Review of “Court of Lions” by Somaiya Daud

Daud, Somaiya. Court of Lions. New York: Flatiron Books, 2020. 

ISBN-13: 978-1250126450 | $18.99 USD | 320 pages | YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Blurb

Two identical girls, one a princess, the other a rebel. Who will rule the empire?

After being swept up into the brutal Vathek court, Amani, the ordinary girl forced to serve as the half-Vathek princess’s body double, has been forced into complete isolation. The cruel but complex princess, Maram, with whom Amani had cultivated a tenuous friendship, discovered Amani’s connection to the rebellion and has forced her into silence, and if Amani crosses Maram once more, her identity – and her betrayal – will be revealed to everyone in the court.

Amani is desperate to continue helping the rebellion, to fight for her people’s freedom. But she must make a devastating decision: will she step aside, and watch her people suffer, or continue to aid them, and put herself and her family in mortal danger? And whatever she chooses, can she bear to remain separated, forever, from Maram’s fiancé, Idris? 

In the series

#1 Mirage 

Review 

4 stars 

I received an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

This is a wonderful second book in the series. I loved seeing both Amani and Maram come into their own, and both find happiness in spite of what was expected of them.

Let’s start with Maram: I liked what was done with her this time around, particularly that she’s queer. Her relationship with Aghraas was one of the best parts of this book. I didn’t always think much of Maram, dismissing her as another spoiled princess at times, but it was cool to see her have these tender moments. And I also liked seeing her grappling with her mixed heritage, and trying to figure out if she’s the right person for the role of ruler…the internal growth on her part was splendid, as was the development of her relationship with Amani, given it originally started off in a horrible place.

And Amani and Idris’ arc started off with a bit more “will-they-won’t-they” angst for my taste this time, but I was won over by them as a couple as the story went on. 

I enjoyed this book overall, and look forward to what Somaiya Daud releases next. If you’re looking for a  rich, immersive Moroccan inspired fantasy, I recommend this series highly. 

Author Bio

Somaiya Daud was born in a Midwestern city, and spent a large part of her childhood and adolescence moving around. Like most writers, she started when she was young and never really stopped. Her love of all things books propelled her to get a degree in English literature (specializing in the medieval and early modern), and while she worked on her Master’s degree she doubled as a bookseller at Politics and Prose in their children’s department. Determined to remain in school for as long as possible, she packed her bags in 2014 and moved the west coast to pursue a doctoral degree in English literature. Now she’s preparing to write a dissertation on Victorians, rocks, race, and the environment.

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Review of “Sisters of Sword and Song” by Rebecca Ross

Ross, Rebecca. Sisters of Sword and Song. New York: HarperTeen, 2020. 

ISBN-13: 978-0062471413 | $17.99 USD | 458 pages 

Blurb

From the author of The Queen’s Rising comes a thrilling YA stand-alone fantasy about the unbreakable bond between sisters. Perfect for fans of Ember in the Ashes, Sky in the Deep, and Court of Fives.

After eight long years, Evadne will finally be reunited with her older sister, Halcyon, who has been proudly serving in the queen’s army. But when Halcyon appears earlier than expected, Eva knows something has gone terribly wrong. Halcyon is on the run, hunted by her commander and charged with murder.

Though Halcyon’s life is spared during her trial, the punishment is heavy. And when Eva volunteers to serve part of Halcyon’s sentence, she’s determined to find out exactly what happened. But as Eva begins her sentence, she quickly learns that there are fates much worse than death.

Review

4 stars

Having loved Rebecca Ross’ Queen’s Rising duology, I was excited to see what she would do next. And the premise of Sisters of Sword and Song appealed to me, centering on the complex relationship between sisters.

I liked both Evadne and Halcyon, and how the story follows them both from their initial position as opposites envious of what the other has, to coming into their own, each in their own right. I also love that, in spite of wishing to be like the other, they are protective of each other, and it’s wonderful to see such a nuanced, yet still grounded sibling  relationship in a YA fantasy, as it feels like some of the other books I’ve read lately have featured either only children or fierce, bloody sibling rivalry. 

