Cover Image: Cinderella Is Dead

Cinderella Is Dead

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Member Reviews

I unfortunately just couldn't get into this one, even though I really, really wanted to. Insta-love is just not my thing at all, and that's what I got here. I can see others really enjoying this one, but it wasn't for me.
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CINDERELLA IS DEAD is very nearly a masterpiece. I absolutely *love* reimagining of fairy tales, mostly because fairy tales have such a complex history and it's nice to see how people reclaim them as forms of revolution. A story about queer Black girls overthrowing the patriarchy set within the backdrop of Cinderella's kingdom? Ummm, yes, please. And, for the most part, CINDERELLA IS DEAD and Kalynn Bayron's work did not disappoint. 

Plot summaries are everywhere, so I don't think I need to go into a whole lot. A queer 16-year-old girl named Sophia struggles to accept the kingdom's rules that every girl must be presented to a potential suitor, so she's prepared to fight back, not just to resist this oppressive patriarchal custom but also to preserve her chances of being able to spend her life with her childhood best friend-cum-love interest. And revolt they do. The journey is beautiful, empowering, heartbreaking, enraging, and full of truths that YA audiences desperately need to be immersed in. 

The world building was almost perfectly there, although I do wish we'd be immersed in the world all the time, rather than the descriptive world-building Bayron sometimes relied on. This was not enough to derail the book, though, and I know that subsequent works will just get more and more refined. I think the reader gets a very vivid sense of Sophia's world and what she's fighting against, and I continue to have images in my head of what I imagine that world looks like. 

It's important to remember that this is YA book, and it is a SUBSTANTIVE YA book at that. The prose isn't flowery or overly complex, but I actually think that's quite important. The subject matter is able to come to the forefront if younger readers aren't struggling to decipher the meaning of phrases and conversations. It seems like a useful tool that Bayron employed to keep the prose relatively straightforward so that the reality of Sophia's world can be digested, understood, and thought deeply about. The fact of the matter is that the world in which Sophia is growing up is, unfortunately, not vastly different from the world today's youth are growing up in, and it's imperative that young readers are exposed to stories featuring these realities so they can understand, through literature and through diverse perspectives, what we are up against, the work we need to do, and why they, as youth, are so incredibly valuable. 

I am excited to purchase this for my collection and to gift it to YA readers in my life. This is a powerful testament to the power of youth. It is a testament to Bayron's skill as a storyteller and her ability to imagine new worlds and reimagine classic texts. Youth matter. Youth with all identities matter. No one will question that after reading CINDERELLA IS DEAD, and the people who most need and deserve to see themselves represented, amplified, and celebrated in literature will feel empowered by Bayron's newest release. 

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for this advance copy. My review is entirely unbiased.
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Cinderella is Dead tells the story of Sophia, a 16 year old girl living in the same world as Cinderella, but 200 years later. Their society is built around the story of Cinderella, which is used to subjugate women and girls. In this patriarchal and misogynistic society, girls must attend the annual Ball, where they may be chosen by a man to be his wife. If not, an uncertain fate awaits. As a gay teen, Sophia doesn't want the life that set out for her. When it looks like she may be forced into this unwanted life, she runs away, with a goal of changing her world for the better. 

This was a really good read! I found it to be an easy and gripping read; I read the book over just a few longer reading sessions. Sophia (and this book as a whole) has a revolutionary spirit that feels timely, both personally and within our current moment/movement. Sophia does not see any way to better her world other than starting over. This book sends a positive message towards readers and, through Sophia's story, encourages them to believe that radical change is possible, to keep the hope alive.

There were a few things that I didn't love about this book, however. In the book, there is a side romance, and while it isn't quite instalove, it doesn't feel necessary, and considering the timeline of the book, feels like she's moving on too quickly. that being said, I know it's there to contrast from another relationship, and in that way it does make sense. Another thing that was a little jarring to me in this book was how the society was presented. Knowing that it is patriarchal, misogynistic, and authoritarian is just assumed or hinted at, but explicitly stated. TW: domestic abuse, mainly. Early in the book, there is a joke between two guardsmen about murdering one's wife and making it look like an accident so that he could take a younger, prettier girl. There is another scene where Sophia comes upon domestic abuse, which is clearly prevalent in the society. These things didn't bring the book down in rating for me, but there were just a little surprising to read in such terms. 

