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Book Cover Liviania’s review of The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines
Fantasy fiction released by DAW 6 Jan 09

I am a fairytale kind of girl, which I’ve mentioned on my own blog.  I grew up reading fairytales and now I love finding modern rewrites.  Jim C. Hines takes it from the end of Cinderella, in a world where the stepsisters have not taken their defeat lying down.  Cinderella teams up with Sleeping Beauty and Snow White to rescue her prince from their clutches.  Hines manages to spin a new and interesting tale while retaining the classic fairytale format.

To be honest, I kept thinking of this book in my Folklore class instead of keeping my mind on the first phase of the Tuscan veglia.  The first part of a fairytale is separation.  In this case, the heroine Danielle (Cinderella) is already feeling uncomfortable in her new life.  But when her stepsister kidnaps Armand she must leave it to find him.  Despite the fact she lives in a society with magic, she’s stunned to find a new dimension to her reality – Sleeping Beauty (Talia) and Snow White exist, even though the tales get some things wrong.  (Hines harkens back to the darker versions of the stories.  For example, the Queen is Snow’s mother, not her stepmother.)

Next comes the liminality, where the heroine faces crises.  To rescue Armand the three princesses will have to enter Fairytown and face powerful magic indeed.  Danielle’s stepsisters gained themselves powerful help.  Danielle might have achieved marriage, but she still needs to mature into her new position.  She tends to think like a servant (thinking of how to clean things) instead of like the future queen.  It’s good that Talia and Snow are there to help her learn, because both are confident in their skills.

Finally comes the reincorporation, when the heroine returns to society, but with a different status.  Also known as Happily Ever After.  (Or maybe not, since more books are coming starring the three princesses.)  Unlike fairytales, The Stepsister Scheme might not be all ages appropriate.  There’s quite a bit of sensuality, especially on the part of Snow (or Danielle and Armand when they’re together).  There’s also a brief hint of lesbianism.  Nothing I think anyone should worry about, but just a warning to those who care for some reason.  I think the brief mention of sexual abuse might be more upsetting.

Hines definitely manages to create three strong females.  To me, Snow’s flaws have yet to really play a part but both Talia and Danielle show vulnerabilities that they’re working to overcome.  They aren’t unstoppable forces of nature but three girls learning how to put their gifts to the best possible use.  I liked Talia, the Middle Eastern warrior, and Snow, the witch, as much as Danielle and hope they get their happily ever afters in the future books in the series.

I do wish we could see more of Armand’s personality.  He seems to care about Danielle, but he’s absent for most of the novel.  I suppose it is par for the course for the prince to not be well-developed in fairytales.  Maybe he’ll get his chance to shine in future books too.

Hines plays very well with the fairytale form in his continuation of Cinderella.  There’s humor and action in this fast-paced novel.  There are some heavy points but not enough to make The Stepsister Scheme dark.  Actually, it’s amazing how much heavy subject matter fits into such a light, quick read.

liviania.jpgGrade: B+

What would happen if an author went back to the darker themes of the original fairy tales for his plots, and then crossed the Disney princesses with Charlie’s Angels? What’s delivered is The Stepsister Scheme—a whole new take on what happened to Cinderella and her prince after the wedding. And with Jim C. Hines penning the tale readers can bet it won’t be “and they lived happily ever after.”

Read an excerpt here.