“I’d done something everybody had told me I couldn’t. I’d changed my life all by myself. Having a fairy godmother would have ruined everything.” – Ella Brown
Everyone knows the story about Cinderella. She was a beautiful orphan in the care of her wicked stepmother and stepsisters, and her fairy godmother helped her get ready for the Prince’s ball. There she winds up meeting the Prince, they fall in love after dancing the night away, only to have her run back home when the clock strikes midnight. He eventually finds her by having every single single girl in his kingdom try on the glass slipper his mystery girl lost the night of the ball, and then they live “happily ever after.” That’s the way the story ends, or so we thought.
Unfortunately for our main girl Ella, she did not live happily ever after at all, and her Prince Charming was anything but. The story takes place months before the wedding, and Ella is forced to learn how to become more of a lady. Of course it’s going to be a challenge, especially growing up having to become a slave to her stepmother after her father died. In this world, there is war, refugees, and the only happily ever after is in the outlandish rumors going around the castle about Ella’s background. No, she did not have a fairy godmother to help her get to the ball and woo the Prince, but the entire palace sure believes that story. She made her own dress, used her cleverness to obtain glass slippers, and got to the ball by walking part most of the way to the castle. She changed her own fate, and the fact that everyone didn’t know the truth about what happened, and chose to believe a fairy tale rather than find out the reality of the situation stung even more.
Ella is a very strong feminist, and in this book it shows why that concept is important. We see Ella getting everything about being a princess wrong, and that’s not because she isn’t trying. It’s really because, in this kingdom, being a princess involves not being able to have an original thought, or even know the truth about what’s happening around the little bubble they forced her into. The Prince turns out to be extremely boring and one dimensional, unable to hold an actual conversation with Ella during their chaperoned meetings. She finds him dull, and realizes that she fell in love with the idea of him on the night of the ball, so long ago to her. She didn’t fall in love with the prince himself, and she had to figure out a way to get out of such a loveless and destructive marriage.
In the end she figures out a way to escape, even though she was forced into the castle’s dungeon for a period of time. Speaking out against the marriage, and showing that she was not the dainty little girl the palace wanted her to be was what got her into trouble, but that didn’t stop her from removing herself from a dangerous situation, one that made her feel threatened and uncomfortable. She ran, all the way to the edge of the kingdom where the refugees of the war were staying, and she made herself into a woman of knowledge and skill. It was hard work, maybe even harder than what she had to go through growing up, but she loved it. She excelled at it, and it fulfilled her life in ways that she didn’t even dream of. She made her own destiny into one that she could have never had if she went through with her marriage to the prince, and even though she could probably never go back to that part of the kingdom, she was better off for it.
I felt like this book was pretty interesting, even though it was short to me and ended somewhat abruptly. It really changes the preconception of the Cinderella story, the one that little girls are used to seeing from Disney. There is so much more to this book than what Disney showed us, and in its own little way, they flip the well known story on its head and change the way we see Cinderella. She changes from this girl who had a fairy godmother and talking mice helping her to become a princess to an assertive, no-nonsense teenager that would rather watch a jousting tournament than be inside stitching a new dress. This is a good introduction into the world of female protagonists who just don’t like being told what to do, and I feel she has the potential to join the ranks of my favorites, like Rose Hathaway and Hermione Granger. Not bad company to keep.
Rated: 4/5 Stars