I don’t want to be saved by some knight in shining armor. I’d like to be the one in armor, and I’d like to be the one doing the saving.
3/5 paper planes
What’s This Book About?
Genre: Fantasy (fairytale retelling)
Publication: 7 July (US); 6 Aug 2020 (UK)
Pages: 400 (paperback)
Synopsis: It’s been 200 years since Cinderella found her prince, and the fairytale is long 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.
Content warnings: domestic abuse, homophobia, violence, death
What I Thought:
First off, I liked that this was a retelling that doesn’t take place during the same timeframe of the source material. It was also a surprisingly bingeable read, with an interesting new portrayal of the Cinderella legend.
The premise of ‘Cinderella is Dead’ is chilling – reminiscent of a dystopian future yet it is disturbingly easy to relate to patriarchal societies today. I quite liked how Bayron lightly touched on the common ‘not all men’ outcry – a tiny segment that could easily be overlooked if you’ve never had to deal with people who won’t listen to the pertinent issues you’re trying to raise simply because they’re too caught up in protesting that ‘not all men’ are like that.
My father is a good man, Liv’s father is a good man, and even Luke’s father seems like a good man. But these good men aren’t making the rules. These decent men are turning a blind eye to indecent acts. “If you’re not one of the men who would jump at the first chance to put a woman in her place, then I’m not talking about you.”
In general I liked all the (likeable) characters, but Constance is by far my favourite – absolute queen! She cracks me up so much, especially in her exchanges with Amina. There’s an element of insta-love here but to be honest I can’t blame either side. Constance is so charismatic and just so cool, and Sophia is canonically very, very beautiful, as well as being inspiringly outspoken and so brave. It’s like that runaway princess crosses path with a wayward (but dashing!) rogue in the woods sort of thing – except make it gay! I also liked that several different forms of female power are illustrated through a range of characters – for example the seamstress’ quiet defiance, Amina’s cunning, Sophia’s courage and Constance’s skill in combat.
“I feel sorry for them. My parents, that is. They only know how to follow the king. They’ve lost their way when it comes to knowing how to help me.”
“And you’re not lost?”
I think for a moment. “Maybe I am. But the difference is that I want to be found. I’m not happy pretending everything is fine when I know it’s not.”
“And just who is it that you suppose will find you?” Amina asks.
“It’ll be me,” I say. “I will find myself.”
The plot is relatively straightforward, though there were several nice twists. One of them I predicted from about a mile off but the rest surprised me, and I enjoyed the Easter eggs about Snow White and the Brothers Grimm. There was a huge twist that initially seemed amazing but on a closer look ended up just being really confusing. I felt like it undermined the antagonist’s motives and cheapened their threat level to something like an animal eating to survive. It wasn’t explained very well and the ending wrapped up a little quickly to seem realistic. This was at odds with Sophia’s initial reaction to finding out the truth about Cinderella, which I found very convincing.
As far as I know, this is a standalone, but I wouldn’t mind a sequel that portrays how Mersailles moves forth and also to answer some questions that still bother me.
Thank you to Pride Book Tours and Bloomsbury for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.