I have been seeing this beautiful book on my feed and recommended by people in the book community A LOT well before it’s publication date (yesterday). So I was pretty excited to read this book; thank you so much to Bloomsbury Publishing Australia for kindly sending me a finished copy in exchange for an honest review (as well as a couple of others I’m so grateful for). I absolutely flew through this gorgeous book and cannot wait to share my thoughts with you below.
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.
Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)
As this is a debut novel, I didn’t really know what to expect when it came to this book, but from the get-go, I absolutely loved the writing style. I literally read this book in one day, through multiple sittings where I couldn’t put it down. I essentially tore through it because the writing style was so easy to read and immersive into this strange dystopian world. Like the blurb above describes, in this novel, the world is different since Cinderella has died. There is a lot of inequality towards women as they are forced to study and recite the story of Cinderella like a bible, and go to a ball where they will be chosen by a man to hopefully have a “good” life. If they are not chosen after 3 balls, they are deemed forfeit and are sent to barely survive as people working for the crown.
The concept of this book is so outlandish but somehow believable in many aspects as we see the people’s values and beliefs, and the utter brainwashing that has obviously happened over the years. Our main character, Sophia, is about to go to her first ball and she’s not about it at all. Not only because she doesn’t want a man to choose a life for her but because she loves someone else; another girl that also needs to meet the “man of her life” at the ball. Realising the great inequality and crap quality of life for women in her village, Sophia flees the ball and teams up with non-other than a descendent of Cinderella herself. Together they try to stop the king and change the future of women by finding out how this all began and what’s actually true from the studied Cinderella story.
This book ended up being so unexpected, I had no idea where it was going and that suspense was highly enjoyable. We met some very interesting characters that had deep complex pasts and relationships. The world-building and writing were plain phenomenal, it was heart-wrenching seeing the way the world had changed and the ideals pushed from the Cinderella story we all know.
Sophia as a protagonist was so strong and so determined to avoid a life of domestic abuse and seeing her friends treated the same way. While reading this, her character was clear in its intentions but sometimes I thought her actions were a little too obvious and not very smart. By halfway, this book definitely gave me the vibes that this should 100% be read by actual young, young adults. It was simple and well-written like a wonderful middle grade but with more serious, complex themes I’d love to see young people read more about.
Some other things that made this book seem targeted at younger people were that certain things seemed a little convenient, the sapphic relationship that occurs wasn’t very well developed or incorporated into the story as it could’ve been and if I were Sophia, I would’ve been a little more cautious about her actions to avoid, y’ know, getting pursued and possibly killed. There are quite a lot of serious things at stake but there were also pockets of pure fun to lighten the mood.
“Why are you dressed like that?” I ask…
“The pockets,” she says. She puts her hands in them and gives a little twirl. “I love pockets.”Kalynn Bayron
Although this book was at 400 pages, I didn’t really feel it. The middle of the book was a little slow at times but I wouldn’t have minded another 50 pages for more side character and relationship backstory/development. I wanted to learn more about Sophia and her experiences before the plot really started rolling and also after, but the ending was definitely satisfying.
Overall this was such an enjoyable book that I flew through in a day. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone looking for an unpredictable, quick read for a fun adventure. I could definitely see this being popular with younger readers and I loved that the sapphic relationship was teased in there and didn’t hinder or distract from the story too much. I think anyone who really enjoyed Brigid Kemmerer’s writing like in A Curse So Dark and Lonely would really enjoy this, the writing style felt so similar for me and I loved that. It was truly magical to read and immerse myself into a great quest by strong women for women on a nice rainy day at home.
How gorgeous is this cover? Are you hoping to pick this book up soon?
Until next time,