Title: Cinderella is Dead
Author: Kalynn Bayron
Format: ebook ARC
Genre: Young Adult | Fantasy, Retelling, LGBTQIA+
Release Date: July 7 2020
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
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 . . .
Disclaimer: I received this e-ARC courtesy of Bloomsbury YA through NetGalley. I am grateful for the opportunity to review an ARC for my readers, but this will not influence my final rating. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and based solely on the book.
This book certainly brought the Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo magic. A sweet f/f romance, a burst of feminism, and an immersive fairytale setting was certainly a dream that a heart makes.
📌 on plot
This isn’t a fairytale retelling in the classical sense – in this story, Cinderella is already a known figure and a real person. Cinderella lived 100 years ago and really had her own fairy godmother and Prince Charming. However, her story has dire consequences for the townsfolk that follows, creating a world where if you don’t fit in a submissive heteronormative world, you’re not going to find your happily ever after.
I found Bayron’s take on this to be wholly intriguing and the blending of the classical retelling aspects vs. infusing it within the story were a nice new take. I enjoyed more empowering takes on the female characters/villains from the original story and I liked the little twists in there (um NECROMANCY???) that I didn’t quite see coming but worked so well in this dark fairytale world. The plot was always moving and filled with new points that were fascinating.
📌 on characters
Sophia, our main heroine, is certainly not the fairytale or Disney Cinderella. But that’s not a bad thing. While there are some elements to the namesake, Sophia is certainly a girl that focuses on the “have courage” part of live-action Cinderella’s motto. She is brave; she is resilience; and she’s going to whatever is that she can to fight for her freedom and everyone else’s. I admired her ability to never back down and always stand tall in the face of adversity when it certainly wasn’t easy.
An issue that I had with the novel, though, was the characterization. I felt Sophia was a well-defined character. However, I still could have used a bit more of definition to her. I want to know a little bit more about what makes her tick besides fighting injustice. The other side characters, while good support, never really came into full figures for me. I liked Constance (and the sweet romance between her and Sophia), but also, I feel like I still didn’t know her fully by the end of the read. I just wanted more from my characters.
📌 on theme
This book promised me a feminist take on Cinderella – and it delivered. It takes on a lot of issues that are faced by women – besides the patriarchy, it takes on abuse, microaggressions, and more. In this story, the misogyny is exaggerated for the premise of the story, but so much can parallel to real instances that females experience in everyday moments and their lives. It was brilliant to see our heroines take on this views and try to dismantle the patriarchy.
The story also features LGBTQIA+ struggles. Our heroine is in love with another woman – and she is forced to hide this side to her because the kingdom seeks to get rid of anyone that doesn’t fall into the heterosexual narrative. There are instances of homophobia with a gay male side character as well. Besides dismantling the patriarchy, our heroines seek to destroy the world where love is forced into the heterosexual picture and only that.
📌 on writing
Bayron’s writing is nice and easy – the flow is easy to follow and it’s very easy to digest large portions of this book easily. Even though it’s 400 pages, it doesn’t feel intimidating at all. The pacing does get a touch slow at times, but it really ramps back up, and you’re back to business as usual.
The other issue that I had with this story was the world-building. I wanted a bit more from it. I would understand parts of it, but I still have a decent amount of questions that I’m confused about. For example: I don’t understand the rest of the world besides the town that Sophia resides. Did they never see the issues? Was there never tries for revolution before in the town? While the world-building on a whole was well-built and had a strong foundation, there were quite a few weak spots that I would have liked to have had firmed up because I didn’t fully understand it.
But let’s talk about my favorite part: the mood/atmosphere. This book is a fairytale retelling – so this book princess wanted to feel like she was a princess. Spoiler alert: I diddddddddddd. Bayron’s writing fully immersed me into a world that I could picture and be enchanted with. I felt like I was off in the…honestly, I pictured Snow White’s castle the entire time (wrong princess, Mandy??), but I felt like I was in a fairytale fantasy world. A mood/atmosphere can make or break a book for me, and this was it. So so well done, and it was charming – when the misogyny wasn’t overwhelming it, ofc.
This was a pretty good read – I enjoyed the atmosphere, the themes, and more. I just wish there was a touch more world building and character depth – but it was still a wonderful feminist take on this old school fairytale.
rating: Ariel, because while I wanted a bit more definition on the characters part of this world
representation: Black main character, f/f romance, gay side character
content warnings: death, murder, homophobia, physical abuse, misogyny
What do you think? Let’s discuss in the comments below!