Thanks to Bloomsbury and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.
Warning – mild spoilers in review.
This story takes place 200 years after the original Cinderella story or rather, what we think of as the Cinderella story. This book, however, is a reimagining rather than a retelling. In this world, young girls must attend a ball to be “chosen” by men as future wives. This ball is mandated by the crown and non-attendance is punished by death.
The main character, Sophia, is due to attend her first ball. As a young, gay, black woman, the ball holds nothing but danger for her and her girlfriend Erin. Erin is willing to submit to her fate, but Sophia is not and looks for ways to escape what her parents and society at large have planned for her. I thought the ball was an interesting story technique and although it could have been cheesy and crap a la The Selection, it actually worked.
As a character, Sophia is headstrong and more than a little fiery, but it might have been interesting to delve into some of the consequences of her actions. Some of the choices she makes are downright dangerous for those she professes to care for. Everything she does is framed as amazing and righteous and those characters who were (understandably) more who were portrayed as weak and pathetic. In a truly tyrannical society choices are not so black and white. She is a fun character, but I felt she lacked complexity.
This book also suffers from everyone’s favourite YA trope – Insta-Love. It’s always hard to swallow the “woe is me, why can’t I and my true love be together” aspect of someone’s story when they start drooling over someone else almost immediately. I know this is par for the course in YA but it is still a bit tedious to see it rearing its head over and over again.
The antagonist is also comically terrible and one dimensional. I do not need my villains to be tortured souls who are good at heart but some kind of personality is required. Unfortunately, there was none to be found here. The ending was also a complete hot mess.
The character dialogue also seemed quite banal and the place names were kinda corny – “Mersailles” *shudder*.
Despite the aspects I did not enjoy, this was overall a fun read that kept me engaged to the end. I read it on the wettest, most miserable camping trip in human history and it cheered me up so I’m happy to forgive the not so good parts, but others might not.
I am not going to comment in-depth on how good the LGBT and PoC representation is because I am not a member of those communities, but I liked how unapologetically gay Sophia was. There wasn’t any angst about her sexual identity despite living in a society that condemns her and there wasn’t any will she/won’t she with any male characters which there often is, so that was refreshing!