{Review + Event Giveaway} THE STEPSISTER SCHEME by Jim C. Hines

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Today, I'd like to spotlight an awesome series by Jim C. Hines that you may not have heard of and introduce you to Snow, a fierce, amazing Snow White.

Snow is fun, flirty, and a kick-ass fighter...ummmmm, and she fights with MIRRORS!. She's also holding a lot of serious, tragic secrets and is a great character to explore in the series.

Here's my original review of THE STEPSISTER SCHEME!

O P E N I N G   H O O K:

    Danielle Whiteshore, formerly Danielle de Glas, would never be a proper princess.  Not if the title required her to actually remember so many trifling details.  She hadn't even learned the proper forms of address for human politicians, and now her tutor expected her to memorize The Mortal's Guide to Faerie Courtesy: Navigating the Eightfold Path of Fey Politics by the end of the week?
    True, it was mostly her own fault.After her wedding, the king's steward had presented her with a trunk full of scrolls and books, "To study during your tour of Lorindar."
     For three months that trunk had gathered dust while she and Prince Armand traveled the kingdom.She had tried to study, butthere was so much to see.  The old Coastal Highway to Colwich, the ocean to one side and snow-painted oaks on the other.  The bridge to Emrildale, built centuries ago bydwarves without mortar of any sort.  Only the weight of the intercut stones held the great arches aloft.
     With Armand's help, Danielle had learned enough to avoid embarrassing herself as she was introduced to various lords and ladies.  She still couldn't remember the difference between a Viscount and a Baron, but so long as her mistakes were minor, nobody dared to complain.
(Pages 13-14, US edition)

This review first appeared at A Backwards Story on 
April 28, 2011.

Originally, fairy tales were dark and grim, not the light, bubbly Happily Ever After stories we all know and love in these modern times. Jim C. Hines pulled obscure versions of fairy tales you might not be familiar with when creating his four Princess novels. For example, one version of Cinderella that he found revolves around a plot where the stepsister attempts to assassinate Cinderella. He pulls from Sun, Moon, and Talia, one of the darkest versions of Sleeping Beauty. Etc., etc. The best thing about reading the first book in his series, THE STEPSISTER SCHEME, was finding all the obscure tales and trying to figure out what was based on fact and what came from his own imagination. This review won't talk about the other books in the series, THE MERMAID'S MADNESS, RED HOOD'S REVENGE, and THE SNOW QUEEN'S SHADOW, but anticipate seeing quite a bit of old lore in the series as a whole, as well as more original ideas!

THE STEPSISTER SCHEME starts out innocently enough. As you might guess based on the title, the main character is Cinderella, who has married her prince and is now living Happily Ever After. Or is she? Despite her newfound glamour, Danielle still has the heart of a cinder girl and is always trying to figure out how to clean things. She’s also overly polite. At first, her character is very weak, but she develops in a fantastic fashion over the course of the novel. I loved watching her evolve. After her stepsister attempts to assassinate her and her husband, Prince Armand, is kidnapped, Danielle slowly begins to grow a backbone. She’s helped along this route by the Queen, who has a secret service consisting of Talia (Sleeping Beauty) and Snow (Snow White). Together, the trio of princesses head for fairy land to get Armand back as a sinister plot unfolds.

I loved seeing princesses, who are often perceived as weak, as strong characters here. These are the female role models Disney princesses can only dream of one day becoming. At first, I didn’t care much for Talia. She’s a prickly princess with a huge chip on her shoulder. As Hines unveils her horrifying tale, however, it’s easy to see why she has become so closed-off. It’s also interesting to note that she’s gay, which adds an additional dimension to her story. Snow, on the other hand, is easy to love. She’s by far the most interesting character, in my opinion, though I do love all three princesses. She’s a huge flirt, but upon a closer look, there are many more facets to her than anyone else. She wields powerful magic through her mirrors and is one of those girls who looks gentle and fragile, but can break your neck before you have a chance to so much as blink. She also has a heartbreaking story in her background that we eventually learn about.

Overall, this series is shaping up to be fantastic. Initially, I was thrown off by the covers, but I’m glad I didn’t judge the books based on them. I would have missed a special fantasy series.

Hines has generously provided the first chapter on his website for everyone to read!
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

As I mentioned earlier, these aren’t my favorite covers. They look very staged and seem geared toward a male audience. Then again, they also fit the genre, as most sci-fi/fantasy novels tend to have understated covers. The blurb is also misleading. As much as I love Esther Friesner, I don’t think the three princesses are really a match for Charlie’s Angels. 

My favorite cover of the four is for THE SNOW QUEEN'S SHADOW.
O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Jim C. Hines
Release Date: December 17, 2008
Publisher: DAW
Received: Purchased

What would happen if an author went back to the darker themes of the original fairy tales for his plots, and then crossed the Disney princesses with "Charlie's Angels?" Hines delivers a new take on what happened to Cinderella and her prince after the wedding. Original.
You know how all those old fairy tales take you through lots of scary adventures till you finally reach that inevitable line: "And they lived happily ever after..." Guess what? It's not true. Life in never-never land isn't all sweetness and light. 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 very own Secret Service that consists of Talia and Snow (White, of course). Snow is an expert at mirror magic and heavy-duty flirting.
Can three princesses track down Armand and extract both the prince and themselves from the clutches of some of fantasyland's most nefarious villains?


During A Week of Snow White,
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