If you're looking for a Cinderella story replete with a fairy godmother, friendly mice, and a pumpkin that turns into a coach, Cinderella: The Brothers Grimm Story Told as a Novella, as told by Mike Klaassen, isn't it. There are rats, but they're feared carriers of the plagues that have not only decimated the kingdom, but taken Cinderella's mother and father from her. Although the story is set in the past and includes a cruel stepmother, unkind stepsisters, a ball, a prince, a slipper, and a happiliy-ever-after ending, Klaassen provides some very unexpected twists on the traditional folktale. Here is a heroine and a story line more compatible with modern sensibilities of what a young woman, who finds herself capable of doing much, should do when her country, let alone her prince, needs it. This doesn't come to Cinderella without a falter or a stumble along the way; but in stages of growing confidence until she finally has the courage to take her destiny into her own hands. The Brothers Grimm folktale is also included for comparison.
I like this version. While the writing style in Cinderella, as told by Mike Klaassen, keeps to the tone of the Grimm tale and the plot provides a bridge between the two, the alternative is richer in imagination, complexity of character, and emotional depth. I especially like the focus on forgiveness and understanding, rather than on retributive justice by standards we would find barbaric today. Who wouldn't prefer to do their own housework for the rest of their lives, rather than have their eyes plucked out? Folktale fans and readers of all ages will enjoy this latest addition to Klaassen's Classic Folktales collection.
—Reviewed by Kimberlee J. Benart for Readers' Favorite
LA CRIMSON FEMME @ READING ALLEY
Gentler than Brothers Grimm yet darker than Disney, author Mike Klaassen freshens up a beloved fairy tale for a longer bedtime story. In the original Brothers Grimm, the story is a bit shorter and much bloodier. As a fan of the original Brothers Grimm, this tale is not what I expected. Quite frankly, I thought it was going to be an erotically charged adult fantasy. I was dead wrong.
Instead, this is a lengthier telling of Cinderella with a bit of witchy twist. The characters are not fully developed. The stepmother and step-sisters are still as shallow as ever and a bit one dimensional. A nice historical element added gives this story a little bit more realistic flavor. Although the magic part does relegate it back to fairy tale status.
I liked Ella in this story. She does the best she can with what little she knows of herself. She is sweet and brave even after being beaten down. She could have become a horribly vindictive person. This is a quick read that is recommended for all ages.
RANDOM THOUGHTS FROM A TECH NERD
I'm sure everyone is familiar with this classic fairy tale. So, my recommendation to you all: read this version anyway!
Cinderella as retold by Mike Klaassen is awesome. Fairy tales, as we know, are told in a simplistic manner as they are meant to be short and also meant to appeal to children. On this particular retelling however, the author has enhanced the story further, giving it more life and depth to the story-line, providing a perspective of its own, and presenting characters with believable motivations. Needless to say, this "made-for-grownups" version is much more interesting and though we probably could guess what the ending will be, it still made for an enjoyable read.
The other point of interest for me is on Cinderella's character. As you can surmise from the blurb, this is another non-conforming element and twist to the story-line, that Cinderella is a....witch! How could this be? And how will this affect the interaction points with the other characters in the story? That alone makes this book a must read! There were other interesting add-ons as well that as I recall, were not really present in the traditional fairy tale -- a reference to Cinderella's mom, the hazel tree and the gifts it bestowed, and more. All in all, I think these help to patch and provide plausible explanations for Cinderella's character and behavior.
And so I encourage every book lover to pick up this version of Cinderella. You won't regret it. Certainly a refreshing take to a fairy tale that we've all come to know since young.
LESLIO @ READING ALLEY
Have you ever given any thought to how different a story would be if told from a different point of view? Would Hansel and Gretel be different if we heard from the witch? Would The Frog Prince be any different if the story was from the point of view of the frog? How would our sympathies change? Would they? In Mike Klaassen’s Cinderella, we are introduced to the retelling of the classic Grimms’ fairy tale but instead of a fairy godmother, Ella is a witch. Overall likes are the point of view of the story. I really enjoyed being inside Ella’s head throughout as she wrestled with her new-found skills. I also enjoyed being in the minds of the other characters as they struggled with their own personal fears and insecurities. Often, when we read fairy tales with witches, they’re evil; only out to cause harm but in Ella’s case, she battles between a desire for revenge over her treatment and the desire to escape her hardship. And once she does, her ability to do good is manifested by the subsequent years of peace and prosperity for all the people. And as readers, who wouldn’t be willing to manipulate a few people if it meant truly finding your happily ever after?
MS. J MENTIONS
Although I enjoy reading retold fairy tales, they are often difficult for me to review. After all, the plot and characters that I'm enjoying are not creations of the author's imagination. The challenge, then, becomes to judge how well an author is able to make the story their own. In this case, Klaassen met the challenge.
Klaassen's retelling of Cinderella is chock full of vivid descriptions. He makes sure to provide every detail of Ella's surroundings as she goes throughout her home as well as to and from each of the balls. He masterfully describes the scenery, the other characters' attitudes, and even the animals' behavior. Of these descriptions, I believe the most beautiful is Klaassen's description of Ella getting ready for the first ball. I won't spoil it here, but it is a definite treat!
Unfortunately, not all of Klaassen's descriptions were as beautiful as his descriptions of scenery, animals, and attitudes. In each novel/novella that I read, I look for the connections and relationships between characters. I understood why Ella and her stepmother were at odds, but the relationship between Ella and her stepsisters needed to be better defined. The reader should want to hate them as much as the stepmother, if not more! Klaassen was also wary about truly setting the scene for his retelling. Laws and beliefs of the time period it is set in are brought up, but never explained. Therefore, there are sections that should frighten the reader that just fall flat. Even worse, however, are the sections that Klaassen wanted the audience to feel Ella's pain and apprehension, but the audience does not have the information to do so.
Overall, I enjoyed this story. I definitely recommend it to fairy tale fans!
ROMANCING THE BOOKS AND MORE
This reimagining of a well-loved fairy tale is amazing! I love how the author breathed life into the cardboard characters in the fairy tale. Even the prince has some sidekicks that we didn’t know about and Cinderella’s fairy godmother is of a different sort. I enjoyed this revisit into my childhood, and I believe every kid should know this version of the tale as well.
However, and it may be the adult romance junkie in me speaking, but I wish we could have seen more of Ella’s interaction with the prince, instead of her um…(spoiler) to know his thoughts and intentions. If they had talked more, it would’ve strengthened the bond and connection between them. She could’ve opted not to use her ability when it comes to the prince. Also, how Ella got the prince to fall for her? Romance readers all over the world would revolt. On the relationship development side, it’s definitely not recommended for it to happen that way. I wouldn’t have believed in their relationship or that it would even last, unless through sorcery. That said, fairy tales are not known for in-depth character and romantic development (if there’s any romance at all), so perhaps this story is merely staying true to its origins.
That aside, it’s truly an interesting take on a well-known fairy tale. I hope the author would change this part of the tale and let the prince and Ella develop their feelings naturally. If he did so, then it’s a tale I would recommend highly for fairy tale and romance junkies.