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.”
“Everything I know about a loving mother, I learned from a tree.”
“That sounds like a tale strange enough to have come from a fairy.”
The idea of visiting fairy tales after their happily ever after is incredibly interesting. I typically enjoy fairy tale retellings. Yet, this isn’t a retelling, it is the happily ever after. Or, in this case, a not so happily ever after. I’ve read this book once before, back around the time it came out, and have been meaning to get back to the series since then. I liked it all those years ago.
I’ve changed as a person since I’ve last read this, and I’m not certain I’m the target audience anymore. I’m not exactly certain who this was written for, reading this, either. This isn’t exactly Disney enough to appeal to disney fans, and it isn’t exactly Grimm, either. This is an almost entirely female cast, and the only males are supporting characters, yet it feels very masculine.
This also presents itself as a serious story, yet it is joking the entire way. It feels masculine half the time because the jokes feel like typical jokes that appeal to young boys. All of the joking feels very out of place, especially when compared to the end of this book. Especially compared to how worried Danielle is about everything. Though, it mostly isn’t Danielle joking around, it is the side characters, it is the world presenting absurd scenarios.
The world contains all of the fairy tales, and fairies. However, it also adds things, like demons, and other random things. It distorts other things enough that you recognise them, but it feels ridiculous, like the drunk dwarf who they find in a pixie bar hitting on the pixies. It is interesting, yet at the same time I feel it has stretched itself too far.
Danielle has absolutely zero skills, experiences, or abilities to help this story along. Her only contribution is that she refuses to stay out of it, and it somehow ends up alright in the end. It could have (should have) easily gone the other way had the story not demanded it. The basic principle of the story, that Danielle is even allowed to go running off to Fairytown while pregnant with the heir to the kingdom, while the prince is missing and could be dead? That is completely preposterous, and the entire book I kept thinking that there was no way that could possibly happen.
Danielle’s friends, Snow (White) and Talia (Sleeping Beauty) are very at odds with what you’re expecting going in. Snow is bubbly and an extremely powerful witch. Talia is a hardass weapons master. This is not their first rodeo. Talia doesn’t want Danielle to come, she will just get in the way. Snow doesn’t care because she is bubbly and it spreads to everything. They’re a weird duo, and add in Danielle and it is an extremely odd trio.
Despite how humorous this is, there are signs that this is a serious tale. Like every one of the princesses who are supposed to have their happily ever after, don’t. The fairy tales are wrong. The happy didn’t last. Princesses in a world where magic exists is not a healthy, happy occupation.
The ending manages to pull it off. The last 40% of this book is interesting. It is serious, it is dangerous, it is horrifying. It is so at odds with the first half of the book, because it is such a different tone. If you imagine this happening in the real world, you would feel horrified. It does it well. It will be interesting to see where the story goes from here.
To read more reviews for this series, check out the Princess series page!