Kalynn Bayron, Cinderella Is Dead, Bloomsbury, August 2020, 400 pp., RRP $15.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781526621979
Two hundred years ago Cinderella died and since then there is an annual ball at the palace. Young women are invited to attend where they may be chosen by an eligible man from the town. Sophia receives her first invitation to the bicentennial ball, marking 200 years since Cinderella was chosen by Prince Charming. The king sets hard rules in order to control the people of Lille, one of which is for every household to own a copy of Cinderella and that the annual ball is mandatory when invited. If, after three attempts at attending, a young woman is not chosen, she is forfeited to a life of working or in servitude.
Sophia despises the traditions and tries everything she can to go against them, however the king has great control, and no one escapes his wrath. She must, even though she has been in love with Erin for almost three years now, go to the ball. While preparing for the ball Sophia meets Luke who, like herself, does not prefer the opposite sex and they formulate a plan. However once the ball starts their plan is shattered and Sophia is on the run, being hunted by the king. After meeting Constance, the two runaways venture into the forbidden White Wood in search of the fairy godmother. They have grown up hearing the tale of Cinderella, but Constance convinces Sophia there is more to the story then meets the eye, for one of Cinderella’s step-sisters was her ancestor.
This is a powerful story of a re-telling of a childhood classic fairy tale. Sophia and Constance are both strong young women fighting against an oppressive and dominant patriarchal society. There is action and twists that keep readers engaged, with a very satisfying yet surprising ending. This is YA fiction at its best, with a cast of diverse characters in a setting we all thought we knew. For fans of books like The Grace Year.
Highly recommended for YA and adult readers.
Reviewed by Liz Derouet