Overall, this is a book I'd recommend. The way that the Cinderella story is twisted and used to create this new world challenges the reader to think not only about the stories we know and love, but also the ways in which the government dictates our lives. Sophia's story is a hopeful one, and this is an exciting fantasy/fractured fairy tale read!
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"And you're not lost?"

I think for a moment. "Maybe I am. But the difference is that I want to be found. I'm not happy pretending everything is fine when I know it's not."


Cinderella is Dead is a fast-paced, powerful tale about fighting against injustice no matter the cost. Featuring a Black lesbian protagonist who can't help but rebel against the patriarchal, homophobic world inspired by Cinderella's fairy tales, this is a great YA fairy tale retelling that asks the reader to think deeply about complicity, oppression, and the cost of resistance.

(this book has content warnings for: domestic violence)
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This book had a wholly original take on the Cinderella fairy tale but despite it's cleverness, it fell extremely flat. Most plot points and their relation to the original fairy tale were great which made it even harder to read the dull and lifeless writing that connected them. My favorite thing about this novel and the only reason it was rounded up to a solid 3 stars was the concept. I cannot fault Bayron's imagination. She took the age old Cinderella fairy tale, one that has been adapted millions of times, and turned it into a completely new adventure. Our setting is Lille where 200 years ago, Cinderella attended the Prince's ball and had her dreams come true.... or did they? Sophia is one of hundreds of girls in the kingdom who are forced to attend an annual ball where girls are "chosen" by the men of the nation. They are required to know the Cinderella tale by heart and their family's must spend their savings on dresses and accoutrements. If the girls fail to be chosen, they could be forfeited which means never being seen again. Sophia hates her kingdom and it's customs, yearning instead to run away with her best friend and love Erin, but is thwarted by the strict rules set in place. After a narrow escape, Sophia teams up with Constance, who's connection to the Cinderella tale sings a different tune than age old scripture. The duo must figure out the mystery behind the King and take him down to save the kingdom.

Despite being 100% up my alley (even summarizing the plot made me yearn for what could have been), this book failed to make me care about any of the characters. I wanted to revert to back to my fangirl ways and get hit in the feels and ship people to death but never felt any real connections to the characters, despite their potential. Bayron's writing was overly descriptive and juvenile which read like it was geared towards middle grade or children's despite it's obvious teen/YA draw. I felt myself comparing the novel to Chris Colfer's Land of Stories books. While Colfer's writing is also a bit juvenile, they lean into the hokey-ness of the fairy tale world and it becomes light, middle grade fare. Bayron is telling a story that is meant for older readers so the writing feels overly simplistic and corny in comparison. 

All in all, this book has me curious to read more of Bayron's work. I love to see writer's evolve with each new work and with the sheer brilliance of this concept, I hope for great things in the future! This is still worth the read if any of the plot intrigues you. Bayron's new take is a fun, eye-opening way to revisit Cinderella, especially amid the Trump presidency and the current political climate.
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What an absolutely ESSENTIAL read for anyone who loves fairy tales. Holy shit, this was excellent and exactly what I needed right now. Dynamic and authentic, if not a bit elementary in the prose. Thank you for the ARC!
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Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

Title had me hooked right away. When I realized how this very opposite to the Disney story I grew up with, I kept reading. I am so glad I did. Taking place 200 years after Cinderella died offers an up-dated version to the classic tale and so much more. Girl power all the way! 
This needs to be made into a movie! It is such a vivid delight!
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If you hear a story enough, will it become your truth? I grew up watching princess movies, thinking to find true love, I just needed to sing and have some animal friends. My prince would show up because it was true love. This book breaks the mold that so many of us believed we had to fit. And I just had to know what was going to happen!
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Definitely worth the hype! The story was excellent, well paced, and I loved all of the characters!! A really quick and fantastic read. I loved it!
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ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley. 
Cinderella is Dead has an excellent pitch, and I went in ready to LOVE it. Queer Black girls destroy the patriarchy. That one line absolutely sold me, and if it sold you too, then I would not discourage you from grabbing a copy and seeing if you love it the way I wanted to. Alas, I did not enjoy the book very much. 
Cinderella is Dead is set in the world of Cinderella, but she has been dead for 200 years. Her story is mandated to be read by every woman in the Kingdom, and they all must attend a ball at the age of 16 to find a husband. Our main character is Sophia, a 16-year-old Black girl who would much rather find a princess than a prince and live happily ever after with her. Again, I love everything about the pitch. 

