Title: Cinderella is Dead
Author: Kalynn Bayron
Published: 7 July 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Fiction, dystopian
Number of pages: 389
Start Date: 27th May 2022
Finish Date: 27th May 2022
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.
Cinderella is Dead is a dystopian/fantasy retelling; set 200 years after Cinderella dies, Lille is a place abiding by rules influenced by Cinderella’s story. After she died, it was ruled that all girls must attend an annual ball in order to be chosen by the eligible men in the kingdom. Sophia Grimmins is about to attend her first ball; however, she’d rather spend the rest of her life with her best friend Erin than any man in the kingdom. Wanting desperately to escape the tyranny of Lille, Sophia is determined for her fate not to be sealed. In a tumultuous turn of events, she finds herself in Cinderella’s tomb the night of the ball; so can she turn her fate around? Or will she be stuck in the oppression for the rest of her life?
I really enjoyed this book, I was expecting it to be awful but it felt very realistic and I didn't struggle to keep up with the storyline. Everyone knows the story of Cinderella so from that sense, it was easy to know what was going on, and the rest was pretty straightforward because there’s not much world-building like with some fantasies.
With a horribly oppressing atmosphere, it was easy to feel a little hopeless at the beginning of the novel, but the protagonist Sophia is determined and passionate and her personality juxtaposes this atmosphere so viscerally that it was hard not to love it and her! Given that it has a lot of elements of retelling as part of the story, it was enjoyable to think you knew what was going on, only for Bayron to flip everything on its head.
The Cinderella story itself was so interesting and I loved the way Bayron took this really well known tale and totally made it her own! The story’s not only empowering but I think it’s a very good conversation-starter as there are so many elements that raise so many questions about our society and the way we live in the real world, Bayron unpacked some of this in the book, but I think there were also elements left intentionally unanswered so as a reader you can think about them.
Straight from the get-go, I felt a strong sense of fury. Not at the book itself, which is really well-written, but at the horrible, misogynistic world, Bayron has created. I can’t imagine how awful it must be for these characters going through this situation, and I especially felt bad for the main character, Sophia, because she’s not interested in men, so her chances of finding a good suitor are nil. It was awful to see the allegory here, knowing that historically LGBT people have had to settle for a heterosexual relationship. I also hated HATED the whole ball, and how all the girls have to just hope they get someone who doesn’t abuse them. I liked Sophia from the start, but her defiance in the face of all this crap she has to deal with, really made me admire her. She’s sometimes a little naïve, which irked me a bit, but some of it makes sense.
Erin is an absolute pain in the ass. Sometimes I felt sorry for her; the women in this book go through a lot!; but mostly I was just annoyed by her. Once again I don’t want to go into too much info here because of spoilers, but I will say that I just wanted Sophia to leave her and move on with her life, because Erin just seems to lead Sophia on a lot. Again, I think the whole ball and suitors thing makes it difficult, but blaming people who are looking out for you is not cool.
The plot is interesting. There’s a couple of twists that are somewhat predictable, but there’s also a few that should keep most people guessing. The addition of Constance and some of the later characters also threw some interesting curve balls in there. And I spent a lot of time speculating what the true story with Cinderella was. It felt so odd that people were being told that she wanted these awful balls to take place.
Mostly though, I was there for the awesome feminist themes throughout the book, and the brilliant characters.
Despite the fact I enjoyed it, I did have a few qualms. The ending felt very fast and is a little too clean? I get that Cinderella is Dead is a retelling, but it also just didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, and it felt a bit too perfect and neatly tied off. Especially considering how the world was like before Sophia runs away, it just didn’t sit quite right with me. But what I will say is that the blurb is a little misleading as it suggests the characters will be a certain way; but they’re not; (read it and you’ll know what I’m talking about!)
All in all this book is fantastic for fantasy and contemporary lovers alike. Bayron immerses you enough in the world to fully get lost while rooting enough of the story in reality that you can’t help but see the parallels. If anything, this book could have been longer; adding to the thing I said about the ending, Bayron also could have fleshed out other elements of the story and kept readers just as invested! Though maybe she’s leaving enough unsaid for a sequel.