Friday, March 20, 2009

Before Midnight (Once Upon a Time Series)

by Cameron Dokey

Summary: Etienne de Brabant is brokenhearted. His wife has died in childbirth, leaving him alone with an infant daughter he cannot bear to name. But before he abandons her for king and court, he brings a second child to be raised alongside her, a boy whose identity he does not reveal.

The girl, La Cendrillon, and the boy, Raoul, pass sixteen years in the servant's care until one day a very fine lady arrives with her two daughters. The lady has married La Cendrillon's father, and her arrival changes their lives.

When an invitation to a great ball reaches the family, La Cendrillon's new stepmother will make a decision with far-reaching effects. Her choice will lead La Cendrillon and Raoul toward their destiny--a choice that will challenge their understanding of family, test their loyalty and courage, and ultimately teach them who they are.

My review: Raised alongside a mysterious boy, Cendrillon knows her father doesn’t want her and longs to have a loving family. In the wee hours of the morning, she makes a life-altering birthday wish—to have a mother who will love her and two sisters (so that maybe, just maybe, one of them will like her). Not soon after, her wish is granted in the form of a stepmother and two sisters, one of whom is particularly dreadful, that are completely unaware of her existence or their familial bond. Cendrillon works as a servant until tensions mount and her secret spills out. As the story progresses, it plays out in surprising, but delightful ways; however, I won't spoil it for you except to say that it ended as it should.

I enjoyed the addition of several secondary characters and the romance and conflict they brought to the story. Dokey wasn't afraid to change things that needed to be changed to make the story work. Cendrillon's father is not dead (and technically, he isn't in the original either) but distant in more ways that one.

The setting the author creates is magical--in a light and comfortable sort of way. Tears can grow sunflowers--wishes can be granted in unpredictable ways--peach trees bare apples. It had all of the feeling of the classic fairytale without going overboard with all the “bibbity-bobbity-boo” nonsense. Dokey does a fabulous job blending the old fairytale with her own retelling, once again, making the story of Cinderella her own while still maintaining key elements like balls, slippers, etc. If you couldn't tell, I very much enjoyed this retelling. Shock, I know! I’ve said it a billion times and I’m sure you probably are sick of it….but Dokey is really the only one of the writers in this series that can really pull off a quality retelling.

My rating: 4 Stars. I'll buy this one (and the Wild Orchid one as well)

Sum this book up in one phrase: A proper fairytale.

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