The Stepsister Scheme
Jim C. Hines, 2009
Premise: Newly-minted Princess Danielle Whiteshore is still adjusting to life at the palace when her stepsister abducts her Prince and tries to kill her. Luckily, Danielle teams up with two other former Princesses, creating a trio of heroines who are determined to rescue her Prince if they have to fight, flirt, bespell and bluff their way through all of Fairytown to do it.
In this world, fairy tales are true, more or less. Danielle de Glas did sneak off to the ball dressed in glass slippers she received from the tree over her mother's grave. She did not arrive there in a transformed pumpkin. Her comrades in arms are Ermillina “Call me Snow” Curtana, and Talia “ask about the fairies again and I'll kill you” Malak-el-Dahshat. One of the more interesting parts of the setting is which aspects of the stories are revealed to be true, which are false, and which are exaggeration or misinterpretation. The girls are partially legend even in that world. Danielle's story, for example, has grown in the telling in her own kingdom.
Each one has powers relating to her origin. Talia (Sleeping Beauty) has used the fairy gift of grace to become a matchless melee fighter, Snow White channels magic through her mirrors, and Danielle can speak to animals. The allusion on the cover to Charlie's Angels is not misplaced. These princesses are not to be trifled with.
They're such fun characters, as well. The 'types' are obvious on the surface, i.e. Talia is the tomboy, Snow the girly girl, Danielle the mediator/leader, but each has secrets, a good heart and motivations complicated enough to be interesting without being too angsty.
It's so nice to read something where I genuinely like all the characters.
It doesn't get bogged down by the problem that sometime plagues Fables: not every minor character has to be a reference. It's a lot lighter in tone, mostly, and I enjoy it more overall.
4 Stars – A Really Good Book
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