Kat is seventeen and raised by a single, working mom. Her typical day comprises of going to school, writing for the school newspaper, focussing on landing college scholarships and taking care of her kid sister in the evenings. She is a bit of a klutz, both in the “tripping over my own feet” way and “tripping over my tongue while talking to hot guys” way. She is also a huge book nerd.
The thing with people who discover their book nerd-iness very early on is that they buy dozens of books pretty much soon after they have figured out how to read. Then they move onto books for “grownups” but the first book haul remains in attics or the highest bookshelves and collects dust till one day your mom calls you and tells you that the books must LEAVE because there are too many and all it does is eats up space. That’s pretty much what happens to Kat when her mom asks her to haul the books downstairs so that they can give it to the yard sale.
So when she sits down and goes through her books, she comes across an old battered copy of Cinderella. When she accidentally drops it, the pages fall apart. As she gets up and climbs down the stairs, she trips and becomes unconscious. When she gets up, she finds herself in strange, but familiar surroundings. She can’t quite point out what is familiar, till a levitating, ghost-like goblin Krev appears and informs her that the Cinderella copy was actually created by his goblin king, and as a punishment for the book falling apart, the king has cursed her to inhabit the Cinderella tale as one of the stepsisters. Her only chance of escaping the Story World is finishing the story, by finding Cinderella, and getting her married to the Prince with the wedding bells ringing in the background. But how? Where is the fairy godmother to transform a pumpkin into a coach and mice into coachmen? How is she going to stop her insufferable but gorgeous Story sister from courting the Prince? And most importantly, how is she going to make the Prince and Cinderella fall in love with each other?
The best thing about connecting with bloggers is having book recommendations fill your reader or twitter timeline. I saw this book mentioned quite a few times but the review that really got me interested was the one in Cheryl’s blog here. I had vaguely heard about fairy retellings but to be honest I seriously had no idea it was a genre by itself. I am quite glad I picked up this book as my first fairy retelling read. It was fun, quite creative, and magical without relying too much on literal magic. Kat had this feisty, stubborn streak which I think everyone do have to some extent. Just that it stays latent until you are pushed to a corner and then have no option but to be gutsy and not think of consequences. And that is what happens with Kat. If she wants to see her real mom and sister again, she has to adapt to the world she has accidentally entered into.
Nothing goes right for Kat in the Story World. As the Story progresses, she finds it hard to make things happen as she remembers from the book she has read. She slowly starts noticing the “not so fairytale-like” aspects of the world, such as kids as young as five years old working 14 hour shifts in factories and girls expected to attract wealthy men in soirees and parties before they turn twenty-one. For a book-within-a-book that is supposed to be a well-known magical fairytale, there is actually very little “magic” as such. (And well, Cinderella wasn’t really about sorcerers waving wands throughout the tale, so…). The tale is more reminiscent of historical fiction – a world where there are estates owned by Earls, and Princes throwing ballroom parties to announce their brides. I enjoyed reading about and grew fond of everyone, even if half of them are your generic clichés such as rich, spoilt girls who are look like born supermodels, handsome wealthy aristocrats, callous employers and good-hearted poor maids. In a weird way, it kind of just fit, and didn’t seem like something negative. Maybe it is because it is supposed to be a Story World of a very well-known children’s tale. And plus, I liked that the author sort of even acknowledged that she is using well-known tropes through quotes like this:
“Honestly, we’ve met coincidentally so many times that it feels like I’m in a badly written novel. Oh, wait, I actually am”
There are more such quotes sprinkled throughout the book which made even some done-to-death scenarios interesting to read. And all the book and movie references that Kat makes in her head (probably to keep herself from going insane), Harry Potter, LoTR, Narnia, Inception .. did make me smile. Harry Potter was a bit overdone though. The book has everything in phases, a lot of carefree moments, tinge of sadness, couples falling in love, couples with unfinished love stories, divide between rich and poor, some good men and women, and some others who are never going to change. I also liked how “living through” the story made Kat more self-assured and confident about certain things.
There were a few things that I felt could have been presented better. I just thought that the magic bit was too conveniently and suddenly introduced to make things fall in place for Kat in the end. It would have been easier to “believe” it if the magic was actually established and dwelled upon with more details. I guess what I mean to say is, that bit was never really fleshed out well. In fact, the main reason for Kat “falling into” this world itself was sort of flimsy – dropping an old book. Another thing that I found hard to fathom is when Kat, owing to certain circumstances, has to reveal her secret to some people as the Story progresses. And the characters easily believe that they are not “real” but a part of a book. A more normal reaction would have been to think Kat is off her rocker. And it is funny how you view something differently if you are in someone else’s shoes. I mean, for the Story world people, their world is the “real” one and Kat feels otherworldly.
I hope this long review didn’t end up being too spoiler-y. If you want to try a fairy retelling, this is a really good book to start with. It is light-hearted without being frivolous and has a sprightly protagonist to root for.