So yeah… I admit I picked up Pinborough’s novellas because they are blissfully short and I wanted to reach my Goodreads reading challenge goal for the year. Call me a cheat, I don’t even care. These stories are awesome and I’m eating them up. I should also warn you: I have done my very best to express myself through words only here, but there comes a point when I find myself needing gifs to help me along. Because reasons!
Published by: Gollancz, 2013
Hardcover: 224 pages
Series: Tales from the Kingdoms #2
My rating: 8,5/10
First sentence: Winter had come early.
Charm is a beautifully illustrated re-telling of the Cinderella story which takes all the much-loved elements of the classic fairytale (the handsome prince, the fairy godmother, the enchanted mouse, the beautiful girl and, of course, the iconic balls) and puts a modern spin on the characters, their motives and their desires. This is fun, contemporary, sexy, and perfect for fans of ONCE UPON A TIME, GRIMM, SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN and more. This edition contains 15 original pen and ink illustrations by Les Edwards
Wishes do come true. As Cinderella wished to go the the ball, fall in love with the prince, and live as his princess in the castle, so did I wish that these fairy tale novellas were connected through more than just their Grimm originals. And they are! Remember that Huntsman from Poison? Or the despicable prince? They’re back.
Charm begins exactly the way you would expect a Cinderella retelling to begin. Cinderella is the poor, common girl doing all the housework while her step-mother and sisters galivant around in pretty dresses. But from the very beginning, this Cinderella felt like a real young woman. She is prone to self-pity (which doesn’t exactly make her likable, but all the more relatable) and she has desires like everybody else. Just because you are degraded to a scullery maid doesn’t mean you wouldn’t like to have sex with handsome men, right?
That said, this story was quite a bit sexier than its predecessor. Cinderella knows exactly what she wants and while she can’t have the prince ravish her in real life, she is an expert in dreaming about him and helping herself… ahem. This isn’t 50 shades of fairy tales (thank the gods!) but there are a handful of scenes that managed to make me blush a little.
Officially, this is a new version of Cinderella, but it is interconnected with so many other fairy tales. That witch in the gingerbread house? Still eating children. Cinderella’s buddy, Buttons? He’s actually Robin Hood. But never mind any of the cameos. This book – like Poison – was all about the Huntsman for me. If I have one weakness when it comes to stories, it’s couples that OBVIOUSLY want to do it but spend all of their time fighting. Call it a kink or whatever, I just can’t resist it. The bickering, the shouting, the slap slap kiss… yep, sign me up, please.
Let me try and regain some semblance of control.
What fairy tales have always done (never mind which version you heard, it’s true for all of them) is tell stories of awful things happening to women and children. Sarah Pinborough still has awful things happen to women and children, but she gives all her characters a personality and, with it, a choice. Cinderella is pigheaded and naive and oblivious to the pain she inflicts on others. She wants to marry the prince because she fell in love with his picture. When she realises that he neither can nor wants to give her what she wants (emotionally and sexually), that irritating brute of a huntsman suddenly doesn’t seem like such a bad choice anymore. And the one thing that sets these novellas apart from other fairy tale retellings? That silly girl actually goes after what she wants!
It’s so refreshing to read about an empowered female. Disney ruined my entire generation with their princesses and how true love just falls into their laps – sometimes literally. Sarah Pinborough’s characters are different. With the possible exception of the prince, everybody is fairly certain of their own needs, and most characters aren’t ashamed to go out and do something about it. And thank you a thousand times for saying it’s okay for a girl to sleep with her friend even if she’s not in love with him!
Now the rambling about sex and relationships is out of the way, let me tell you about the ending. I won’t spoil it (though I desperately want to) but Sarah Pinborough manages to deliver a happily ever after of sorts, despite all the gloom and disappointment I have come to expect. Snow White’s story is resolved in a surprising, yet totally satisfying way. There I was, reading the last pages with my gloomy face on, when suddenly THINGS HAPPEN and characters realize certain truths about themselves, and when I closed the book, gloomy face had turned into silly happy face.
Seeing as I’m already halfway through the third book, you’ll be hearing about Beauty fairly soon. It promises more of the Huntsman, the prince, some Red Riding Hood and Rumpelstiltskin, all mixed in with Sleeping Beauty.
So yes. Read these.
- In Case You Missed it, Sarah Pinborough’s ‘Beauty’ is Now Available (horrornovelreviews.com)
- Review: Poison, By Sarah Pinborough (independent.co.uk)
- Book Review: Charm by Sarah Pinborough (jadecranwell.wordpress.com)
- Poison by Sarah Pinborough (thehorrificallyhorrifyinghorrorblog.com)
- A Snow White tale for Adults: Poison by Sarah Pinborough (lipsyy.wordpress.com)