This part of the book really fell flat for me, I wanted to find the world interesting, but we get so little nuance of the world it is really hard to be emersed in. I found it very one-note and kept being pulled out of the story because I was questioning, "how can this actually work?" over and over. 
I found it utterly bizarre that basically all women mindlessly follow the story of Cinderella with no deep thought about it, and the story is only shown to matter at all to two men. Most men apparently could not care less about the Cinderella story in this world. The incongruence of this is poorly fleshed out, and I did not enjoy it. 
I wanted the world to be so much deeper; I wanted to hear more about the resistance effort, which is pitched as tiny and unable to effect change but is somehow suddenly large and well equipt enough to complete the coup once the evil King has died? The book ends with Constance (who is apparently the rightful heir though this is not touched on at all earlier in the book), setting up a whole new government in a way that is not at all earned. That could have been so powerful if we had seen her and a group of rebels debating how the world should work, or if she had talked to Sophia about her plans for a better future. And how amazing would this book have been if there had been an underground group of women trying to alleviate the suffering of their fellow citizens? It would have been kickass. Instead, we get literally 85% of the book with only three women showing interest in overthrowing their own oppression, then suddenly, in the end, they magically make the world better, and everyone is happy? I just really didn't click with this part of the book. 

This could entirely be because this book is written for an audience much younger than I am, but I found this book so predictable. The King is Prince Charming doing necromancy; the Fairy Godmother is his mother, Sophia just happens to find a diary that has been hidden for 200 years that apparently gives her legitimacy with the rest of the Kingdom and tells her the secret to defeating the King. I was unsurprised by these twists and didn't find the timing of the reveals compelling. The romance suffers hard for instalove and from what my brain conceptualized as the Rosaline/Juliet problem. Sophia is in love with Erin (who I think was done so dirty by the plot, but I will address this later) then meets Constance is almost immediately is enraptured by her. Which is fine, Constance is much nicer to Sophia; it is just so rushed and didn't work for me. 
The ending was incredibly unbelievable for me. I did not feel that it had been earned at all. Sophia kills the King, a mob of 40 angry men comes at her, and they are deterred by Constance with a dagger. How is a mob of 40 people going to be stopped by one person? Seems wild. All the issues are magically fixed, and we just hear about all the societal change that happened. Society does a complete 180, and it is entirely off the page. It reminded me a lot of the ending of Again, But Better, which I also super did not like. 

My biggest issue with the characters in this book is that they are almost all very one-note. Sophia has a character arc and is a totally fine narrator, but basically, every other character fell flat for me. The only issue I had with Sophia was that she massively suffers from being incredibly unique. She is the only woman or girl throughout most of the book who thinks their oppression is bad; she is not like everyone else who is just fine living in this terrible world; no one understands. I am very over this trope; it must work for some people because it continues to be written. It is not until 87% of the way through the book that we learn of other loan actors trying to escape the King.
Most of the men in the book are cartoonishly evil. There are a total of four men who are not evil in this book, I get the villains being predominantly male, but they all feel cartoonishly evil in a way that just doesn't make me believe the world. The King is so flat that I kind of just didn't care what he was up to, he's just doing the evil thing because he is evil. I knew he was going to die; I felt absolutely no tension, so I wasn't interested in his story. 
The part that I found most off-putting was the way women in abusive relationships were written. They all read like caricatures of battered women, no agency, no desire of a different life; they are just miserable plot tools. I cannot imagine reading this book as someone who had been in an abusive relationship and not feeling baffled at the portrayal of these women. They are entirely helpless, and none of them are shown to do anything to affect their own lives. 

