Review: Cinders, Stars, and Glass Slippers

I don't enjoy writing negative reviews, which is why I put this one off for about a month. I've read quite a few books by Brittany Fichter, so I'm used to her stories being dark and religious without even a hint of comic relief. In the case of the Autumn Fairy trilogy and Clara's Soldier, the melancholy thematic elements are often redeemed by touching star-crossed romances that overcome all obstacles. That was not the case for Cinders, Stars, and Glass Slippers, the sixth book in her Classical Kingdoms anthology. Whenever I read a new take on "Cinderella," it feels as though someone is trying to reinvent the wheel. It's a simple fairy tale with a simple message that doesn't always work under the scrutiny of modern feminists. Yes, Gail Carson Levine did it right with Ella Enchanted back in 1998, but even that was turned into an overly complicated movie in 2004 that made a mockery of her simplistic story-telling techniques. Anyway, let's get back to this book.


Cinders, Stars, and Glass Slippers takes place in Brittany Fichter's Classical Kingdoms universe where many famous fairy tale characters live. It takes place after the events Silent Mermaid, her adaptation of "The Little Mermaid," which I did not particularly enjoy as a retelling of my favorite fairy tale. This version of "Cinderella" names the titular character Elaina instead of Ella. She gives herself the nickname "Cinderlaina" at a pivotal point in the story, which does not roll off the tongue nearly as well as "Cinderella." Elaina is not an orphan but instead the daughter of an admiral on a ship. She grew up climbing sails and charting stars with a lot more freedom than other ladies from her era. Her lack of a ladylike upbringing and competitive nature are what attract Prince Nicholas to her. Their relationship bothered me because it felt very one-sided for the majority of the book. I didn't find myself wanting Elaina to end up with him because I never got the impression that was what she wanted.

The thing that bothered me the most about this book was the development of the world where it took place. Brittany Fichter has a tendency to dive into elaborate fantasy worlds without any explanation of the rules or magic work. For me, this was the biggest detriment to her "Frog Prince" adaptation, The Green-Eyed Prince. Cinders, Stars, and Glass Slippers takes place in a world that is very reminiscent of Marvel's X-Men in which random people are gifted with supernatural abilities at birth and hunted down by the government. This would have made for a story if we actually got to see any of these abilities in practice instead of just hearing about them. Elaina's ability, in particular, was so mediocre that it took me half the book just to figure out what it was. She has the ability to talk to stars. It was useful to her on her father's ship because it would help her father navigate and warn them of incoming storms, but the instances in the book where she uses this ability seem completely arbitrary. The stars give her nothing but vague fortune cookie proverbs that made me wonder why the villain would want her for such a useless ability.

The second half of the book sees Elaina kidnapped and forced into slavery, which is where Fichter's version of the "wicked stepmother" character comes into play. Prince Nicholas makes it his mission to rescue her from this life, which would have been a terrific update to the "Cinderella" story if she had been stuck in that situation for longer than she actually was. Elaina was tormented for such a short time that I couldn't feel sorry for her in the same way that I do for the original Ella, who was abused for most of her childhood by the only family she had. Cinders, Stars, and Glass Slippers had so much wasted potential. The dry narrative and static characters made it nearly impossible to connect with emotionally. I thought Elaina's ability to talk to the stars might play into the Grimm version of the fairy tale in which Ella prays at her mother's grave for a ballgown and slippers to rain down on her so she could go to the ball, but instead the "Fairy Godmother" character turned out to be an ordinary woman introduced later in the story who was not nearly as interesting or magical.

I wanted to enjoy this book, but there was so little in it for me to connect with. Elaina's supernatural ability was vague and unimpressive in the grand scheme of things. I didn't feel like she loved Prince Nicholas and only needed him to help her escape the life she was kidnapped into. The narration was dry and static and never took the time to fully immerse the reader in what could have been a fascinating world full of people with miraculous abilities. If you are a fan of the original "Cinderella," I am sorry to say that I would not recommend this book as an alternate version.

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