Title: Cinderella is Dead
Author: Kalynn Bayron
Genre: YA Fantasy
Length: 400 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Release Date: July 7, 2020
Setting: Lille, Mersailles
Physical Abuse, Violence, Death, Misogyny, Witchcraft, Public Execution, Homophobia
Black, Gay & Lesbian
Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to Netgalley and Bloomsburg YA for this free copy. All quotes in this review are taken from the Advanced Reader Copy and may change in final publication.
I literally sacrificed my sleep and my head to finish this book around 2am because I was so curious to know how it would end. And then the TWIST at the end literally killed me so here is my review that may or may not make any sense because I’m still trying to process what the heck just happened.
Who else was reminded about The Cheetah Girls song Cinderella? I know I was! Disclaimer: I totally performed this song with my cousin back in middle school for a talent show and we freaking KILLED this. Just saying.
So… this isn’t really a Cinderella story in the traditional sense, but it is based on the story of Cinderella. Like the title says, Cinderella is dead. She has been dead for 200 years by the time the events of this book take place. The story of Cinderella was recorded for posterity and the kingdom of Lille and Mersailles has their laws based on the story of Cinderella – the Palace Approved version mind you – and that is why there is an Annual Ball that allows the eligible girls in Lille to find a husband. But that’s only if they are selected by the suitors that are attending the Ball.
They have three chances to attend the Ball. Usually, if they don’t get selected during their first Ball, it’s very rare that they would get picked in their last two chances. And if they don’t get picked, or something else happens, they are considered “forfeit” and they are never seen again. Of course, only the girls have this fear although there have been some boys that have been forfeit for other reasons, but boys are not required to attend a Ball unless they want to.
In addition, a lot of the men in Lille treat women like property so there’s a lot of cases of spousal abuse and wives having some sort of “accident” so that the husband can find another wife… it’s just terrible to be a woman in Lille. And that’s why Sophia – our main character and the beautiful girl on the cover – wants that to change. Well, there’s another reason too and that’s because she loves her best friend Erin, who is a girl. Since Lille doesn’t allow anyone to really marry out of love, and they pretty much punish anyone who is in the LGBTQIA+ community, they have to hide themselves and conform to the rules, even if it means they are unhappy for the rest of their lives.
Is this really what Cinderella meant when she said she wanted every girl to have her happily ever after? I doubt it.
Luckily Sophia is able to escape the terror that is her first Ball, and ends up running into a mysterious teenage girl named Constance in Cinderella’s tomb, and things start to get really interesting from there.
First of all, I just have to say that I love the relationship that develops between Sophia and Constance. Even though Sophia had a totally different upbringing than Constance, and even though there are things that Constance couldn’t even dream about that Sophia had to go through, they are still able to understand one another and work well together. It’s hard to develop some sort of partnership with someone that you just met, and especially since they have this huge goal of bringing down the patriarchy by getting rid of the King. It’s not like that’s a super easy task or anything, ya feel?
Second of all, wow this book just really took the whole Cinderella story and flipped it on its head. Which I freaking loved so much because I loved seeing the Cinderella fairy tale being explored in a way that wasn’t thought of before. It also made me think about whether or not other fairy tales should be looked at in a different way. I was just so intrigued with this.
And ugh I’m just so freaking angry with Erin. I just have to say that. And if you read it, you’ll see why.
I am so glad that this book is coming out in the world, and I am so freaking glad that I had the opportunity to read this. Bayron said that she wanted to write this book to see Black girls in ball gowns being the heroes in their own stories, and that’s exactly what I felt in this novel. And I am so glad that this book is here because I know there are other Black girls like me that have been dying to see us portrayed as both soft and capable of saving ourselves. Sophia embodied both, and I loved it so much.
So thank you, Kalynn Bayron for not giving up on this story.