Title: Cinder and Ella
Author: Melissa Lemon
Publication Year: 2011
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult
Source: Review copy from the publisher through NetGalley
From the cover:
After her father’s disappearance, Cinder leaves home for a servant job at the castle. But it isn’t long before her sister Ella is brought to the castle herself. What Ella finds there starts a quest that will change her life and the entire kingdom. With a supernatural twist on this beloved fairytale, it’s a must read you’ll never forget.
I really, really wanted to like this book.
You see, I love fairy tales. I like fairy tale re-tellings more than the average bear. And I have a soft spot for Cinderella, a movie that my parents definitely had to replace at least once during my childhood because we wore out the VHS tape.
But sadly, this version fell completely flat for me. Actually, to be honest?
It was downright awful.
For starters, the writing is terrible. There are frequently sentences that are awkward, and some don’t make sense at all. Once in a while, I’d get through a chapter or two without noticing anything, and then suddenly I’d be halted in my reading flow while I tried to figure something out. I’m hoping that these things will be worked out in the final copy, but they were also too numerous and noticeable to have made it through to an advance reader’s copy.
The bigger thing for me, though, was that Cinder & Ella‘s plot had huge, gaping holes in it. There were too many coincidences that turned into major plot points. And along those same lines, there were lots of really important details that were only revealed once they were the basis for a plot twist. The most glaring of these was a series of myths regarding trees and their connection to individual people: by the end of the book, quite a few pieces of the mythology had been revealed, but they were always revealed only after the characters encountered something that needed to be explained in order to advance the plot. It was almost as if these bits were just thrown in there because the author couldn’t think of any other way to make things work out the way she had planned. If things were explained earlier in the book, this wouldn’t have seemed so blatant and might have worked better as a narrative device.
And finally, the whole “twist” on the idea of the evil prince was just … well, it didn’t make sense. Most characters in the book seemed to know that the prince was evil, including the knights that worked for him, and his parents, the king and queen. And yet, people still worked for him and some – like Cinder – even seemed to really like him, while completely not noticing his supposed evil-ness. Throughout the book, there were constant references to the “evil” prince, and to his “darkness”, and phrases like “the whole kingdom knew that he was evil”, but there was never a single explanation as to what exactly it was that made the prince evil, or how everyone knew that he was evil, or how it was that he was so evil and everyone knew it but nobody had done anything about it.
Seriously! I kid you not. I do not understand this book, at all.
If you’re really interested in reading Cinder & Ella for yourself, go for it. If you have a completely different opinion, I’d be happy to hear it – so long as you can back it up and explain to me why I’m wrong. Because really, I just couldn’t handle the awfulness.