The writing
I actually don't have much to say about the writing! It is totally solid; my only complaint is that I don't think Bayron wrote tension very well. I wasn't a huge fan of the writing style, but it isn't bad. It is just a lot of telling and not a lot of showing. 

I clearly did not really enjoy reading this book, but I hope that if you read it as well, you had a better experience of it. I completely want every book I read to be my new favorite and am disappointed that I did not enjoy this book. Just because it was not for me does not mean it will not work for you. 

Cinderella is Dead is published on July 7th, 2020.
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I raced through this Cinderella retelling! In Sophia's fairytale world, ever since Cinderella died, the King(s) have ruled the state of Lille with force and coercion. Women have little to no rights or agency and their only goal in life is to be chosen to be wed to an eligible man during the annual ball. Not only does Sophia reject the way women and men are matched in Lille, she doesn't want a husband because she is gay, a social taboo. Sophia was an easy protagonist to root for - spunky, fearless, clever, outspoken, and ready to tear down the patriarchal system. I will definitely be adding this to my Middle/High School library, and recommend to collections where fantasy or fractured fairytales are popular.
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There were a lot of things to love about this book. I absolutely loved the twist on the original Cinderella story and the fact that every single aspect of the well known fairy tale was dissected and torn apart. I loved the fact that this fairy tale was not what it appeared to be, which is the case with most fairytales, I am sure. I thought Sophia was a fantastic character. She was headstrong and stubborn and completely determined to be able to make her own choices about who to marry and who to love. She is in love with her best friend, Erin, and would rather spend her life with her than be forced into marriage with some man she hardly knows and who will most likely treat her like she is a piece of his property.

So there were a few issues I had with the story, which is why I am giving it three stars instead of four. One issue I had was the insta-love that Sophia felt towards Constance. At the beginning of the story. Sophia is SO in love with Erin, but then it seems as though those feelings are completely forgotten when she meets Constance. I do understand Sophia's reasons for why she felt that Erin wasn't good for her, but it felt like her relationship with Constance happened way too quickly and it felt forced to me. I also felt that the world building was a little lacking. I didn't fully understand why Prince Charming did the things he did and why he created the laws that he did. His motives didn't make sense at all and he just wasn't a well developed villain. The whole patriarchy society also started to become a little too much. It felt weird that there wasn't a single decent man in the entire kingdom. Why would the King's rules make it so that EVERY man in the kingdom felt the need to treat women like crap? That part also felt a little forced to me.

I did think the book was pretty good and worth a read. I just wish certain things had been done better.
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I’m a big fan of fairy tale retellings and twists on fairy tales, so I was very excited to read this book. It did not disappoint.

To start, I loved how open the LGBTQ+ rep was. The book was queer right from the start, and not ashamed of it. Right away we get a character who is lesbian and barely tries to hide it. She knows who she is and what she wants, and that was powerful.

The story takes place in a land where the Cinderella tale is now almost blown up to full propaganda levels. Girls must be good, follow the laws, and attend a ball where men will choose them as wives. Girls can’t speak out, they can’t have independence, they can’t fight back. If you are good enough and live as the image of Cinderella, maybe the fairy godmother will visit you before the ball. And even if she doesn’t, you had better make sure to get a good dress and LOOK like she visited you, because being chosen at ball pretty much decides your lot in life.

For some girls, the ball is all the dream of. For Sophia, it’s a brewing nightmare. 

Watching Sophia navigate this world and eventually fight back was a wonderful journey. The characters are interesting, the world is terrible in all the ways we love to read about and fight back against, and the tie in to the Cinderella story was great. I loved seeing how it shaped their culture, and then learning all the ways the original story was a lie.

My only gripe was that occasionally it felt like information was being told to us when it could have been shown more. I also was a bit surprised at the character’s choices at times, like when two major characters were having a very treacherous conversation in a crowded, public space. However, these are minor gripes, and don’t detract from the story much at all. 