The world building is also immersive, to the point that I was a bit disappointed that it was a stand-alone, in spite of my initial relief. I loved the Grecian feel, but it didn’t feel like it was just “Greece, but with different names.” The magic system is also a lot of fun, with the different gods and associated relics, some of which are specifically noted as “unaccounted for.”

I really enjoyed this book, and I would recommend it to anyone who loves YA fantasy. 

Author Bio

Rebecca Ross was born and raised in Georgia, where she continues to reside with her husband, her lively Australian Shepherd, and her endless piles of books. She loves coffee, the night sky, chalk art, maps, the mountains, and growing wildflowers in her yard. And a good story, of course.

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Review of “The Winter Duke” by Claire Eliza Bartlett

Bartlett, Claire Eliza. The Winter Duke. New York: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2020.

ISBN-13: 978-0316417341 | $17.99 USD | 426 pages | YA Fantasy

Blurb

An enchanted tale of intrigue where a duke’s daughter is the only survivor of a magical curse.

When Ekata’s brother is finally named heir, there will be nothing to keep her at home in Kylma Above with her murderous family. Not her books or science experiments, not her family’s icy castle atop a frozen lake, not even the tantalizingly close Kylma Below, a mesmerizing underwater kingdom that provides her family with magic. But just as escape is within reach, her parents and twelve siblings fall under a strange sleeping sickness.

In the space of a single night, Ekata inherits the title of duke, her brother’s warrior bride, and ever-encroaching challengers from without—and within—her own ministry. Nothing has prepared Ekata for diplomacy, for war, for love…or for a crown she has never wanted. If Kylma Above is to survive, Ekata must seize her family’s power. And if Ekata is to survive, she must quickly decide how she will wield it.

Part Sleeping Beauty, part Anastasia, with a thrilling political mystery, The Winter Duke is a spellbinding story about choosing what’s right in the face of danger.

Review 

3.5 stars

There’s a lot to love about The Winter Duke. While I did want the world a bit more fleshed out, it’s charming and provides a nice twist on the pseudo-Medieval (ish) fantasy. 

For one, can we talk about the fact that, once Ekata takes up the mantle of Duke, there are many obstacles in her way in which she has to prove herself worthy…but she is able to choose who she wants to marry, whatever their gender, and it’s not a big deal, “just because HiStOrIcAl AcCuRrAcY!” It’s so nice to have a  fictional world that doesn’t feel the need to include oppression of an oppressed group in the real world, just because it takes inspiration from a real world historical place and time. 

And I did more or less like and root for Ekata. I could empathize with her as she tried to figure it all out, stumbling at times along the way. While she doesn’t always make the wisest decisions, I felt it was realistic. 

And while I did feel like the romance wasn’t as prominent as I wanted it to be, I liked Inkar…she’s incredibly sweet. 

However, I did feel like the world was a bit underdeveloped and confusing. So much talk about “Above” and “Below,” without providing much to flesh it out. I got the sense that “Above” was more icy, and “Below,” was more aquatic based, but I wanted more. 

This is still a fairly fun book, and I think it’s still worth reading for YA fantasy readers for the great representation. 

Author Bio

Claire Bartlett lives in an enchanted forest apartment in Copenhagen with too many board games and too few cats.

Get more detailed information, like how many board games is too many, how many cats is too few, and what book-related beauties I’m working on by signing up for my newsletter.

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Review of “Incendiary” (Hollow Crownn #1) by Zoraida Córdova

Córdova, Zoraida. Incendiary. Los Angeles: Hyperion, 2020.

ISBN-13: 978-1368023801 | $18.99 USD | 450 pages | YA Fantasy

Blurb

I am Renata Convida.
I have lived a hundred stolen lives.
Now I live my own.

Renata Convida was only a child when she was kidnapped by the King’s Justice and brought to the luxurious palace of Andalucia. As a Robari, the rarest and most feared of the magical Moria, Renata’s ability to steal memories from royal enemies enabled the King’s Wrath, a siege that resulted in the deaths of thousands of her own people.

Now Renata is one of the Whispers, rebel spies working against the crown and helping the remaining Moria escape the kingdom bent on their destruction. The Whispers may have rescued Renata from the palace years ago, but she cannot escape their mistrust and hatred–or the overpowering memories of the hundreds of souls she turned “hollow” during her time in the palace.

