Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
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 herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant 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 question the tales they’ve been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them.
DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
If you thought you knew Cinderella’s story, you’re wrong.
We all know Cinderella went to the ball and married Prince Charming. What we all assumed, though, is that her story ends in “happily ever after.”
And Cinderella is Dead is here to prove otherwise.
Following Sophia as she tumbles through the restrictive, misogynistic world that exists in Cinderella’s wake, this book rewrites the old and refuses to back down from the new. Challenging tradition and tearing down restriction form the core of Sophia’s story, and I loved every minute of it!
A lot of the story’s charm lies in Sophia herself.
Strong-willed and clear-eyed, Sophia can see that the society she lives in is a cruel one, its primary design to keep women under the thumbs of men who operate based on their cruelty first and foremost. She objects so strongly to the traditions she’s expected to keep, and feels so sharply the consequences of breaking those traditions. Honestly, I think it would be difficult not to root for her efforts to change the kingdom for the better. Despite the odds in her way, she clings to the belief that life doesn’t have to be like this. And of course, when she meets Constance, she has the support she needs to go all the way.
Also, I’d be remiss not to mention that Sophia is a lesbian. That complicates her already tenuous relationship with the kingdom’s laws, and gives her clearer sight than most other folks on just how dangerous and oppressive those laws can be. Plus, she also gets a cute romance, and I almost never say no to good sapphic content.
I do wish, though, that this were a duology.
Not that I can control the whims of publishing, sadly. But I think Cinderella is Dead has a strong foundation, one that could have been even stronger if only there was time to spool it out. On the one hand, it works well as a standalone, carrying that fairy tale air to it. We don’t necessarily need books and books of deep diving into characters and world-building when this is based off a fairy tale most of us are familiar with in some form or another.
And on the flipside, I think so many of the plot twists and personal motivations for the characters could have held a stronger punch if only this were at least two books instead of one.
Ultimately, it is what it is, and this is truthfully a bit of a silly criticism in some ways. I can’t change it, and I still thought it made for a mostly enjoyable read, which is what truly counts! But I can’t help but feel I would have enjoyed it more with deeper digging into the characters and world, and that thought lingers.
Thankfully, there’s no need to wait to read Cinderella is Dead!
Since Cinderella is Dead is out as of this Tuesday, you can read it now! Or, request it from your library, if that’s more your thing. You’ll get a dark spin on a classic fairy tale, sapphic love and heartbreak, a main character battling fear with all her heart, and…
Well, I won’t tell you exactly what else you get. But whatever you’re expecting, it’s not that. It’s weirder in the best way, as far as Cinderella goes, and it makes for an excellent fresh element! 🦋
CW: nudity, domestic abuse, homophobia, violence, slavery, sexual harassment, animal death, gore, body horror