Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron (Review)

I was twelve when I told my parents I would much rather find a princess than a prince.

I love her, and I know she loves me, but that’s not enough. She will not break the rules even if they require me to deny everything about myself.

This is the kind of book that got added to my physical copies wishlist when I was 15% into the eARC. I already knew by that point that I was going to love it, and I was right. If you love fierce feminist fantasy, you’ll adore this, and if you don’t? Read it anyway, this book is that good!

Rating: 4.5 stars!

Thanks to Bloomsbury YA for the review copy of this book, it hasn’t affected my honest review.

Trigger Warnings: homophobia, disappearances, execution, abuse, misogyny, racism, implied suicide.

The plot:

It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.

Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew . . .

What did I think?

This book blew me away. It was a one sitting marathon kind of book, impossible to put down and leave alone. I stopped long enough to get my lunch, and ate it with one hand while reading with the other. From the start I just adored Sophia. My eARC is 60% highlights, because I love her perspective and the conflict that she went through in the early parts of the book. Lille is a patriarchal, heteronormative society that is entirely defined by the boundaries of the Cinderella story. Girls have three opportunities to be ‘chosen’ by suitors at the annual ball, and if they fail to attract a man, they are ‘forfeit’ and must be surrendered to the castle, never to be seen again. As a lesbian, in love with her best friend, Sophia has exactly no interest in attracting a man. Unfortunately she also has exactly no choice.

I really liked the way that the world-building was done. It didn’t feel like there was an info-dump, but that it was threaded into the story very naturally, considering how much there was to learn about Lille. I never felt confused about what was going on, and I even started to put little clues together and predicted a couple of the plot reveals (though one in particular still totally threw me and made me gasp aloud). This is one of those books that made me feel as fiery with rage as it made me warm with hope as Sophia does her best to fight for what’s right, not just for herself but for all the women in Lille. The ending was perfectly tied up, and managed to heal where the book had just broken my heart in two, leaving me warm and satisfied and immediately wanting to order my own copy of this book!

The writing itself is gorgeous, and I already know I’m going to read literally everything Kalynn Bayron writes, because I wanted to devour the words themselves as well as the story. The way the characters interacted was beautiful, and I loved the complex relationships in the book. Sophia’s relationship with her parents was achy to read, their conflict between love for their daughter and fear of the consequences of helping her rebel made my heart hurt. Sophia and Erin’s relationship was equally impactful, and I felt seen in a lot of quiet, and still a little sore, lesbian ways as I read the early chapters. I wasn’t entirely sold on the main relationship in the book, I didn’t feel like it had that much development and I think I would have liked it even more if Sophia hadn’t fallen in love twice in the span of one book, however I do admit that I am a romance-grouch and that might just be my preferences!

Links:

Add it on Goodreads here!

Buy at Hive if you can and support your local indie booksellers! Also available at Waterstones and Amazon.

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