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I first came across this book when I included it in my LGBTQ+ 2020 release series and the cover immediately drew me in despite not usually being a fan of fairytales and their retellings. I loved that is was a dark twist on the classic but still has all the tropes we know and love in YA (with some things done differently too.)
First of all, our main character, Sophia was a powerhouse. I really love that she remained headstrong from the beginning of the book to the end but still went through big character development. She is strong in her beliefs and just gives that fictional character energy where you just want to follow them into battle. Our other character, and love interest, was Constance who I would probably die for. When she was first introduced as a knife-wielding badass, I hoped she wouldn’t fall into that age-old trope but I was pleasantly surprised. She’s loyal and sensitive and I love how her identity was woven into the story.
The romance went in a different direction than I originally thought and I was very pleasantly surprised by that. Without delving into spoilers, I really enjoyed this twist and think it was handled well. Labels aren’t used on page but both Sophia and Constance are sapphic as well as featuring a gay side character who I wish we saw more of. The main romance was beautiful and the yearning just burst from the page. The two girls complimented each other beautifully and I love that Sophia was so confident in her sexuality and refused to hide it despite society’s rules.
I won’t talk about the story too much but I will say I love how it is centred around important topics, especially patriarchy and heteronormativity in a fairytale society. This is not usually something we see a lot of in this setting but I think it’s definitely a subject that needs to be explored even more in future YA fairytale retellings. Our main characters are all women who, in this world, are even less than second class citizens but they not only fight for themselves, but the other women whose world’s are controlled by men. This book was marketed as ‘queer black girls overthrowing the patriarchy’ and that’s exactly what it is and if that sounds like something you’d be interested in, I’d definitely pick it up. It’s fast-paced, full of twists and turns and a refreshing take on this genre.
TW: physical abuse in relationships
As Angharad said, this is a book I’ve been really excited for for such a long time – fairytale retellings are rife in YA right now, but Cinderella Is Dead certainly stands out from the rest!
Cinderella Is Dead does focus on the classic tale, but set 200 years later – and Cinderella’s happily ever after has become dark and twisted. We immediately jump in to Sophia’s life, and the pace continues to pick up all the way through the story. Sophia is torn between not wanting to upset her parents and being angry that they won’t let her do what makes her happy; not wanting to get in trouble, but also wanting to run away with her best friend Erin, the only person she’d dream of a happily ever after with.
We’re introduced to so many characters all with their own agendas and strong personalities besides Sophia – from her parents who are determined to do the right thing but also keep Sophia safe, to Constance, a girl who Sophia meets at the most opportune time who changes everything for her.
I don’t want to go too much into the story so that I don’t spoil it, however, if you’re looking for a twisted fairytale with strong, Sapphic characters reclaiming their stories, this is definitely the book for you! Although it’s a book I’ve very much been looking forward to, it still took me by surprise and managed to remain unique, full of unexpected twists, and overall a book that I didn’t want to put down!