Thursday, January 13, 2011

Book Review: The Stepsister Scheme

I have always had a fascination with fairy tales: the whimsy of magic, the ability of commonborn to rise above their station, the idea of a happily ever after. Walt Disney tapped into a deep-rooted love of the fairy tale with his movies. But as I grew older my imagination stretch, I found that I like fairy tale revisionings (also know as "cracked fairy tales") even more than the original stories. I devoured Bill Willingham's Fables graphic novel series, fell in love with The Book of Lost Things' macabre fairy tale twists, and will happily read fairy tale retellings for hours on end.

So I was delighted when I stumbled across a book by Jim C. Hines called The Stepsister Scheme, the first book in a fantasy series which examines what happens after the "happily ever after."

Danielle, aka Cinderella, has settled into life at the palace and is pregnant. But then her stepsister attacks, only to be foiled by Danielle's surly maid, Talia. Danielle discovers that her mother-in-law, Queen Beatrice, has a habit of collecting fairy tale princesses -- whose lives did not end up as happy as the tales would have it. Talia is the Sleeping Beauty whose awakening was a lot darker and sinister than publicly known. And beneath the castle, Danielle meets Snow whose seven dwarves exacted a much higher price than anyone could imagine.

And when Danielle's husband Armand is missing, the three princesses go off to Fairytown to rescue him.

Hines has ingeniously re-envisioned the fairy tales, creating three-dimensional characters from two-dimensional stories. As I alluded to before, these are not the fairy tale princesses we know from bedtime stories or Disney movies. There princesses are not passive pawns in their own stories, but kick-ass heroes in their own right. They don't wait around for Prince Charming to save the day -- they go off to rescue Prince Charming!

The first book was fun, engaging, and totally original. The others in the series were in the same vein but more deeply explored the three princesses, Queen Bea, and the world they live in. I came for the cracked fairy tales and the Charlie's Angels-esque plot. I stayed for the characters.

Stay tuned for a new sock pattern up tomorrow!

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