In the past I’ve read reviews of books and thought ‘damn, that was harsh.’ And while I maintain that some critics come across as snotty jerks, after reading this book I’m starting to understand that, if forced to read many of similar quality throughout my career, I might start to lose a little bit of my tact despite my best efforts.
As others have mentioned, Cannonball Readers were offered this book (and its sequel – which I will not be reading, because I try to avoid making the same mistake twice) for free with the understanding that we would read quickly and report back.
This is not a horrible book. In fact, I can imagine where the inspiration came – other fairy tales are starting to have origin stories (or perhaps always did, but are experiencing a resurgence now). And the idea of following the ‘happily ever after’ is really interesting. It just wasn’t well done in this instance – there is simultaneously too much and not enough going on in the storytelling, the devise used doesn’t really seem to work for this story, and the characters are, in my opinion, almost universally unlikable (including Cinderella).
I have a few issues with this book so I’ll work through them here. First off, the author is clearly not short on ideas; unfortunately there is a whole lot of telling and very little showing. Part of that likely comes from the challenge of a first person narrative in diary form, but my experience reading Silver Linings Playbook showed me that it’s possible to create a rich, complex and interesting character who is telling the story without filling it with lines like “I know you are a good person.” Cinderella may be a good person, but having her best friend say it doesn’t do much for me – I prefer a book show it to me. Or perhaps show me she ISN’T a good person, and that her friends don’t understand her. Something.
Other times statements were made that suggested something had taken place – the most glaring example was the line “All my training had prepared me for this moment.” Huh? Granted, I did find myself bored at times, but I read the whole book, and that line stood out like a sore thumb. Cinderella had been training? I know she was off with her mentor ‘getting ready’ and ‘preparing’ but what did that mean? What was the training? How was she ‘preparing’? What was she doing? It’d be much more interesting to see her in that moment if I had an understanding of what she was calling upon to get through it.
I also have to disagree with another reviewer who thought the writing was good. I don’t think it was horrible, but it wasn’t good. As the book is set in Europe during Napoleon’s time, the author tries to make the language formal and a bit flowerier. I don’t have a lot of experience with modern-day re-tellings of fairy tales but I really, really hope that they don’t all suffer from this forced language. It took me nearly half of the book to get past the feeling that every single paragraph was written in a struggle with an author’s guide to 19th century writing.
I did appreciate the author’s attempt to give the book a bit of a feminist spin, but I think he missed the mark. Nearly all the ‘good’ women in the book are witches, and every single man she encounters either directly causes her pain or is indifferent to her. If the author was going for ‘girl power’ and the idea of saving yourself, he seems to have gone a bit too far. I love that she doesn’t need a man, but does every man need to be totally unlikable?
I still want to find a book like this that I would enjoy reading – I don’t spend nearly enough time reading fiction and I know I’m missing out. I just wish that I hadn’t spent the last six days with this one.