When Dez, the commander of her unit, is taken captive by the notorious Sangrado Prince, Renata will do anything to save the boy whose love makes her place among the Whispers bearable. But a disastrous rescue attempt means Renata must return to the palace under cover and complete Dez’s top secret mission. Can Renata convince her former captors that she remains loyal, even as she burns for vengeance against the brutal, enigmatic prince? Her life and the fate of the Moria depend on it.

But returning to the palace stirs childhood memories long locked away. As Renata grows more deeply embedded in the politics of the royal court, she uncovers a secret in her past that could change the entire fate of the kingdom–and end the war that has cost her everything.

Review

4 stars

Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova is the first in what promises to be an engaging new series. While the general concept is not wholly original, Córdova infuses the story with her own spin, taking influence from Inquisition-era Spain. And while the pacing is fairly slow at first, it does pick up as the book goes on, and finishing left me desperate for the as-yet-still-untitled sequel.

The magic system is what drew me to the story, and the story delivers on that promise. I liked how focused it was on the mental and emotional aspects, and liked how intricately each “class” was depicted, especially in terms of the impacts of these powers, particularly those of the Moria, which Renata is the “class” to which Renata belongs. 

Given that aspect of her, that makes Renata an intriguing character. I loved how her struggle with being feared was depicted, along with dealing with the resurfacing of memories from her time in the palace. It added a sense of internal conflict I don’t often see in protagonists in similar “rebellion” stories.

This a fun story, and one that I hope gets a lot of love from the community. If you love YA fantasy, and are looking for one with a unique magic system, then I strongly recommend this one. 

Author Bio

Zoraida Córdova is the author of many fantasy novels for kids and teens, including the award-winning Brooklyn Brujas series, Incendiary, and Star Wars: A Crash of Fate. Her short fiction has appeared in the New York Times bestselling anthology Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View, Star Wars The Clone Wars: Stories of Light and Dark, Come on In: 15 Stories About Immigration and Finding Home, and Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women and Witchcraft. She is the co-editor of Vampires Never Get Old: Eleven Tales with Fresh Bite. Her debut middle grade novel is The Way to Rio Luna. She is the co-host of the podcast Deadline City with Dhonielle Clayton. Zoraida was born in Ecuador and raised in Queens, New York. When she isn’t working on her next novel, she’s planning a new adventure.

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Review of “The King’s 100” by Karin Biggs

Biggs, Karin. The King’s 100. Salt Lake City: Immortal Works LLC, 2020.

ISBN-13: 978-1734386684 | $14.99 USD | 322 pages | YA Fantasy

Blurb

Sixteen-year-old princess, Piper Parish, is a disappointment to the citizens of Capalon, a STEM-structured kingdom where innovation is valued above all. Her older sister, the queen, views Piper’s tears during their parents’ funeral as a weakness, not to mention her strange affinity for singing. When Piper receives an anonymous note stating her mother is still alive and living in the enemy kingdom of Mondaria, Piper chooses to risk death and flees Capalon to prove once and for all that she’s not just the queen’s defective little sister.

Posing as a Mondarian citizen named Paris Marigold, Piper bumps into a cute black-haired boy named Ari who encourages her to audition for the King’s 100, an esteemed performance court of singers, magicians, and drummers. Piper lands a spot as a singer and dives head-first into a world of glittering dresses, girl-code, sugar, blackmail, and physical contact-all while taking direction from an evil maestro.Under Mondarian law, Piper will be killed if her identity is revealed. But living a life without the freedom to love might actually be the most dangerous risk of all. 

Review

3 stars

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

The King’s 100 drew my interest, as while it did have some familiar elements of YA fantasy, like the central   quest and some elements of intrigue, there were some unique elements that appealed to me, like STEM as the structure behind the kingdom. 

And it does try to be engaging. The best part was the way the value system is portrayed, and how Piper is shown to stick out, due to her tendency toward emotion as opposed to cold practicality. I did kind of want the concept developed a bit more, though, especially to explore the history behind the current system. 

