Well… it certainly has been Quite Some Time since my last book review.
Okay, listen. I was under the impression that I was reading this book fast… and you mean to tell me I read it in four weeks?
Unacceptable. Time is utterly whooshing right past me. I had a great time reading this book and I blame the pandemic for slowing my excitement.
When I requested this book, I was very intrigued by the premise. Everyone was saying “Black queer Cinderella takes down the patriarchy” and I was like, absolutely! I’ve always loved to hear about fairytale retellings, but I haven’t gotten around to reading many of them due to my interest in other books. (I’m an extreme mood reader, most of the time!)
But there was something about Cinderella Is Dead that got me hooked.
I have received this ARC from NetGalley and Bloomsbury YA in exchange for an honest review.
This review is spoiler-free, with the exception of a “minor spoiler section” which gives you the option to see the vague minor spoilers, but you can also skip it entirely.
From Goodreads: 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.
Release date: July 7th, 2020 (today!) in the US.
(I believe there is a paperback version releasing in August, and I love that different cover even more)
Content warnings: domestic abuse, sexism, emotional infidelity, misogyny
Early on, I really enjoyed the details connecting this story to the original Cinderella. I enjoyed how Sophia’s kingdom took Cinderella’s story and dedicated events towards everything Cinderella would not have stood for. The irony of that was interesting, and I also liked that Sophia was probably more like Cinderella than everyone else who tried too hard to do so.
Initially, Sophia’s friendship with one early character felt… a bit cliché. I don’t know what exactly made me feel this way, but I think it was just the rushed “reveal” from him. Although, this scene probably could not have happened at any other time in the story, so I’ll give it a pass. After their first few scenes together, their relationship started to make sense, and I was really rooting for their motives.
I also really enjoyed all of the twists on the classic Cinderella story. I could tell the author put a lot of thought into how the original Cinderella was going to shape this world, and how to change it into something different surprise. (I can’t go into too much about this, since it would be a spoiler to tell you which parts are the twisted ones, but I really appreciated the twists.)
The middle of the story was a bit slow to read at times, but around the last 100 pages, everything really picked up again with the twists, and that made me happy. 🙂
The Other Stuff:
Around Chapter 11 (30% in), the excitement and repetitiveness kicked in simultaneously. Things were starting to get more serious, but I could not help but feel like it was an obstacle that Sophia had been facing in most other chapters up until that point. I think I just wanted to slow down and get to know Sophia a bit more.
By Chapter 15, I still felt the same way. Constance, another main character, had been introduced, and I still knew nothing about Sophia except that she (rightfully) hated the way women were treated in their kingdom, and had a few friends. Also, the contrast between descriptions of Constance and the descriptions of the other characters was distracting. On numerous occasions, Sophia described Constance in intricate detail, but didn’t describe most other characters with anywhere near that amount of detail.
I simply wanted more character development. I think I kind of lost interest for a minute, mostly because I’m a very character-driven reader, and if I don’t connect with the characters, nothing else will work for me, either. Development did get better, as the story moved along.
Minor Spoiler Section:
I’m including the following “spoilers” because I feel like they can easily turn someone off from a book, but I’m trying my best not to be specific.
Click here to view the spoilers (although I promise they’re not that spoilery).
After a while, I got really tired of every single man being complete trash (with the exception of two men). The king in particular was ruthless, but as he is the villain, I’m not bothered by that – I’m bothered by the numerous other random men and their remarks. I get that this was done to show how harmful the patriarchy ideals were to the kingdom, but every man Sophia encountered had only one personality trait: thinking of women as objects. There was very little variety to the things these men said, and there was only one man who was bad, but not as bad as the others. (I don’t know, maybe I’m just too critical. Or maybe I just wanted some of the women to be mean, too. Or, for the men to at least have some variety to their terrible comments.)In my opinion, this book contains some bits of insta-love, and I felt no connection to it at first. But it did get better, and the relationship eventually became a bit more developed! Sometimes insta-love is okay, if done right, but I just wasn’t feeling it when it started.
There were definitely a lot of cool aspects to this story! I recognize I was being too picky about certain things at first, so I’m going to just take this book for what it was originally intended to be.
I really enjoyed the fact that the main character is Black, and that she was shamelessly in love with her best friend and really stuck to her beliefs. I also loved the twists that were included, based on the original Cinderella.
I could also tell how much this book, its existence and its message, meant to the author. Thinking about diversity in Fantasy books and fairy tales… it makes me so happy that this book is in the world. 🥺 As a POC, I grew up not even realizing how much diverse characters would have meant to me, if I had had the chance to read about them more. I’m so glad that Kalynn Bayron had the opportunity to write this book, something she had always dreamed of doing, and in that context, this book is pretty special.
In the end, this is a twisted story to about what could have happened 200 years after Cinderella’s death, and how one girl set out to overthrow the patriarchy. It was a fun take on an old fairytale, and I enjoyed it.
Are you excited for Cinderella is Dead? Have you read it yet? What are some other upcoming books you’ve been excited for?
Chat with me about it!
Happy reading, everyone! Have a lovely day! Please stay safe and healthy!