Over the past 72 hours, I’ve read two “Cinderella” books, which both release the same day. One is your traditional Anglo-Saxon version reimagined, the other is dark tale that questions “happily ever after.” Kalynn Bayron’s Cinderella is Dead is the infinitely more complex of the two.
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 . . . —Synopsis provided by Bloomsbury YA
I’ve read a number of reimagined Cinderella’s over the years. Some are the actual Cinderella story. Others look at life after. None have been as evocative as Cinderella is Dead. The story is at once familiar and foreign, dystopian and fairy tale. In many ways, it’s like looking in a mirror.
There are two elements that I struggled with, though not enough to not recommend the book. I don’t want to give too much away, here, so my descriptions will be vague.
First is Sophie’s sudden change of heart. She’s practically obsessed with one love interest only to drop her as soon as she meets someone else. While it’s clear the author tried to account for this, it feels almost like a plot prop than storyline.
My other issue comes with a character who doesn’t come into play initially but is consequential to the overall outcome. This character is complex and probably more interesting than any other — they could have their own book. And yet, this character’s key climactic actions are rushed an never completely fleshed out.
Author Kalynn Bayron has created a world that will resonate with most readers. It’s hard not to see yourself in at least one of the roles. Her writing envelopes you from the first page and sticks with you after you finish. I’m excited to read more from this debut author.
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