Cinderella is dead by Kalynn Bayron
Bloomsbury, 2020. ISBN: 9781526621979.
Cinderella is dead by Kalynn Bayron is a fairy-tale rewriting with an evil Prince, beautiful descendants of ugly stepsisters, and a protagonist that is as unlike Cinderella as you can get. The story is based several hundred years after Cinderella's death, in which Cinderella has become legend, and every girl in the kingdom tries to recreate her fairy-tale - literally. Once of age, every girl in the kingdom attends a ball to find a suitor. Upon attending three balls without being chosen, girls are never seen again. That is - if women are unable to live their lives to the standard of a perfect princess, they are deemed unworthy. The obsession surrounding a princess who died centuries ago is as haunting as it is intriguing, and the Cinderella tale is told multiple times throughout the novel, the focus and facts shifting and changing. This doesn't just leave the reader with the question, 'what really happened to Cinderella?', but also, 'why does this fairy-tale matter so much?'
This re-working of Cinderella throughout demonstrates the impact of fairytales on collective conscience, particularly the impact of those left out of fairytales, such as queer women, women of colour, or both, as in the case of the protagonist. Bayron's passion on this topic shines through the book.
While occasionally, characters fall into archetypes, more often, these archetypes are broken. The Fairy Godmother, in particular, is intriguing, and Sophia's passion in creating a better world is perfect to fuel the story. The relationships within the story, whether they be platonic, familial, or romantic, were another driving force. Sophia's relationship with Candance is at times hesitant, and at times ardent, perfectly encapsulating queer relationships in a world in which this is not the norm. The #OwnVoices element of Sophia's character makes her experiences realistic and authentic, in the best ways possible.
Ultimately, Cinderella is dead is definitely one of the most successful debuts of 2020 so far. While it's not perfect, it's fast-paced, action packed, and passionate. Bayron creates a world that is both horrific, and horrifically similar to our own. It is the hope that the characters cling onto throughout the entirety of the novel, the hope that things will change, because they must, that makes this novel so powerful.
Sara Peak (Student)