It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.
Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew . . .
This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they’ve been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them.
CW: domestic violence, implied animal death
I was excited to read a Cinderella retelling by a Black author and even more when I got the ARC for it, but just when I planned to read the book, I fell into a horrible slump and it’s taken me this long to pick it back up again. And I’m glad I did.
This book was very easy to read and extremely fast paced, because the complete plot occurs in just a matter of weeks. I breezed through it in just a few hours and it was just the kind of thing I was in the mood for at the time. However, due to these factors and also this being a standalone, I felt that we didn’t get to know more about the world itself this story is set in. The deconstruction of the fairytale of Cinderella itself was quite interesting because I’ve never seen something like this, but other than that we don’t get to see much of this world at all. The events in the story also kept happening at such a pace that there was no breathing room, and I guess I also felt things were too convenient.
I liked our main character Sophia for wanting a better life for herself outside of the constraints the world forces on her, but she was also impulsive and didn’t always think before diving headfirst into whatever she wants to do. I’m still not sure how I felt about her relationship with Erin because I thought there was too much of the two girls trying to force their opinion on each other. Constance was a character who did have some very interesting backstory, and I liked getting to know about her history and how she is trying to keep her family legacy alive, but she didn’t have a POV so I didn’t feel like I got to know her enough.
I have never had a problem with the instalove trope, especially in YA because I don’t find it unrealistic. In this story, the affections transfer from one girl to the other in such a quick time that I wasn’t convinced, but I did enjoy the couple who ended up being together.
There are quite a lot of side characters but the only one who left any impression was the fairy godmother. In this whole retelling of the fairytale, I think the way her individual story was changed and her character arc developed was both thrilling and unexpected. In a fairly predictable book, I think it was the only twist that made me go wow. The main villain and most of the male characters were vile and abusive while most of the women seemed to have given up and accustomed to their oppressed fate.
As the book was marketed very accurately, this is a story about young Black women teaming up to bring down the patriarchy. And the book definitely delivers on this point. And I could see the point about how a charming leader can use his behavior/actions over the course of time to change the belief systems of an entire population, and let half of them be grateful for their oppression in exchange for security. I can totally see certain parallels to our real world and it could have worked as a cautionary tale – but I think the short length of the story prevented it from being a strong exploration of the themes of patriarchy, misogyny, domestic violence. And while I really appreciated the message of female empowerment and necessity of the dismantling of systems built by patriarchy, they were a tad superficial in execution.
In the end, this was a very unique and fresh take on the Cinderella fairytale, while also tackling important issues. It has a sweet sapphic romance and a very fast paced narrative which makes for an easy and compelling read, especially if you are not in the mood for an intense epic fantasy. I just think it would have been even better as a series, so that the characters and world could have been fleshed out – the standalone format ultimately feels like a disservice to an otherwise important story.
PS: Thank you to Bloomsbury YA and Netgalley for providing me with this advance copy. All opinions expressed here are unbiased and solely mine.