As for the plot itself, I found it fairly engaging and page turning. My main complaint with Piper’s story is how she allowed herself to constantly be sidetracked by other things, like her potential love interest, instead of focusing on the goal of finding her mother. 

There are some great ideas here, but I feel like they got a bit lost in the execution. I do look forward to what comes next for the series, however, to see if it can build on the concept more. I recommend it to fans of YA fantasy.

Author Bio

Karin earned her bachelor’s degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Purdue University and served as an event planner for two Big 10 universities and various non-profits for over eight years before becoming a stay-at-home-mom. She enjoys chocolate-covered peanuts, uninterrupted sleep and singing with other people. Karin lives in Ohio with her husband, daughter, cat and dog.

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Review of “The House in the Cerulean Sea” by TJ Klune

Klune, TJ. The House in the Cerulean Sea. New York: Tor, 2020. 

ISBN-13: 978-1250217288 | $26.99 USD | 398 pages | Fantasy

Blurb

A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret.

Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages.

When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.

But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.

An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.

Review

5 stars

Friends have raved about The House in the Cerulean Sea, so I was curious to give it a try. It sounded like a fun, whimsical read, a style I had not read a ton of in adult fantasy. 

And it somehow manages to be “adult,” while capturing a sensibility that feels youthful, something that was also pointed out by my friend Aarya in her review. 

Linus Baker’s character development deeply resonated with me, as he went from being a fairly by-the-book sort of person, steeped in the bureaucracy of his department and his role as a caseworker, to developing a new sense of compassion and belonging upon ingratiating himself with Arthur and the children, who are all so alive and provide both a sense of gravitas and light simultaneously.

And while it isn’t primarily a romance, there is a subtle m/m romantic thread there between Linus and Arthur, conveyed so beautifully in addition to everything else. 

I strongly recommend pretty much everyone read this book. It’s beautiful, and a great balance of funny and heartfelt. 

Author Bio 

TJ KLUNE is a Lambda Literary Award-winning author (Into This River I Drown) and an ex-claims examiner for an insurance company. His novels include The House in the Cerulean Sea and The Extraordinaries. Being queer himself, TJ believes it’s important—now more than ever—to have accurate, positive, queer representation in stories.

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Review of “Stormsong” (The Kingston Cycle #2) by C.L. Polk

Polk, C.L. Stormsong. New York: Tor.com, 2020. 

ISBN-13: 978-0765398994 | $17.99 USD | 345 pages | Fantasy

Blurb

After spinning an enthralling world in Witchmark, praised as a “can’t-miss debut” by Booklist, and as “thoroughly charming and deftly paced” by the New York Times, C. L. Polk continues the story in Stormsong. Magical cabals, otherworldly avengers, and impossible love affairs conspire to create a book that refuses to be put down.

Dame Grace Hensley helped her brother Miles undo the atrocity that stained her nation, but now she has to deal with the consequences. With the power out in the dead of winter and an uncontrollable sequence of winter storms on the horizon, Aeland faces disaster. Grace has the vision to guide her parents to safety, but a hostile queen and a ring of rogue mages stand in the way of her plans. There’s revolution in the air, and any spark could light the powder. What’s worse, upstart photojournalist Avia Jessup draws ever closer to secrets that could topple the nation, and closer to Grace’s heart.

Can Aeland be saved without bloodshed? Or will Kingston die in flames, and Grace along with it?

In the series 

#1 Witchmark 

Review

4 stars

After the hype of Witchmark and the divide among readers about the change in protagonist for this book, Stormsong (before it was even finished!), I anticipated this book, as while I didn’t know what to think about Grace yet, I had trust in C.L. Polk’s ability to make her an endearing heroine. 

And indeed she does. One of the big issues with her as a character in the first book is her lack of awareness of her own privilege, and while she takes time to grow into greater awareness here, and in the meantime, take on such an active role in the political machinations going on around her. I grew to understand how she was indoctrinated into being what she was, and appreciated how she addressed it. 

With the stronger focus on politics, the romance aspect, the bit I was most looking forward to due to it being f/f, is more of a subplot, and while those aspects are sweet, I definitely wanted more. And while I was fine with Miles and Tristan being secondary characters in this one, I did feel like they were sidelined a bit too much. 

