It’s 200 years since Cinderella found her prince, but the fairytale is over.
Sophia knows the story though, off by heart. Because every girl has to recite it daily, from when she’s tiny until the night she’s sent to the royal ball for choosing. And every girl knows that she has only one chance. For the lives of those not chosen by a man at the ball are forfeit.
But Sophia doesn’t want to be chosen – she’s in love with her best friend, Erin, and hates the idea of being traded like cattle. And when Sophia’s night at the ball goes horribly wrong, she must run for her life. Alone and terrified, she finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s tomb. And there she meets someone who will show her that she has the power to remake her world.
I think there’s always an added pressure when authors decide to do retellings of famous books, fairy-tales or legends. Especially, famous fairy-tales such as Cinderella. A Disney favourite. We all grew up watching this Disney fairy-tale and whether we realise it or not it’s upheld on a pedestal.
I’ve begun to question why it’s on this pedestal. We all knew growing up that Cinderella’s dress had to be blue and she had long blonde hair. You couldn’t change those facts. If you were handed a picture of Cinderella it never occurred to you to make her hair black and her dress green. Even modernised reboots of the fairy-tale had blonde characters playing Cinderella and Prince Mason.
She became an untouchable fairy-tale alongside many others.
Now, I’m not sure what changed. Maybe it’s the push for more diversity and a better reflection of the multi-cultural society that we live in today.
But I love when people take the rigidity, uniformity and lack of diversity of these fairy-tales and adapt them to fit whatever truth they are trying to tell.
Kalynn Bayron took this fairy-tale and manipulated to reveal themes of patriarchy, magic and love. But most importantly, she twisted it to emphasise that you should be your own hero.
This has always been my issue with Disney’s fairy-tales. Don’t get me wrong, I love them. I’m sucker for a good romance. But this perpetuated lie that women have to be weak in order to have a man fall in love with them is old. It’s a washed up, old-fashioned tale that encourages women to focus on just their looks. Especially the older fairy-tales such as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.
I loved how Bayron took a strong-minded Black female protagonist to question the patriarchal societies and the lies that come with it. It was unique and I’ve honestly never read a retelling quite like it. Also, this front cover is everything. I’ve noticed that especially with Young Adult novels there’s a new emerging trend within publishing where they are pushing to have young Black girls on the front cover. I can’t express how much this warms my heart. This is what teenage me needed.
But back to the story inside, at times some of the characters felt a bit flat especially, Erin and Liv’s Parents. I wondered if the novel was a bit rushed at times because the storyline definitely could have been fleshed out a teeny bit more. I found myself questioning whether the author meant to write the novel like this. There wasn’t enough of each character and it seemed a bit ‘too good to be true’. Then again, perhaps it falls into the ‘happily ever after’ narrative of fairy-tales.
However, the premise of the novel was beautiful. In this setting, women aren’t given the chance to make their own choices. The purpose is to be a wife for a man and that’s all their life amounts to. The Cinderella tale is worshipped as the reason for this giving it almost a religious hierarchal value.
Sophia, our protagonist, began to question it. She wanted to make her own decisions and she wasn’t about to stop regardless of who stopped her. I loved how she used her voice as her weapon. It didn’t matter what anybody said to her or could do to her. She wasn’t going to give up her own dreams.
“You may rule this land…But you do NOT rule me.” – p.g. 356
At times, it made me regard how we view change and that sometimes we can let our fear of change stop us from seeking equality. It can range from not telling a friend how they’ve hurt us because we fear it may change a friendship we’ve come to love. Or we’re fearful of starting a work project from scratch simply because our ideas may fail. We’re all fearful of something at least one point in our life. We’re fearful of change, failure and of course, of being different. Fear is the driving force of injustice and I think that’s what stood out to me the most with this novel. Everyone who was living under the rule of the King was fearful of something, which allowed the patriarchal society to thrive. That was until Sophia decided that her dreams were bigger than her fears. She was going to seek change for everyone, even for those who feared what she represented.
I adored Constance though. She was a character that I felt Kalynn Bayron wrote really well. You couldn’t help but root for her because of how well rounded she was. She helped Sophia grow as a person and I think it was here that I realised that she encouraged Sophia to be her own hero.
Kalynn Bayron used Sophia to speak to her readers.
She was saying stop waiting for something to happen to change your fate or destiny. Step up because you have the power to do so. Change your situation if you’re unhappy (as difficult as it may be during lockdown).
SO ignore what Disney has been teaching us our whole lives. You don’t have to spend your whole life waiting for someone coming to rescue you.
You have more power than you give yourself credit.
Be your own hero.
Demetria Packwood says
I loved this book!! I have the hard back edition so the cover is different but this cover is so pretty!
Ooo the hardback is just as pretty if I remember correctly! I highly recommend This Poison Heart too!