It's 200 years since Cinderella found her prince ... but the fairytale is over.
I picked up Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron as a holiday read. I grew up obsessed with Disney and Cinderella was one of the first films I watched. So a book which retold that story drew me in instantly. I ended up reading it in a day, I simply couldn’t (and didn’t want to) put it down! I’ll never look at classic Cinderella in the same way again.
Cinderella is Dead is set 200 years after Cinderella finds her prince at the ball in the kingdom of Mersailles. It is now a legal requirement that every girl knows the Cinderella story off by heart (well the palace approved version). Bayron uses excerpts from the palace appoved text. This text is very similar to the Cinderella story we all know. However, by including it near the beginning Bayron raises suspision that all may not be what is seems with the story.
King Manford is holding a ball to celebrate 200 years since Cinderella met Prince Charming. At the ball, a choosing ceremony takes place, where men choose their wives. We meet our heroine Sophia a few days before this ball. Unlike other girls in Mersailles Sophia vocalises her hatred of the ritual “choosing” which happens at the ball. In a similar way to Cinderella men use the ball to choose a wife. Only now, women have no say in their future.
Sophia doesn’t want to be picked by a man, all she wants is to run away with her girlfriend Erin. Missing the ball will result in punishment for the girls and their families, therefore Erin refuses to leave
Bayron’s depiction of a same-sex couple is refreshing. They are simply portrayed as being in a loving, equal relationship.
The main storyline begins after a series of events at the choosing ceremony forces Sophia to run away. Whilst on the run she meets the enchanting Constance. She is a descendant of Gabrielle, one of the supposed wicked stepsisters. Constance reveals that the stepmother and sisters were not wicked, in fact the stepmother (Lady Davis) cared for Cinderella like she was her own after her parents suspicious death.
Whilst I LOVE the deviation from the original Cinderella story which pits women against each other and has them compete for the affection of a man (really, what sort of lesson does that teach young boys and girls) I do wish that the reveal was a bit more exciting, instead of having Constance just tell Sophia the true story.
There are other instances in the book where the reader simply is told what Sophia and Constance are doing, which does little to build any form of tension or suspense. At times it can be a bit repetitive – however I really love the storyline, and as the book develops the writing becomes richer so I wasn’t overly bothered by the repetitive parts,
Constance and Sophia team up to destroy King Manford. The first part of their plan is to hunt down the Fairy Godmother, the last person who saw Cinderella before she left for the ball. The Fairy Godmother is a far cry from usual portrayal of the loving guardian. She is untrustworthy and manipulative. Yet she does agree to help Sophia and Constance end King Manford’s reign of terror.
As they go on their journey the attraction between Sophia and Constance grows deeper and stronger. It’s amazing to see a same-sex women relationship be given centre-stage. Not only that they are allowed to develop at their own pace and have their own identity outside their romance. Neither of them is forced into a “masculine role” and it’s refreshing to read.
I love Cinderella is Dead. It gave me everything I didn’t know I wanted from the classic story: two badass girls taking down the patriarchy and falling in love whilst doing it.
Words by Orla McAndrew
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