Book Review: Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
Title: Cinderella Is Dead
Author: Kalynn Bayron
Released: July 07th, 2020
Description: 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 Constance, the last known descendent 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 questions the tales they’ve been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them.
Please keep in mind that this review contains spoilers for the entire book. Read with caution. If you click on the “Read More”, it is under the impression you either don’t care about spoilers or you’ve already read the book.
History is written and remembered by the winners, this fact has always been true. And fairy tales are not exempt from this rule. For one, Cinderella has always been a story about hope, a true rags-to-riches love story where, after dealing with an abusive family, one young woman becomes a princess after a chance meeting with a prince. And always with the aid of a magical fairy godmother.
This story asks these questions: “What happens after the fairy tale ends?” “Who does it affect the most?” and finally, “Who are the winners of the fairy tale?”
I was way more interested in Sophia’s plight and how she could escape this dystopian world. I’m glad she was angry because I don’t think a passive character would’ve been a very good lead in this story. I also liked that the relationship between her and Erin was super complicated – it’s clear that Erin loves Sophia but she cares about her family more so. And she’s forced to perform for a society that would inevitably use and throw her away to start the process all over again. I really adored the other characters who, in their own way, fought. Luke was definitely my favorite side character for sure and I really did worry about his survival in the course of the story but I’m really glad he made it out in the end.
When the actual history of Cinderella start to come out, and the circumstances of the “evil” step-sisters and the “evil” step-mother were revealed, I’ll admit that I didn’t find it very enthralling and probably would’ve liked for Sophia to figure it out through journals and books – but I also understand why the rush. I really adored Constance and I liked the romance between Sophia and her, even if it is rushed, it was still cute.
The pacing of the story was well enough, at least, until near the end when everything is truly revealed. I liked the “fairy godmother” up until the reveal she was a double agent for the immortal king. I’m still a bit confused about what exactly happened to Prince Charming and her reasons for it, but I took it at face value which is probably why I managed to enjoy it so much.
If anything, if this story was a duology, I think this story would’ve been able to breathe a bit better. It would’ve been good to build up the mystery about the king’s reasoning (and himself). It would’ve been fun to see other rebels in Lille fight from within as Luke hinted at it. Maybe there could’ve been more hints on how the King stays young and even appear as a boy to be “raised” from a faraway village.
Possibly because of how it was written, it kept my attention and it made me want to find out more. I will have to warn that this book does have domestic violence towards the women characters and it does have other themes of homophobia. They don’t seem to really call it that, but it’s in there and it should be a warning towards those who are more sensitive to that. It’s certainly a unique take on an old fairy tale and I like that Constance is a descendent of the stepsister and she was able to carry her family’s legacy.
It really is interesting that the “palace-version” of Cinderella is the one we mostly know and not the truth – the king had been oppressing them for ages with an unknown scary power. The stepfamily was just as loving and accepting to Cinderella and Cinderella was sacrificed to the king, or “Prince Charming” by the fairy godmother. There’s even an instance where Cinderella is brought back from the dead for a moment before the witch puts her back in permanent sleep. And, now that I think about it, it’s really a huge clue for the upcoming plot twist.
But it can absolutely seem like it came out of nowhere to those who aren’t paying attention that well. Regardless, there are implications of other “fairy tale” kingdoms around, and that by itself is interesting. I’d give this a read if you’re interested in a dystopian fairy tale retelling, but just keep in mind there are heavy themes of misogyny and homophobia present in this world.
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Posted on May 16, 2021, in ★★★★☆ – 4 Stars, Book Reviews, Book Series, Oneshots and tagged cinderella, cinderella is dead, dystopian, fairy tale, kalynn bayron, LGBT+, retelling, young adult. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.