#ATBR2021 – Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

Time for a new, kick ass retelling of Cinderella!

CINDERELLA IS DEAD – Kalynn Bayron (Released July 7th, 2020)

Book Description:

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.

Chandra’s Thoughts: 3.5/5 stars

Retellings are always a hit or miss for me but I can’t help but read them because… well, fairy tales… and who doesn’t love a darker version? Definitely not this reader. Here we get a world where men rule maniacally and women must comply. At a certain age, girls must attend a ball in Cinderella’s honor in hopes of being chosen. And if they’re not, they’re forfeited… and can also be forfeited for any other reason if they go against the rules.

“People who don’t fit nicely into the boxes the kinds of Mersailles have defined are simply erased, as if our lives don’t matter.”

There are so many things I love about this book. We get a queer Black girl as the lead who discovers she’d rather have the princess rather than the prince. And we get to see her fight against the patriarchy of Charming’s legacy that is oppressive. We see a completely different view of Cinderella and her story. (And yes for some humor…. pockets, we do love them!) My absolute favorite part was the reimagining of the fairy godmother, Amina, and the important lessons strewn into the storyline.

However, there were things that also just didn’t work for me here. I just couldn’t with the instalove – especially in the whiplash way it was presented. Also, I would’ve loved to see a bit more depth in general with the characters and a bit more world building. To see Sophia’s disenchantment as she grew would’ve really brought her character a little more to life. But I will state that while this is pretty predictable, there was one part that did surprise me and I absolutely loved it!

The author touches on homophobia, domestic abuse and rampant misogyny (to name a few). And I was here for all of this and truly was enthralled with the storyline. Much respect to the author for this unique take and portraying more of what we need in books these days.

My Thoughts: 4/5 stars

I love fairytales, but I love retellings even more. Dark retellings are my favorite because it’s always so cool to see how people will twist and turn the stories we all know into something scary and unique. CINDERELLA IS DEAD by Kalynn Bayron has been described as “queer Black girls overthrowing the patriarchy” and I think that is absolutely perfect. The author pulls apart the Cinderella story we all know and gives us something unique and new that touches on a lot of different topics (homophobia and misogyny to name a couple – heavy on the misogyny).

Our main character, Sophia, is a queer Black girl and she is sick and tired of the traditions in the kingdom surrounding Cinderella. Everyone knows about the ball where Cinderella found her Prince Charming and they lived happily ever after, but that was 200 years ago. The King has arranged a ball for all of the girls in the kingdom to attend when they are of the right age, and they will be “chosen” by one of the men. Those that are chosen get their happily ever after and the others aren’t heard from again. Little does Sophia realize, she is beginning to start a resistance of sorts against the King and their horrible traditions.

I did find the progression of the book to be more predictable, but that didn’t take away from the entertainment value of the book. I also would have loved a little more character development just so we could get to know them all a bit more. Don’t think that it means I couldn’t connect with or get invested in the characters, because that isn’t the case. I just found myself wanting a little bit more! I think this is the retelling we needed right now. I’ll be keeping an eye out for more from this author in the future.

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