The story have a very cool concept, sharp and ferocious characters, and all sorts of wonderful rep. I highly recommend reading it.
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When I read: "Queer black girls overthrowing the patriarchy"  I WAS SOLD! I didn't even read the rest of the synopsis.  I immediately asked Net Galley for a chance to read this and was so happy to get approved.  Thank you Net Galley and Bloomsbury YA for the opportunity.

Cinderella is Dead is a dynamic debut novel by Kalynn Baryon that drastically re-invents the Cinderella tale, In the land of Mersailles, Prince Manford rules with an iron fist: he has declared women as property with no rights and teen girls must attend an annual ball when they come of age.  At the ball, a girl can be selected for marriage and if she is not, she is deemed "forfeit" and becomes property of the king.  As propaganda, the tale of Cinderella is ingrained at an early age to bolster how Prince Charming "rescued" Cinderella from a life of poverty and elevated her as queen.  

Sophia Grimmins wants to nothing to do with the ball and is in love with her best friend Erin.  She wants to run away with her but is forced to become part of a revolution after a series of events forces her to flee from the ball.  She meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella - who tells her truth and encourages her to find the strength to be herself.

REVIEW:  I read this book in a few hours.  It was wholly engrossing and totally transported me to a different world.  Bayron did a fantastic job of painting a world of oppression --you can really feel the terror/ claustrophobia that Sophia felt and how small women were made to feel in this society.  I also loved how Sophia, a queer Black girl, found strength in herself to make the first steps in dismantling this system of oppression.  Bayron's writing was awesome with vivid descriptions and great characters.  I loved the inclusive world that she made.  The story is fantastic with elements of dark magic and a nod to voodoo.  There is also a really clever twist that I didn't really see coming!  My review won't do it justice, so just read this book for yourself! 

P.S. There is a mention of Snow White here (not a spoiler), so I'm hoping Bayron will write about Snow White as well :)
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Review below appears on both goodreads and instagram:

🔮review🔮 ⁣
i’m full of feelings: finished this one for #queerblackathon today!! thanks to @netgalley and @bloomsburyya for the ARC!! okay can’t dislike a story with a queer Black lead overthrowing the patriarchy!!!!! to be clear, this is NOT a retelling of cinderella which made me very happy, because it’s much more nuanced than that!! this world is 200 post ~cinderella fairytale~ with all the trappings of terrible patriarchal bullshit you can imagine!!! i liked how casual the queerness was: it is a major plot point since it’s one of the primary reasons sophia wants to rebel, but her parents didn’t particularly take issue with her being queer, just the ramifications of it in their world. this debut from @kalynnbayron should definitely be on your radar, especially for people with kiddos middle school aged!!! for me, the writing was a little tell and not show, but i think that was primarily because i’m not the target age group!! support this badass and important book!!!!! ⁣
random but applicable emoji: ⚰️⁣
wiggled into heart score: 💕💕💕💕⁣
fuming at the patriarchy score: 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥⁣
star rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫✨ (3.75/5, round to 4 on GR) ⁣
goes well with: remembering the day you actually read the grimm’s fairytales and realized disney was VASTLY misleading, low key wanting to go to a ball just for kicks, toasting to dismantling the heteronormative capitalist patriarchy, hoping you wake up tomorrow with badass knife wielding skills ⁣
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Cinderella is Dead is a great feminist novel that caters to everyone. Instead of their only being queer women, the readers are introduced to queer men. There is more diversity than expected, and as a brown woman that gives me tremendous pleasure. This book has plot twists that are well thought out and make sense, instead of existing to create a dramatic flair. The story-telling that makes a major part of this book enhances Sophia's story and her rebellion against the King. The aspect of the story being connected to magic, the twist, and turns in which magic played a critical role, is surreal. The perspective changes of Sophia from "I want to do this" to "I will do this" show progress and the transformation of Sophia. This is book is all-around a book I would recommend to anyone I can.
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Two hundred years after Cinderella found her happily ever after, every girl in her kingdom is required to attend a ball to find her own Prince Charming. The Cinderella story is gospel, required to be in every household, and every girl is expected to have it memorized on the off chance her suitor husband quizzes her on the contents. Her parents are expected to spend every last penny they can, and more, to make sure she has a ballgown and every piece of finery they can find. Sophia thinks this is a load of crap, and dreams of a country where she can be herself, think for herself, and live in quiet happiness with her princess, but it doesn’t really matter what Sophia thinks.

