Jvstin, March 12, 2010 (view all comments by Jvstin)
Jim Hines' The Stepsister Scheme is the first in a series of two (and at least a third in the pipeline books) that reimagine Fairy Tale princesses as more proactive heroines that are in no need of rescuing.
Or, to put it more flippantly, Disney Princesses meet Charlie's Angels.
The Stepsister Scheme introduces us to Danielle Whiteshore, Cinderella herself, newly married to Prince Armand (aka Prince Charming). Her new happy life as a Princess (and expecting a baby, no less) is short-lived, as her stepsisters, with unexpected abilities, kidnap Prince Armand for reasons unknown.
Fortunately for Danielle, that serving girl Talia is secretly working for the Queen, and is a Princess herself, better known in the stories as Sleeping Beauty. Even better, she is awfully good with weapons. And it turns out that the Queen has another Princess in her service, a certain dark haired Princess named Snow White. She has arcane powers, especially with mirrors.
Although Danielle cannot seemingly compete with this duo, she manages to get herself into their company on their mission to rescue Armand and figure out who or what is backing Danielle's stepsisters in this powerplay. Danielle proves to have powers and talents of her own, and takes possession of a weapon blessed by her mother, unusable by any save her. And thus, these three Princesses, armed and ready, set off to save a Prince.
The book is first and foremost a light, funny and fluffy take on the idea of Disney Princesses, turning them into action heroines. it is entertaining on that level alone, but the book does go further, giving interesting speculations on the nature of faeries, reinterpreting the fairy tales the Princesses spring from, and more. There is even a bit of unexpected and tragically unrequited love (that actually is important as a plot point).
Hines has clearly learned from his previous writing to make a readable and entertaining novel, whose sequels I definitely will seek out.
JCBunnell, January 17, 2009 (view all comments by JCBunnell)
Updated fairy tales are thick on the ground these days, but Hines' approach is distinctive. The humor isn't overly slapstick, the tone isn't overly modernized, and while there's a definite "Xena: Warrior Princess" cast to the action, there's also an emotional depth to the characters, heroines and villains alike, that one rarely sees in this corner of the fantasy spectrum. Put it this way: if Hollywood gets hold of this -- and the script sticks to the spirit of the book -- A-list actresses will be after these parts as much for the character moments as for the big-budget action scenes. (We can only hope....)
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