Cinders & Sapphires: At Somerton, Book 1

Common Sense Media says

First in fun series is like a Downton Abbey for teens.

Age(i)

2
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8
9
10
11
12
13
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17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Educational value

Could inspire readers to learn more about what life was like at the turn of the century, from political history to fashion.

Positive messages

Readers will understand that while society looks glamorous, rigid rules about class, gender, and sexuality can create unhappiness among those who have other dreams and desires.

Positive role models

Main characters Rose and Ada are smart, kind women who understand the constraints of their class and gender, but try not to "stifle the flame inside" of them that burns for a different life.

Violence

A fight leads to a man falling to his death.

Sex

There's a lot of romance here, as a group of young people begin trying to find their forever match. Characters kiss -- which is described as scandalous -- and Ada learns that a lord "behaved ... indiscreetly" with her stepsister. Meanwhile, Ada's stepbrother is secretly gay and having a relationship with his valet, though nothing physical between them is described.

Language
Not applicable
Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A character drinks champagne by accident. A butler unpacks a Turkish pipe.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there's a lot of romance in Cinders & Sapphires, which follows an upper-class English family at the turn of the 20th century, and even some stolen kisses. Ada falls in love with an Indian man studying at Oxford, her stepbrother is secretly gay and having a relationship with his valet, and Ada discovers her stepsister "behaved ... indiscreetly" with a lord. There are other scandals as well, including a blackmailing scorned lover and an accidental death. Beyond these salacious elements, main characters Rose and Ada are smart, kind women who understand the constraints of their class and gender, but try not to "stifle the flame inside" them that burns for a different life. This book could inspire readers to learn more about life at the turn of the century, from political history to fashion. 

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What's the story?

When Ada returns with her family from India to England, her life changes dramatically: Not only does she meet (and kiss!) and Indian student she meets on the ship, but she's about to get a new stepfamily. As she prepares to enter Society, she must keep her romance a secret, especially from her conniving, competitive stepsister Charlotte. In the meantime, she strikes up a sort of friendship with her sweet maid Rose, even encouraging her to pursue her musical talents. But then one night she pushes Rose to make a decision that changes the young maid's life forever.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Readers who like descriptions of English countryside manors, romance, fancy dresses, and conversations full of double meanings will find plenty to like in the breathless first installment of a new series. CINDERS & SAPPHIRES is a bit overstuffed with scandal, but the pronounced plotting will keep the pages turning -- and ensure that readers stay hungry for the next book in the series. While they're waiting for the publication of Book 2, teens will have plenty to talk and think about, including how much has changed since 1910 -- and how they would have fought for their own dreams in such a highly managed society. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what life was like at the turn of the 20th century. How is your life different from Ada's or Rose's? Would you want to live during that time? What would you have liked? What would you have hated?

  • Do the characters' actions regarding race, gender, class, and sexuality seem realistic to you, given the time period? Do you think the world has become a fairer place since 1910?

  • What's fun about reading a series, vs. a stand-alone book? Why do you think there are so many young-adult series published today?

Book details

Author:Leila Rasheed
Genre:Historical Fiction
Topics:Brothers and sisters, Friendship, History, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Disney-Hyperion
Publication date:January 22, 2013
Number of pages:400
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 17
Available on:Hardback, iBooks, Kindle, Nook

This review of Cinders & Sapphires: At Somerton, Book 1 was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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