There’s something nice about using classic characters as protagonists in your own books. Here Jim C. Hines uses Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and, of course, Cinderella, to create a fun caper with the wicked step-sisters as the antagonists. By using the classics, though, he automatically sets up expectations in our minds and so when he confounds those expectations, we’re doubly surprised.
Truth be told, this could go horribly wrong, too. It’s a fine line he’s walking when he gives us a well known and well loved character and has her behave in a way which we might not appreciate in light of our own personal history with her. This is why this is such a delightful book in that regard. Hines’ has a very light touch. In this way, he lets us discover the new nuances of the characters while easing us out of our already in place beliefs.
The flip side, though, is that the plot itself is a little light as well. There’s not much in the way of real danger or threat to our princesses so we’re never really worried about their coming out okay (there IS one section where Sleeping Beauty has to face a personal demon and her doing the right thing is briefly in question, but only in hindsight – by the time we find out about her crossroads, she’s already made the correct choice and has returned to do what she was in danger of not doing to begin with).
Ultimately, this feels like exactly what it is, the first book of a series. We get all the set-up and very little pay off for it. I assume that will come with the next books, which I’ll get to eventually. For now, I’ll enjoy this one for what it is, and I’ll recommend it to the YA readers who are tired of the dystopian heroines who are all the rage at the moment and would rather read about some kick-ass princesses who don’t need a prince to make sure they live happily ever after.