Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

2.5 / 5 stars
Read in July 2020
Published July 7, 2020

While I was excited about the premise of this book, unfortunately it did not deliver. I loved the representation of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ characters, as this is incredibly important and something we need to continue normalizing and supporting in YA. However, from a story and writing perspective, this book totally flopped for me.

*Although I try to keep most of my reviews spoiler-free, this one will have some light spoilers. Continue at your own discretion if you have not read this book.*

Sophia is another rebellious YA heroine whose reasons for wanting to dismantle a 200-year-old political system never truly go beyond surface level. We are told her grandmother taught her the king was bad, we are told she loves Erin and would do anything so they could have a life together, but we are never really shown this burning hatred to make it believable. Sophia is rash, talks back to everyone, and is determined to bring down the king without any semblance of a plan. More often than not, I was questioning her actions rather than rooting for her.

Her romance with Constance, while having its cute moments, was very rushed and could have been better developed. Sophia quickly forgets Erin, one of the two loosely established reasons for her rebellious actions, and falls head-over-heels for the fiery Constance. I would’ve liked to see more sparks and yearning between them as we see Sophia realize Constance, and not Erin, is the one she’s supposed to love.

This book is also filled with underused side characters who had so much potential. While I could write an entire paragraph on any one of them, I want to primarily talk about Luke. From the moment he’s introduced, one would think he was going to have a major role in this story:

(*spoiler*)

What I wanted: Luke to marry Sophia, and they use their sham marriage as a front to recruit a crew of queer rebels to take down the sexist, bigoted king.

What I got: at the beginning of the book, Luke is arrested at the ball and then doesn’t appear again until the very end.

Even if Sophia didn’t marry Luke as I hoped, he was one of several interesting side characters who could have been better integrated into the story.

(*end spoiler*)

The SuperEvil™ king was a bit of a caricature, and I didn’t quite understand or buy his motives. The system for choosing his successor made no sense, both before and after the plot twist.

Another major let-down for me in this book was the worldbuilding. The magic system and connections to Cinderella’s tale could have been more deeply explored or better woven into the story. There were some nice touches, such as stores selling knock-off Fairy Godmother potions or girls desiring expensive glass slippers for the ball, but otherwise it seemed the magical elements were only developed when they were important to the plot.

Now, please bear with me for a bit of Francophile nitpicking. The version of Cinderella used in this book can be traced to the French fairy tale. While many place names in this book are clearly French-inspired – Mersailles, Lille, Chione – the author does not stick with this French theme throughout the story. Although a few characters have French names (Édouard, Gabrielle, even Constance. Also Émile, though this is traditionally a man’s name), most of the characters do not. Erin? Liv? Manford? Isla? Morgan? Not to mention Sophia and Luke, who easily could have been Sophie and Luc. For worldbuilding and consistency’s sake, I wish the author would have committed one way or the other because the inconsistencies were distracting.

As I mentioned, the only reason I can really recommend this book is for the inclusive representation. It’s an easy enough read with a fun twist on the classic fairytale and important elements of girls overthrowing the patriarchy. However, the unfulfilling execution of its promising premise left a lot to be desired

Thank you to Bloomsbury YA via Netgalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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