

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The Book View

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Library of Becca

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A Bookish Dream

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A Backwards Story

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Week Four:


A Blue Box Full of Books

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Lisa Loves Literature

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Emily Ashlyn

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Week Five:



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Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

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