Cinderella and the Colonel by K.M.Shea
I did not intend to go on a retelling kick…but I went on a retelling kick. What can I say. I have itches that need to be scratched. In particular, I love retellings that are sweet/clean romance and deliver the happily-ever-after (HEA) ending. The Timeless Fairytales series delivers retellings that have an idealistic undertone, but the heroes and heroines have teeth, grit, and enough interesting character tweaks to be interesting. Also, there’s a cohesive universe being developed between these stories that genuinely intrigues me, yet each story stands well on its own.
Personally, I didn’t like the characters of Cinderella or Friedrich as much as I liked Elise and her bros in The Wild Swans. I really loved the familial relationships in that book, but on the upside, the romance between Cinderella and Friedrich is superb and deserves to be the focus of this story. It has political twists with Cinderella being the highest ranked noble in a conquered country, and she’s under pressure to marry a noble from her country or marry Friedrich, a conquering army officer from Erlauf. Like Elise, Cinderella is another princess that’s obsessed with business and finances, and Queen Freja also has a practically minded head on her shoulders. There’s a lot of talks about taxes and estates, and the opening–where Cinderella is working in the market and bonding with her servants–had shades of Ever After. There is no faster way to my sugar-coated heart than making me think of Ever After. I am NOT objective here. 🙂
There are several points from the ‘classic’ Cinderella tale that were lacking for me. They could be filed away as creative twists, but the step-mother is decidedly non-evil. She’s aloof but helpful, which was an interesting choice. The fairy godmother has some help, and she doesn’t play the important role in the story as I was hoping she would. The star of the plot really is the politics around the military and uniting the two countries via a marriage alliance. Friedrich’s role in that plot is pivotal yet interesting, but this story really does spend a lot of time building into the larger ‘evil abounds’ plot of the shared fairytale universe. This detracts from the Cinderella retelling, and it’s not quite as brilliant as Ever After (I mean, Leonardo Da Vinci as a fairy godmother? Can you really ever beat that?) or Cinder, which I loved to pieces, but Cinderella, Friedrich, and the nobles are interesting enough to carry the plot. In particular, the young nobles and military officers with smaller parts felt distinct to me, and Cinderella and Friedrich’s loyalty to their underlings did establish them as good people, which is what made this story work. Also, I love this trend of financed focused princesses who are capable of running countries, so I’ll gladly return to this series for more of that.
Rating: TORN. 3 stars because I didn’t love it like Wild Swans? 4 stars for being awesome in its own right and having the most believable romantic relationship in this series so far? Round-up. 4 stars.