06 April, 2021

[Review] Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron


Cover image from the goodreads website.

Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Release Date: 7 July, 2020
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Genre: Young Adult/YA Fantasy/Fairytale Retellings/YA Romance/YA LGBTQIA+ Romance
ISBN: 9781547603879
Edition: Hardback (available in audiobook and eBook)
Review Written: 14 December, 2020
Warnings: instances of necromancy (and necrophilia? I'm not sure if that's the right warning or not), a lot of patriarchal bs, magic, rigid gender norms, spousal abuse, mild violence
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.

See more by Kalynn Bayron at her website.
I don't know if it's been abundantly clear on this blog of mine or not, but I really like fairy-tale retellings... provided that they're good. That said, when I caught sight of a book called Cinderella is Dead, my little librarian brain went "I need to read that."

Cinderella is Dead turns the story of Cinderella onto it's head with the thought process of "what if Prince Charming" is really evil. At the time the book is set, Cinderella has been dead for nearly 200 years but the people of Lille are still stuck in the same-old time worn tradition... well kind of. Cinderella's tale is basically a guideline for how girl's lives should be lived. And they're required to attend a ball at 16 to be picked or face a future of being forfeit. Being forfeit means never seeing your family again, and most likely being sent out of Lille.

Sophia Grimmins decidedly doesn't want this fate. She's been in love with her best friend, Erin, since they were children. But same-sex relationships aren't allowed, and the only purpose of a woman's life is to be married and produce children for the next generation. And Sophia ain't interested in that in the slightest. Several times throughout the opening chapters, Sophia attempts to convince Erin to run away with her and to avoid the fate of marrying a man. Sadly, Erin is too loyal to her family and forces herself to stay. On the night of the annual ball (you know, like the one Cinderella attended), Sophia watches her friend Liv be shamed for not having fancy attire and being sent away (supposedly), she decides she's had enough when an unpleasant sort of fellow tries to lay claim to her hand. After kicking him in the balls (go girl), she escapes out a bathroom window and runs. She's not sure where she's running to, but she ends up finding Cinderella's mausoleum.

There she meets Constance, a descendant of Gabrielle (Cinderella's oldest Step-sister), who's family has been outlaws since the days of Cinderella - not for being wicked but for stoking a rebellion. The pair seem to fall for each other rather quickly (Erin is just a footnote in Sophia's mind after meeting Constance), and Constance for some reason has a spare set of clothes in the mausoleum? That was a bit curious, but it works out by giving Sophia a change of clothes and a way out of the town. She attempts to go off with Constance, trying to form a rebellion of their own, and decide they need to go talk to the "Fairy Godmother" or the Witch of the Woods.

After some hair-raising moments, the pair finally meet Amina - Cinderella's Not-So-Fairy Godmother who seemingly helped Prince Charming (aka the continuing to reign king) take the kingdom and turn it into what it is now. It's highly questionable to what her true role was, especially since she drugged Cinderella with a love potion on the night of the ball. Which, you know, isn't great when you're going to the ball to kill the King.

Hair-brain scheming occurs, the trio decides to resurrect Cinderella via necromancy. More shenanigans happen, and eventually they talk to Cinderella. Who tells them about a journal she was trying to get to Gabrielle. Which leads to more attempts at plans for killing the king. And then the king announced a Winter Ball as well, trying to lure Sophia back to the palace. Shenanigans ensue, and in the end, Sophia kills the king. I won't give away the twists that lead up to that, but really she does end him.

I will say, the excitement I felt for the book waned a little the further I got into the book. While the prose is lovely, the plot fell flat in several places with loose ends. Sophia and Constance's romance felt rushed in places (also mildly unrealistic since Sophia was apparently in love with Erin to the point of wanting to defy the patriarchy with her). There were also some really icky issues with the king. (Spoiler Alert: The King turns out to be a dead man walking, so does that make his love of things necrophilia, I'm not sure.)

Overall, I enjoyed Cinderella is Dead despite some of the questionable points and the plot seeming to fall a little short/feeling rushed towards the end of the book. I'll definitely be looking into more books by Kalynn Bayron in the future.

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