Pretty Deadly

Fiction - Fantasy - General
221 Pages
Reviewed on 11/01/2021
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Jennifer Ibiam for Readers' Favorite

In Pretty Deadly by Kelsey Josund, Cinna was the servant girl to her family. After her parents’ death, her uncle and his family made life hell. According to them, Cinna was scum and undeserving of the air she breathed. She always wanted to find a way out of the troubles life threw at her, and the perfect chance came. Preparations were in top gear for the fiftieth-anniversary celebration of the accords, and she wanted to make it count. Cinna suggested a competition with her friend Johann, a petty thief, to loot most of the king’s treasury without getting caught. The duo began plans that clashed and snowballed into a series of events that would either sink or save them. Did Cinna get the good life she desired? Did Johann succeed in his plans?

Pretty Deadly by Kelsey Josund is a gripping tale that will appeal to lovers of suspense novels. Betrayal, deceit, scheming, manipulation, and elements of romance were some parameters explored in this book. The plot was brilliant and airtight! Kelsey also narrated a story that was unique and unpredictable. I never saw the many twists and turns coming. They left my eyes wide with astonishment. The characters deserved applause, and the writing style was fluid. Cinna was lethal, and I could not fathom how her brain worked. I had to dub her the evil genius because she was too much. How could Johann forget that there was no honor among thieves? I hurt for him. This is a fantastic story that ended a cliffhanger! It deserves to be a series.

K.C. Finn

Pretty Deadly is a work of fiction in the fantasy, crime, and dark fairytale subgenres, and was penned by author Kelsey Josund. In this gritty and amusing twist on the Cinderella story, we meet the boisterous Cinna, who is tormented often by her horrible cousins and denied entry to society’s most glamorous events. Cinna’s secret is that she has become quite the expert thief, and so she challenges her fellow pilferer Johann to a battle of riches at the upcoming ball. But as the night of the ball arrives and a sudden murder puts a wrench in their heist plans, Cinna comes to realize she might just be stealing something far more valuable than any of the jewels present at this grand occasion.

Author Kelsey Josund has created a Cinderella story for a new generation, filled with edgy moments, humor, and hijinks which will certainly satisfy all those who are bored with the original sentimentality of the tale. Cinna is rough and tough, presented with feisty dialogue and amusing moments where her quiet sarcasm and lowkey mischief help her to get back at her horrible family in small, fun ways. This balance also humanizes her and allows readers to relate. Small slivers of vulnerability emerge as she is put to the test in the middle of a sudden murder mystery. The different genre elements of the plot are handled incredibly well to give a fast pace and plenty of intrigue. Overall, I’d certainly recommend Pretty Deadly to fans of sharp-witted fiction that pays homage but also pokes fun at traditional tales of the past.

Grant Leishman

Pretty Deadly by Kelsey Josund is a fantasy adventure that is more realistic than fantasy. The fantasy nature concerns only the settings, as the characters and their motivations will be instantly recognizable to readers. Cinna was long ago consigned to live with her grandmother, aunt, and her cousins, which was fine as long as Cinna’s grandmother was alive. Even Cinna’s aunt was fairer to her than the three cousins, who at the first possible opportunity began to treat Cinna as nothing more than a lowly servant, even telling their friends that their poor cousin Cinna had died. Cinna, who dabbled in petty thievery just to make life more exciting and tolerable, burned with the desire to rid herself of her pesky cousins and finally achieve the life she dreamed of and believed she richly deserved. When the king announced they would be having a lavish ball to celebrate the fifty years of peace between the three nations that made up the kingdom, with all the wealthy and powerful people in town, Cinna saw the opportunity for a big strike.

Pretty Deadly is a fun and sometimes frivolous romp that was a real pleasure to read. Author Kelsey Josund has created two wonderful characters in Cinna and Johann that readers can truly get behind and root for. Both characters have an appealing, childlike quality to them that is only enhanced by their obvious character flaws. What I particularly loved was the unexpected twists and turns the plot took that will really keep any reader on their toes. The writing style is conversational and easy to read, which made the narrative flow beautifully. Despite the setting being fantasy, with castles and princes, the characters were totally believable and identifiable. I really did appreciate the level of planning and description that went into both “heists” but especially the clever theft by Johann that would potentially go unrealized. The “devil is in the details” in any great robbery and this author nailed those perfectly. I thoroughly enjoyed this escape into the world of make-believe and can highly recommend this read.

Tammy Ruggles

Pretty Deadly by Kelsey Josund is a refreshing romp of a fantasy novel with a decidedly forward main character named Cinna. Cinna has lived in the shadow of her very rich relatives, the cousins who expect her to do as they command. She isn't allowed to indulge in social gatherings with them. What Cinna really wants is the throne, but she bides her time trying to prove herself worthy and plans revenge. Her big chance comes in the form of a castle ball, as a lot of influential people will be there. This may be the time and place for her big move. Petty thief and con artist Johann is her charismatic best friend, and she bets that she can pull a bigger score than he can during the ball. This prompts them to undertake individual heists, but something goes wrong, and things spin out of control. Things like the duchess being dead, a castle locked down, and a burning mansion. Cinna hasn't stolen anything, but has she found something that means more than any earthly treasure?

Josund knows how to spin a fantasy. She takes some of the familiar building blocks and constructs something fresh and different, which will delight steadfast fans and new ones alike. The characters are instantly relatable, especially Cinna and her yearning to break free of the bonds of her cousins. And the plot is full of unexpected turns, suspense, and events that will leave you asking: "What could possibly happen next?" Worldbuilding and character development are two obvious skills this author has, as well as plot execution. Josund has a firm grasp on the heist theme and pulls it off convincingly and entertainingly. One thing I especially appreciated is how the author lets the thoughts and dialogues of the other characters reveal Cinna's character. It's easy to see the parallels between this novel and Cinderella, but this version is a more exciting and mature fairytale for adults. I like the dialogue, the supporting characters, the even pace, and the fact that the author doesn't give you everything at once. She leaves time for your imagination to play a part in the unfolding. If you like leading ladies with attitude and an agenda, you will love Pretty Deadly by Kelsey Josund.

Vincent Dublado

What do you get when you create a female protagonist in a fantasy tale that has the combined charm of Cinderella and the spunk of Selina Kyle/Catwoman? Author Kelsey Josund has perfected it with Cinna, the main character in the novel Pretty Deadly. Cinna is a subservient domestic helper to her family, but what they are not aware of is that she moonlights as a cunning thief come nightfall. She serves her family because it helps to give her that low profile, and she is waiting for the right moment to exact revenge. Johann is her only confidante and he knows about her dual existence. When a grand ball is announced that will gather all the nobles of the kingdom, Cinna challenges Johann to a competition: see who can land a bigger score. The bet is on, but things go awry within the castle as unfortunate events unfold at the ball and the body of a noblewoman is found.

Writing the story that you want to read is great advice. Kelsey Josund is among those authors who took that advice to heart. This is a Cinderella retelling that is far from the character of your bedtime story days. Josund has stripped away the blind subservience in the main character and replaced it with confidence and the nerve to set things right. She is calculating, patient, and despite her thievery, she remains sympathetic. This is because Cinna’s personal history has been properly laid out so that you can perfectly understand the motivations behind her actions. There is a sort of eat-the-rich attitude to her secret preoccupation, but there is also a deep reflection on her part that makes her further evolve as a character in the process. Pretty Deadly is a must-read retelling of a beloved fairy tale that will leave you feeling empowered.