*Warning: This review contains spoilers.
Cinder and Glass is Blue Bloods author Melissa de la Cruz’s rendition of the classic fairytale Cinderella. In this version, the reader is transplanted to Versailles during the seventeenth century and Cinderella is named Cendrillion, in keeping with the French version of the Charles Perrault tale.
As far as plot goes, it’s much like the original Cinderella. Cendrillon de Louvois is the noblewoman daughter of a marquis who marries an evil stepmother, Lady Catherine, who schemes her way into marrying Cendrillon’s father and having her two daughters, Alexandre and Severine, take much of what was supposed to be Cendrillon’s.
Despite her stepmother’s attempts to prevent Cendrillon from attending the royal ball, Cendrillon manages with the help of her godmother (no fairies here) Lady Françoise. At the ball, Cendrillon is noticed by the dauphin Louis (essentially the prince in this story). She’s then selected as one of the twenty-five contestants in the competition to become the dauphin’s bride. Even as Cendrillon goes on dates with Louis, she wrestles with her feelings for the king’s illegitimate son Auguste.
Cinder and Glass is a fun, if mostly one-dimensional, story that moves incredibly fast, which has both its benefits and drawbacks. On the one hand, all the scenes have short-term and long-term consequences, which goes to say that for the most part, none of them feel necessary. On the other hand, sometimes all of the characters seem too black-and-white, as if they’re simply conforming to the archetypes of the original fairytale.
It’s obvious that de la Cruz has done extensive research, and there’s a lot of great visuals surrounding both Versailles and beauty standards of the time period. All of this helps set the scene for the juxtaposition of Cendrillon’s life at the palace and her life with her stepmother. In the process of detailing just how different these lives are, there’s a thematic dynamic of sacrificing true love at the cost of upward mobility. Unintentionally or not, Cendrillon’s challenges become reflective of class struggle, which only adds some nuance to Cendrillon’s motivations for participating in the competition.
Cendrillon and Auguste’s relationship is a wholesome and refreshing one, based more on a genuine, gradual connection than love at first sight. Even as the plot moves far too quickly, the close bond between Cendrillon and Auguste is the one aspect that stays constant. After the two meet at a young age, Cendrillon quickly finds that Auguste is nothing like his brother, who is often arrogant and classist, although Louis does develop later on throughout the novel. It’s a nice contrast that helps keep the romance lighthearted and yet still dependable.
The selection aspect and the whole competition for the dauphin does feel very worn-out, and there’s nothing the author brings to the table that makes it particularly more interesting. There are different stages of the competition, and the prince must choose which girl he likes best. The whole sequence is quite formulaic and monotonous.
Events leading up to the competition, however, are helpful in getting at the emotional bent of the story. The implied “climax” of the story is when Lady Françoise, Cendrillon’s godmother, dies and Cendrillon becomes more determined to free herself from her stepmother’s rule. It’s a setback that really feels just as devastating to the reader as it does to Cendrillon, as Lady Françoise was Cendrillon’s last hope for her future.
Cinder and Glass isn’t particularly inventive and doesn’t offer the subversive qualities that one might expect of a fairytale retelling, but the tale remains a satisfying experience nonetheless. Spoiler alert: there’s a happy ending that we might all wish for, and de la Cruz doesn’t add any unneeded angst in the process. If you’re looking for a quick, predictable read that leaves you feeling fulfilled right after, Cinder and Glass might just be the shoe that fits.