I did still enjoy this one due to Grace’s journey, even if it’s not as good as the first book. However, I’m still ridiculously excited for the next book next year, and any other future C.L. Polk projects. If you enjoyed the first one, then I think you’ll like how this one turns out. 

Author Bio

C. L. Polk (she/her/they/them) is the author of the World Fantasy Award winning debut novel Witchmark, the first novel of the Kingston Cycle. Her newest novel, The Midnight Bargain, is upcoming in 2020 from Erehwon Books.

After leaving high school early, she has worked as a film extra, sold vegetables on the street, and identified exotic insect species for a vast collection of lepidoptera before settling down to write silver fork fantasy novels.

Ms. Polk lives near the Bow River in Calgary, Alberta, in a tiny apartment with too many books and a yarn stash that could last a decade. She rides a green bicycle with a basket on the front.

She drinks good coffee because life is too short. She spends too much time on twitter. You can subscribe to her free newsletter on Substack.

Ms. Polk is represented by Caitlin McDonald of the Donald Maass Literary Agency.

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Review of “The City We Became” (Great Cities #1) by N.K. Jemisin

Jemisin, N.K. The City We Became. New York: Orbit Books, 2020.

ISBN-13: 978-0316509848 | $28.00 USD | 437 pages | Urban Fantasy

Blurb

Five New Yorkers must come together in order to defend their city in the first book of a stunning new series by Hugo award-winning and NYT bestselling author N. K. Jemisin.

Every city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got five.

But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs beneath the earth, threatening to destroy the city and her five protectors unless they can come together and stop it once and for all.

Review

5 stars

Despite having read N.K. Jemisin before, I had no idea what to expect with The City We Became, except that it’s urban fantasy, a genre I’ve vowed to give more of a chance. And now, having finished the book, I can only say it’s…odd.

It’s odd in a good way though. And more than anything else, it’s a love letter to New York written with the familiarity of someone who has lived there for a long time and is dedicated to getting it right. She also combines some of her standard fantastical elements with the evils a bit closer to home, such as “racist sexist homophobic dipshits,” as the book (and John Scalzi, according to the Acknowledgments), puts it.

This does start a little slow, setting up a few seemingly unconnected plot threads with the various different characters. But the connections are apparent fairly early on, and seeing all these characters come together was ultimately rewarding.

This is a wonderful and timely book from Jemisin, and I can’t wait to see what she has in store next with this new series. If you loved her previous work but were unsure about her new direction, I can say it’s definitely worth a try. 

Author Bio

N.K. Jemisin is the first author in history to win three consecutive Hugo Awards for Best Novel. Her work has also won the Nebula, Locus, and Goodreads Choice awards. She has been a reviewer for the New York Times Book Review, and she has been an instructor for the Clarion and Clarion West writing workshops. She lives in New York City.

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Review of “Unravel the Dusk”(The Blood of Stars #2) by Elizabeth Lim

Lim, Elizabeth. Unravel the Dusk. New York: Alfred A. Knopf BFYR, 2020.

ISBN-13: 978-0525647034 | $18.99 USD | 368 pages | YA Fantasy

Blurb

Maia Tamarin proved her skill as a tailor when she wove the dresses of the sun, the moon, and the stars, but it will take more than a beautiful gown to hide the darkness rising up within her. . . . The stakes are higher than ever in this breathtaking sequel to Spin the Dawn, perfect for fans of Six of Crows.

Maia Tamarin’s journey to sew the dresses of the sun, the moon, and the stars has taken a grievous toll. She returns to a kingdom on the brink of war. Edan, the boy she loves, is gone–perhaps forever–and no sooner does she set foot in the Autumn Palace than she is forced to don the dress of the sun and assume the place of the emperor’s bride-to-be to keep the peace. When the emperor’s rivals learn of her deception, there is hell to pay, but the war raging around Maia is nothing compared to the battle within. Ever since she was touched by the demon Bandur, she has been changing . . . glancing in the mirror to see her own eyes glowing red; losing control of her magic, her body, her mind. It’s only a matter of time before Maia loses herself completely, and in the meantime she will stop at nothing to find Edan, protect her family, and bring lasting peace to her country.

