Book: Cinderella Is Dead
Author: Kalynn Bayron
Published By: Bloomsbury UK
Publication Date: 6th August (Yeah……)
BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Constance and Sophia talk about things other than men.
Content Warnings: Domestic abuse, sexism, murder, homophobia, violence, death of a loved one, necromancy, imprisonment, animal death
Thank you to Bloomsbury UK and Netgalley for allowing me to read this book, this in no way affected my opinion of it.
This book was one of the most talked about upcoming releases from a Black author on Twitter over the summer, so when I saw it was available on Netgalley, I thought I’d give it a try. I’m not usually a massive fan of Cinderella, but this one sounded like it could be a lot of fun. I’m so glad I did try it in the end, because I ended up really enjoying it, it definitely does something different to a lot of fairytale retellings I’ve read before. Here is a short synopsis of the book:
It’s 200 years since Cinderella found her prince, but the fairytale is over.
Sophia knows the story though, off by heart. Because every girl has to recite it daily, from when she’s tiny until the night she’s sent to the royal ball for choosing. And every girl knows that she has only one chance. For the lives of those not chosen by a man at the ball . are forfeit.
But Sophia doesn’t want to be chosen – she’s in love with her best friend, Erin, and hates the idea of being traded like cattle. And when Sophia’s night at the ball goes horribly wrong, she must run for her life. Alone and terrified, she finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s tomb. And there she meets someone who will show her that she has the power to remake her world.
Like I said at the top of the review, Cinderella is not one of my favourite fairytales, though granted, I’m more familiar with the Disney version than I am with the original Grimm tale. Having said that, I thought what the author did with it in this book was really creative, the Cinderella story in this is used as the basis for the King to subjugate all women as she is held up as the goal everyone should aspire to (i.e. a quiet, mild-mannered woman controlled by her husband). So often fairytale retellings feel like the author is simply telling the same story just with different characters, whereas here it was a totally different story, just with some elements from Cinderella drawn in.
It was also awesome to see a Black, lesbian lead as the main character in a fairytale, so often these kinds of stories are painfully white and straight so it was nice to see that not be the case here.
Having said that, I didn’t really LOVE the romance? Sophia (the MC) and her love interest have known each other all of five minutes before they’re falling all over each other and it just didn’t feel like it got much buildup? I liked both of the characters, but just didn’t feel massively invested in their relationship because it didn’t feel particularly well developed.
The world building was also a little lacking. The society is hugely misogynistic and though it’s explained that the Cinderella story has had an impact there, it’s not really clear why a society that presumably was okay with women, pre-Cinderella, suddenly went to forcing them into unwanted marriages? I mean I understand the King’s motivations but I guess I don’t really get why everyone else would go along with it? It didn’t make much sense that in 200 years, barely anyone had tried to rebel against the system. It’s also kind of limited in scope, as we only really see the palace and the surrounding area, which I do get but I just would have liked everything to be a bit more fleshed out.
The characters probably could have been developed a little better? I liked both Sophia, and Constance but they didn’t feel massively fleshed out, it felt like we only really got to know the basics of their characters. I also honestly didn’t really understand why Sophia liked Erin (her original love interest) so much because she didn’t seem to be anything but awful to her!
The book is also maybe a little heavy handed in terms of its messaging? It’s very obvious that the author wrote this book to criticise misogyny and that’s totally fine, but it just felt like it could have been done with a bit more nuance. It would also have been nice if the female characters weren’t stuck to a binary of either fighting against the system or being complicit in it because reality is a lot more nuanced than that.
The writing style was pretty good though, it had a nice flow to it and the book was fairly fast paced so it was pretty quick to read.
There were some good twists and turns but for the most part, everything seemed relatively easy for Sophia, there weren’t all that many obstacles for her,
The ending was a bit abrupt, everything just kind of seemed to stop, it didn’t really come to a natural resolution and we didn’t really get to see how things turned out in all that much detail.
Overall, this was a really fun fairytale retelling that takes the Cinderella story and turns it into something new!
My next review will be of A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder, by Holly Jackson.