Cinderella is Dead | Kalynn Bayron (ARC Review)

“All fairy tales have some grain of truth. Picking apart that truth from the lies can be tricky, though.”

Cinderella is Dead
Kalynn Bayron
Bloomsbury YA
YA Fairy Tale Retelling
July 2020
ebook, 400 pages
GOODREADS | BOOKSHOP.ORG

What is this book about?
“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 stepsisters. 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…”

This book is for you if you enjoy queer/feminist retellings of fairy tales and fast-paced stories.

Content warnings: homophobia, some graphic depictions of violence, implied domestic violence

Rep: Black sapphic protagonist, sapphic love interest, side Black characters, side gay character

First of all, I love this book. It’s fun, it’s interesting, and it’s sapphic. What more can you ask for?

I want to get the not-so-great stuff out of the way now. The worldbuilding was lacking and the characters could have used more development. While I was totally here for Sophia and Constance’s romantic arc, I can see how it might come off as insta-love. The one-dimensional portrayal of men in this world may be off-putting to some (though I could see what the author was doing and I’m not that mad about it). So it lacked some depth, but in my opinion, the concept and relationship made up for it.

Now that that’s over with: Bayron did some really cool things with this story. Her observations about how girls and women are treated in our world serve as parallels in this semi-dystopian fairy tale society. I also loved how she put her own spin on classic fairy tale elements. The entire time I was reading, I was thinking about Propp’s 31 narratemes and how they function in the story. Also, spoiler alert: casting Cinderella and her step-family as badasses in training to take down an evil, misogynistic king? Iconic.

Sophia is steadfast in her principles. She won’t allow anyone to tell her how to live her life, especially when it’s not authentic to her true self. Her tenacity is what allows her to complete her personal mission, in the end. And we can’t forget our equally headstrong love interest, Constance. Constance is kind of amazing?? She has a dagger and knows how to use it. I need not say more.

Cinderella is Dead is bursting with important feminist messages, but it never feels like it’s trying to hit you over the head. It’s fast-paced (for the most part) and with everything going on, this is a hard book to set down.

Overall… The characters and the story combine to make an enjoyable, quick read. Cinderella is Dead is a fun, feminist, subversive fairy tale retelling with a protagonist of color and a happy sapphic ending.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate of Bookshop.org and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Thank you to Bloomsbury YA and NetGalley for providing a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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