January 6, 2012

Review: Cinderella's Secret Diary, by Ron Vitale

Author: Ron Vitale
Title: Cinderella’s Secret Diary: Lost
Series: Cinderella’s Secret Diary(#1)
ISBN: 2940013032026
Publisher: Ron Vitale (2011)
Disclaimer: Copy received for review purposes.

Buy your copy: Kindle | Paperback

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

What happened to Cinderella after she married the Prince? Set in the late 1700s as Napoleon is rising to power, Cinderella embarks on a journey of self-discovery as she tries to come to terms with her failed marriage and her inability to have a child. Torn between the Queen's insistence that she try all means necessary to conceive and her own desires, she agrees to travel to Paris to consult with a witch to help her become pregnant. Her journey leads her to find her long lost Fairy Godmother and aids her to solve the mystery behind her mother's death. Yet the Fey Lord, the Silver Fox, also takes notice in her and her world is suddenly turned upside down... GoodReads’ blurb

When I was approached about the chance to review a what-if follow up to the Cinderella fairy tale, I pretty much jumped like a kid who’s been given a ton of candy. Unfortunately, I found a number of issues that prevented this title from living up to my expectations.

The story is a secret diary in its purest sense: it has dated entries, and through them Cinderella tries to reach her Fairy Godmother. The language was cared for and so Cinderella writes in a way reminiscent of the historical period it has been assigned to: Napoleonic wars. That was a nice touch.

About the storyline itself, I think it can be divided in two parts: a first part, where Cinderella is trying to reach her Fairy Godmother to escape her marriage, which turned out to be a mistake, and a second part wherein she manages to escape and find her Godmother – who is not who we are led to believe. The first part was more or less enjoyable, a story about a naive girl who learns to open her eyes and gather the courage to run off after a dream.

However, the second pretty much ruined the book for me. There are witches, which I can understand. There’s a strange connection between the real identity of the Fairy Godmother and the spirits of the Apocalypse, which I can’t wrap my head about. In the end, Cinderella solves her identity crisis and wins against her Fairy Godmother, which solves the conflict and leaves me wondering more than ever about the need for references of a spirit of War or of Napoleon hooking up with Clopatra in Egypt.

The second half also shifts the conflict from Cinderella, the Queen and the Prince (the characters I care about, and my favorite ones –the Queen rocks, actually-) to Cinderella, her dead mother and her old lover, a witch she abandoned at some point before Cinderella herself was born. I hope you understand why it threw me so completely off the hook.

Beyond the story not being what I hoped for, though, my major complains are repetition and a problem of coherence:

We’re reading diaries, yes, but that doesn’t mean that they should read as if they were real diaries – you know, those entries where you write what comes to mind, repeat the same idea in different ways, and let your train of thought wander off as it will. It’s like dialogue: you want it to sound real, but you never write down the silences, stuttering, or ‘y’knows’.

The coherence issue became apparent when the Prince was described as cleanly shaved and as sporting a couple of days’ worth of scruff in the same paragraph. I didn’t take notes, but another example that comes to mind is the glass slippers that get stuck in Cinderella’s feet because of a spell towards the end, then she’s barefoot, then they’re back.

The moral behind this novel is the one thing that is clear: how Cinderella must stand up for who she is, without looking for support in the way of love. To convey this message, Cinderella had to start as a very naive, whiny and dependant woman, I understand that much, but I have to admit that understanding didn’t prevent me from finding her too weak, and too slow to smart up. How did she survive living under her stepmother and her stepsisters? How could she learn nothing from their machinations? How could she go through such period without finding some core of inner strength?

In any case, while the message itself about standing up for oneself as a woman is clear, I’m not sure I like the hint that such strength can be found only by standing alone – I’d have loved it if, instead, she had found a balanced, healthy, but oh, well. That’d be a different story, I guess.

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