In the series

#1 Spin the Dawn 

Review

5 stars

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

I enjoyed the first book, so I was really looking forward to Unravel the Dusk (although I actually was approved for UtD prior to finishing Spin the Dawn). And this is one of those sequels that impressed me and did fairly well following up on the potential built in book one, something that can be hard to do. 

Once again, the cultural influences remain a high point. I loved the Chinese-inspired politics and mythology, and I enjoyed how it was fleshed out further in this one.

I also appreciated the greater focus on Maia’s personal journey, especially as the effects of the demon attack begin manifesting. There was a genuine question of whether she would sacrifice herself for the good of others. 

As a result of this personal journey, the romance was less pronounced in this one, which I preferred, because I didn’t absolutely adore the romance between Maia and Edan in book one. But I think, even if you love the couple, you’ll still like the way their pairing manifests in this book. I liked that Edan is also a bit weakened, so he’s on a journey that parallels Maia’s to an extent, although he is characterized as more passive here, amplifying Maia’s strength. 

This is a fabulous sequel, and it has me curious to read more from Elizabeth Lim. If you are looking for a culturally rich Chinese-inspired fantasy, I recommend this one.

Author Bio

Elizabeth Lim grew up on a hearty staple of fairy tales, myths, and songs. Her passion for storytelling began around age 10, when she started writing fanfics for Sailor Moon, Sweet Valley, and Star Wars, and posted them online to discover, “Wow, people actually read my stuff. And that’s kinda cool!” But after one of her teachers told her she had “too much voice” in her essays, Elizabeth took a break from creative writing to focus on not flunking English.

Over the years, Elizabeth became a film and video game composer, and even went so far as to get a doctorate in music composition. But she always missed writing, and turned to penning stories when she needed a breather from grad school. One day, she decided to write and finish a novel — for kicks, at first, then things became serious — and she hasn’t looked back since.

Elizabeth loves classic film scores, books with a good romance, food (she currently has a soft spot for arepas and Ethiopian food), the color turquoise, overcast skies, English muffins, cycling, and baking. She lives in New York City with her husband.

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Review of “Cinderella is Dead” by Kalynn Bayron

Baryon. Kalynn. Cinderella is Dead. New York: Bloomsbury YA, 2020.

ISBN-13; 978-1547603879 | $18.99 USD | 400 pages | YA Fantasy

Blurb

Wholly original and captivating.” – Brigid Kemmerer, New York Times bestselling author of A Curse So Dark and Lonely

Girls team up to overthrow the kingdom in this unique and powerful retelling of Cinderella from a stunning new voice that’s perfect for fans of A Curse So Dark and Lonely.

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.

Review

3 stars

The premise of Cinderella is Dead sounds like so much fun, and is much needed right now. I know a lot of women and marginalized people have had a lot of rage recently toward the patriarchy and the government and whatnot, and what better way to challenge them than by revisiting a classic tale like Cinderella? 

I like the idea that this is a world where the original Cinderella story as we know was essentially propaganda, and the people alive in the present time the story is set continue to perpetuate that system of power and corruption. 

However, this book does put the importance of the message over character or world development. I can’t think of much that stands out about Sophia or Constance. I can admire them for their devotion to the cause, but I don’t know that I cared about either of them. 

Also, despite being a fantasy, the world building is very thin. There is some discussion of the history as far as the lineages of both the king and the stepsister, but nothing else that really gives a sense of place. I can understand wanting to maintain a bit of the abstract fairy tale quality to the story though, so I don’t hold this aspect against it too much. 

While this book wasn’t a winner for me, I think it’s still worth trying, especially if you love fairy tale retellings (particularly Cinderella), and are looking for a fun, subversive take on it.

Author Bio

Kalynn Bayron is an author and classically trained vocalist. She grew up in Anchorage, Alaska. When she’s not writing you can find her listening to Ella Fitzgerald on loop, attending the theater, watching scary movies, and spending time with her kids. She currently lives in San Antonio, Texas with her family.

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