Monday, December 9, 2013

Book Review: The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines

I like a good fairytale mashup, and this one is very good. Hines goes back and draws on the Grimm version of the fairy tales, complete with the stepsisters cutting off parts of their feet to fit the shoe and the birds attacking at the wedding, and updates and blends them together to tell a new tale of intrigue and romance.

Cinderella has already won her prince. She is ready for a happy ending, and the marriage is happy. Adjusting to palace life, however, is proving challenging; she keeps having to repress the urge to clean things and having people remind her that she is supposed to be the one in charge is difficult. Then her stepsisters kidnap her husband and smuggle him over the border to fairyland. Now, she has to team up with Talia (Sleeping Beauty) and Snow (White) to get him back, battling magic, trolls, evil shadows, and political schemes along the way. She has to learn how to be in charge, how to handle a sword, and, hardest of all, when to be nice and when to go for the kill.

I picked up The Stepsister Scheme because I liked the title, and it proved a good call. The book is like its title: A little offbeat and fun. It's got some spy stuff, some neat fairy tale twists, some spunky princesses, a prince worth rescuing, and a complicated and interesting fairyland.

I've read the "innocent expecting a happily ever after learns its not that easy" before, and it's not my favorite plot, but there is enough else going on here to keep things new. Also, while Danielle has to learn to be a little more cynical, she helps Talia learn to be a little less so, so there's some balance there. Do be aware that, though I persist in describing this book as "fun" that doesn't mean it doesn't go some dark places. The story of Snow and her mother, in particular, is quite nasty and there are parallels there with Cinderella's stepmother. Hines is using the early Grimm stories as the basis for his tales and, as many people lately have been saying, these were not always "nice" or "pretty" in their details.

Verdict: Not up there on the "must hand it to everyone I know" level, but certainly on the "I want to read the sequels" list.

Other Reviews
Fantasy Book Critic
The Mad Hatter's Bookshelf and Book Review
The Good, the Bad, and the Unread

Jim C. Hines' web page
@jimchines on Twitter

The Stepsister Scheme on Amazon.

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