She is willing to die to try to change that.

I do have to say that this is one of the most unique fairytale retellings I’ve read in a long time. I described this to my friend as “what Cinderella would be if it were kind of a dystopian, diet horror novel.” And overall, I really enjoyed getting to read this. I can’t say that I’ve ever even considered what Cinderella would be like as a dystopian, diet horror novel, but it somehow managed to work well. 

Sophia and Constance are great main characters, both well-formed and a rare breed in YA literature—the kind of protagonists that know who they are at the beginning of the book and stay true to their characterization throughout the whole thing. I enjoyed Sophia’s perspective throughout the book and found her to be a very easy heroine to like and to root for.

My quibbles with this book are fairly small, because I’m aware that I’m not the target audience here, and that’s totally fine. I felt like there were way too many instances of being told instead of shown what was going on, but on the other hand... most of the story took place around the Cinderella myth so it kind of made sense to do this? The insta-love was alive and prevalent and it really wasn’t a believable romance, at least not at first. I was rooting for it by the end, but it really felt forced at the beginning. And lastly, I felt like the moral/lesson of the book was a little bit too heavy handed... even for YA lit. 

Overall, though, it flowed well and it worked well, and I was able to relax into the story and enjoy it for the very unique and entertaining retelling that it was. I loved the author’s breath of fresh air take on a familiar story and hope to see more like it in the future!

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the early review copy.
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okay, so like yay for lesbian rep but this didn't feel cohesive? the story felt strung together instead of written well with pacing and emotions.

also, i don't think the romance was that well fleshed out and the ending was mega rushed. Also, lots and lots and lots of characters just talking through the history.

it was a creative idea but fell a bit flat for me.
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You have seen and read Cinderella retellings before, but you need to read this one, trust me. Two hundred years after Cinderella’s death, the kingdom of Mersailles has turned her story into a weapon, stripping women of all their rights and granting absolute power to the king. Sophia is sixteen years old and must attend the annual ball, where “suitors” register a claim for eligible girls. Sophia is not looking for a husband, she’s looking for an escape and trying to get her girlfriend to come with her. A disaster at the ball sends Sophia down a path she never expected that could mean freedom not only for herself, but for all the people of Mersailles. 

I thought this was a great weekend read, and highly recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in YA fantasy, or anyone who enjoyed how Wicked turned The Wizard of Oz on its head. 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review.
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Wow! I don’t know that I could’ve enjoyed a book more. With all that’s been going on in the world, I’ve been in a reading slump. I couldn’t hold on a book for very long. I read this book within a week, and I loved it. This book was suggested on the homepage of netgalley due to the current push to read more Black authors and LGTBQ+ focused books. I’ve always been reading a variety but I’m so glad I got this book. Cinderella is a badass queer Black woman. If that phase offends you, this book isn’t for you. But, if you’re open to this book, you’re going to be On a ride. If you’re like me, and struggling because you’re tired of boring overdone fairy tale retelling. The world of Cinderella has changed. The story is now the Bible of this world. The King has made the ball mandatory and forced women to come, and be chosen by a man to live their lives. If you don’t come, you are forfeit. If you don’t get chosen in 3 tries, you are forfeit. You don’t get love. You don’t get to choose, and if you’re like our main character, you don’t get to love another woman. This begins our journey into a fairy tale world filled with hate, prejudice, and toxic masculinity where two girls, (one who hardcore reminds me of Merida from Brave) decide to fall in love, find a witch and take down the patriarchy. I don’t want to spoil but there’s been at least 2 plot twists I didn’t see coming and I loved it. Please, buy this book. Read this book. Recommend this book. You can bet when it launches I’m buying a copy for me and for a friend. This got me out of my slump and I can’t recommend it more for hope, badass females, the importance of family and the idea that all people deserve to equal rights, equal voices, and an equal chance to live the life they choose.
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