I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
All of her life, Aelliana Caylon has lived by the rules of her overbearing brother, the head of the Caylon family. Though she is a brilliant mathematician, he has convinced her that she has no worth beyond what value she might have in an arranged marriage. Then, on a dare, she plays a game of chance—and wins a starship. It is her way to escape her home, her planet, her drab life—if she can qualify as a pilot. Enter the accomplished Scout and Master Pilot known only as Daav. Aelliana hires him as her instructor. She finds him gifted teacher. He finds her a quick study. And they also find an unexpected attraction, one that could have dangerous repercussions for them both . . .
A flip of the traditional Cinderella story, where Cinderella knows who the prince is, but he has to investigate to identify her. In Scout’s Progress, Aelliana only knows who she is—a terrified woman trying to escape from an abusive relationship with her brother plus she is a brilliant mathematician. When she uses that mathematical talent to win herself a starship, she has no idea that the man helping her to get her pilot’s license is more than he seems. Daav yos’Phelium is head of the house of Korval, foremost house on the planet of Liad (a charming if not entirely handsome prince).
The stakes were pretty high for Cinderella—escaping from a life of drudgery, lorded over by the evil step-sisters—but for Aelliana it may actually be a matter of life and death. I found the portrayal of an abuse victim to be moving, especially as the friendly people around her start to put the pieces together and insist on helping her. One of my inner circle was in a mentally & emotionally abusive relationship, and I know from personal experience the frustration of being limited in what you can do to help. In short, the abused person must be “ready” in order to leave and they are the only ones who can determine when they have reached that point. It is difficult for friends and family to watch as that person prepares herself/himself. I was thankful that my loved one had an excellent councilor, who assured us that most women take at least 5 years to actually make the fateful decision to go—their abusers have them convinced that they are nothing on their own and that they will never survive outside the abusive relationship.
It was marvelous to watch Aelliana grow as a person and to realize her own worth, to gain skills and confidence. Since I’ve watched it in real life, complete with new, healthy relationship when the battle is over, I really enjoyed this fictional version.