Plot Summary (from the author’s website): Cinderella–whose real name is Danielle Whiteshore (nee Danielle de Glas)–does marry Prince Armand. And if you can ignore the pigeon incident, their wedding is a dream come true.
But not long after the “happily ever after,” Danielle is attacked by her stepsister Charlotte, who suddenly has all sorts of magic to call upon. And though Talia–otherwise known as Sleeping Beauty–comes to the rescue (she’s a martial arts master, and all those fairy blessings make her almost unbeatable), Charlotte gets away.
That’s when Danielle discovers a number of disturbing facts: Armand has been kidnapped and taken to the realm of the Fairies; Danielle is pregnant with his child; and the Queen has her own very secret service that consists of Talia and Snow (White, of course). Snow is an expert at mirror magic and heavy duty flirting.
Can the three princesses track down Armand and extract both the prince and themselves from the clutches of some of fantasyland’s most nefarious villains?
The Stepsister Scheme is easily one of the more entertaining books I’ve read recently. The glut of dystopia was starting to wear on me a little, so the change of pace was a breath of fresh air. Also, a) I loved the richness of Hines’s storytelling, and b) his princesses are paragons of badassery and awesomeness. I mean, come on: Sleeping Beauty, the martial-arts master? (Take that, Anne Rice.) Snow White, the accomplished sorceress? Cinderella, rescuing her prince? And pulling character details from both contemporary retellings and the original, not-at-all-Disneyfied fairy tales to provide backstory and motive and personality? Yes, please!
The story in The Stepsister Scheme moves along quickly; there’s a lot of action in this book. Fighting, traveling, training…these women are always doing something. They respect each other as equals, and they each own their strengths while recognizing and appreciating their cohorts. The emphasis here is not “oh look at these pampered princesses, rising up and taking on this challenge.” Instead, it’s “here are some strong-ass women with a lot of talent and guts and smarts, and yeah they happen to be royal too.” I loved their dialogue, their problem-solving and collaboration, and the way each character has her own voice, mannerisms, and style.
Along with the main characters, I liked the residents of Fairytown, with their cheeky trickery, and even the villains, who were an interesting mix of troubled, clever, and evil. In addition, Hines offers vivid settings, a complex plot, and a wealth of diversity as part of the story, all of which contribute to make The Stepsister Scheme an enjoyable read. I had a great time reading this book, and I’m looking forward to the next in the series!
The Verdict: A lighter YA fantasy novel packed full of plot and women kicking ass. Yes, it’s Part 1 of a series, but in this case….that’s a good thing. Four out of five farting aviars.