I started out with the fourth (and final?) Tiffany Aching novel, I Shall Wear Midnight, by Terry Pratchett. I mentioned how much I liked this series in my last recommended reading post, so believe me when I say I was shocked - SHOCKED - by how much I disliked this book. At the halfway point I even put it down in disgust, but then soldiered on through sheer determination.
I prefer writing long reviews for books I actually like, so suffice to say the story made me too angry for too long. I just can't handle constant bullying and degradation of a main character. It's fine for establishing a villain or moving the story forward, but in this one it just ground on and on until I wanted to scream in frustration. (Imagine Delores Umbridge bullying Harry for twenty chapters straight.) It only let up sometime *after* the book's halfway point, and then the story's resolution was far too weak to make up for all the grief. (Plus it was jarring to have gritty issues like child abuse and pre-teen pregnancy make up such a large portion of the plot.)
To be fair, I know I internalize fiction too much, and I have a hard time with most dramas because of that. (There's a reason I read mostly YA fantasy, after all.) So I guess I just prefer the lighter, quirkier, and younger Tiffany Aching.
After dragging myself through the ending of I Shall Wear Midnight, I was desperate for something - anything - to cleanse my mind palate, as it were. Next on my Kindle was The Stepsister Scheme, a title recommended by you readers:
(This is the first time I've seen the cover art, and I have to say I'm glad I didn't see it before reading the book. Yech. Trust me, this cover does NOT do the story justice.)
This book was a veritable breath of fresh air, and I was drawn in by the first chapter. I love stories that incorporate and twist around classic fairy tales, so it was a delight to have the opening pages be from Cinderella's perspective just after her marriage to the prince.
Of course, very soon after all hell breaks loose, and Cinderella joins forces with two other classic fairy tale princesses to kick some hienies and take some names. It's a rip-roaring adventure story, and yet the princesses have this amazing depth, with unique personalities and painful back stories that eek out bit by bit as the story goes on. I expected fairytale fluff, and got...well, people.
I think it was that darker tinge of past pains that helped balance all the fantasy in the story - and it definitely made the characters more real and relatable. [Note for parents: there's a non-graphic mention of assault.]
There were also unexpected moments of humor - at least one of which made me laugh out loud - and the twists on the classic stories are brilliant, weaving in familiar elements with something wholly creative and fresh. (I won't spoil anything, but I will say I loved the incorporation of Cinderella's mother. Really beautiful story-telling.)
And get this: NO CLIFF-HANGER ENDING! Woohoo!! Bless you, Mr. Hines. Bless you. It's always refreshing to read a book that can hold its own as a stand-alone story.
That said, this is one of Hines' "Princess Novels," and it looks like he takes the same characters into his next fairy tale retelling of The Little Mermaid, The Mermaid's Madness:
(Ok, this cover is better.)
It's going on my Kindle waiting list.
So, to sum up: I loved it. Definitely read The Stepsister Scheme when you can.
By the way, I'm slowly working my way through all the titles you guys have recommended on my previous review posts (like this one). Last time I looked for nearly thirty titles listed in the comments, and of those three were in stock for a digital check-out. (I'm currently on the third: The Iron Thorn.) All that to say, I plan to eventually read pretty much everything you guys have ever recommended; the order I get to them just depends on what's in stock at the time. :)
I really need to compile a master list of titles at some point, too, so that we can all reference it. Hm. Yep. That's going on the "to do" list!