Cinderella gets a Handmaid’s Tale twist for a YA Audience in Bayron’s book, with a queer protagonist too!
It has been 200 years since Cinderella got her “Happily Ever After” in the kingdom of Lille. Her story is now essentially the kingdom’s Bible, but very few people in Lille get to share in a happily ever after of their own. The kingdom is ruled by a cruel king, whose rulebook is a patriarchal nightmare. Curfews for female residents and no freedoms of which to speak; a woman’s life is signed away based on the marriage she makes. And if she isn’t chosen by a man at the annual ball? Well, that’s a fate worse than death.
Sophia has no interest in attending the ball – she has already found her true love, in her friend Erin. But Erin is determined to do right by her family and find a good match. Sophia attends the ball reluctantly, but when the ball erupts into violence and the king blames Sophia, she flees. She meets a mysterious young woman named Constance, and through her Sophia begins to learn the dark truth behind Cinderella’s story. The girls determine to track down the Fairy Godmother of legend and end the oppressive rule of Lille.
This book was only OK for me. The twist on the Cinderella story is pretty great, but we learn it all in exposition – I think the book would have done much better as a duology, with book 1 being the twist on the Cinderella story, and book two focusing on the overthrow of the corrupt rulers. Sophia was a bit of an uneven hero for me – at the top of the book she seems like she’s got the king’s number, but then she becomes very naive and seems shocked when she learns the truth about Lille. But maybe that’s my jaded middle aged brain having read too many fairy tales and too much dystopian YA.
Bahni Turpin narrates the audiobook and is wonderful as always. I like the worldbuilding of the magic. There is a lot of chemistry between the romantic leads. I saw one twist coming but another caught me by surprise. Readers new to fractured fairy tale YA or dystopian YA may find a lot to like in it!