One of my favorite types of stories are twisted fairy tales, where an author takes a classic and gives it a makeover. Sometimes they don’t turn out all that well, but I can’t say that with The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines. It was fabulous!
Cinderella–whose real name is Danielle Whiteshore (nee Danielle de Glas)–does marry Prince Armand. And if you can ignore the pigeon incident, their wedding is a dream come true.
But not long after the “happily ever after,” Danielle is attacked by her stepsister Charlotte, who suddenly has all sorts of magic to call upon. And though Talia–otherwise known as Sleeping Beauty–comes to the rescue (she’s a martial arts master, and all those fairy blessings make her almost unbeatable), Charlotte gets away.
That’s when Danielle discovers a number of disturbing facts: Armand has been kidnapped and taken to the realm of the Fairies; Danielle is pregnant with his child; and the Queen has her own very secret service that consists of Talia and Snow (White, of course). Snow is an expert at mirror magic and heavy duty flirting.
Can the three princesses track down Armand and extract both the prince and themselves from the clutches of some of fantasyland’s most nefarious villains?
Not only was The Stepsister Scheme a great twist, but Hines gave each of the princesses more of a personality. They were each thought to be a bit hopeless or tragic because of their individual histories, but they didn’t let any of that bring them down, well, no more than what you or I would. Talia is our sleeping princess and she still has never forgiven the fae for their part in her tragic past. As such, when having to deal with them, she doesn’t come off as quite self-confident as she normally does and, to me, that’s a very realistic trait. As for Snow, when some one spends as much time as she does in front of a mirror, is it any wonder she’s great at flirtation manipulation? I also loved the fact that when faced with her greatest fear, she didn’t let it turn her away from her task. She stuck with the plan and followed through.
As for Danielle, our Cinderella is so much more than the one I remember. Granted, most of my Cinderella knowledge comes from Disney, but Danielle was still that sweet girl who cared for so many and yet still had a spine of steel. That was one thing that totally surprised me. How Hines was able to maintain the sweet and innocent demeanor of Danielle while still giving her the attitude she has. They complimented each other so well that everything Danielle did and said seemed nature for her. She never had to give the impression of being someone else and she never lost that innocence.
Even with the twist on the princesses personalities, there was one aspect of the fairy tales that, to me, kept true to the original material – the fae. No matter which side they were on, light or dark, they were still the manipulative, greedy creatures of fairy tales. As long as you knew the rules, they were fairly easy to interact with, but you had to be on your toes. The fae added a complication that wasn’t unreasonable and totally worked with the rest of the plot.
As for the plot, what can I say – Cinderella having a face-off with her stepsisters in a manner she never thought possible – beautiful. I was totally engaged the entire time and I had such a hard time putting it down. The pace flowed in such a way there was never a moment where I was bored from too much dialog or getting exhausted with the action.
Overall, The Stepsister Scheme was a totally hit for me. Not only was I constantly entertained by everything the princesses had to go through, but every interaction they had with other characters added more to the plot. Just as I was beginning to guess what was going on, someone would step in and throw a monkey wrench into everything I thought. Even if you’re not a fantasy fan, The Stepsister Scheme would be a hit with any age.
The Stepsister Scheme
A Mermaid’s Madness
Red Hood’s Revenge
The Snow Queen’s Shadow (2011)