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The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines
Cover Artist: Scott Fischer
Review by Andrea Johnson
DAW Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780756405328
Date: 06 January 2009 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

This adventure packed novel starts where the traditional Cinderella story ends – Princess Danielle living happily ever with handsome Prince Armand. That is, until he is kidnapped. Alone, afraid, and carrying the heir to the throne, Danielle will do whatever it takes to bring her husband home safely.

But The Stepsister Scheme doesn't just pick up where the Cinderella fairy tale ends, there more fairy tale to cover. Princess Danielle teams up with Snow and Talia, who are not only members of Her Majesty's Secret Service, but are the famed Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, respectively. While Snow has her lighting fast reflexes, snowflake shaped throwing stars and an arsenal of magical spells, and Talia has her honed skills with swords and hand to hand combat, all Princess Danielle has is her undying love. Will love alone be enough when powers of dark magic abound?

To find the Prince, Princess Danielle and her friends follow a lead to Fairytown, where every fairy is happy to help a mortal, for a price. Buried beneath Fairytown is the realm of The Dutchess, a woman filled with an ancient hatred and jealousy that has had centuries to ferment. The Dutchess has given quarter to Danielle's stepsister, and their kidnapped prize, Prince Armand. Our three fairytale beauties must not only gain entrance to the Dutchess's realm, but they will have to use everything in their power to resist the strongest of magical charms, powerful creatures, and raging jealousies. Will their strengths be enough? How can Danielle possibly hope to survive, with no arsenal of fighting skills, no magical abilities, and a swelling belly?

The characters are interesting, the action is fun, and fairyland is full of imaginative and familiar creatures. But where Hines really shines as an author is in describing the darker backstories of both Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. Yes, we all know that Prince Charming broke the spell that caused the hundred year slumber of Sleeping Beauty and her kingdom, but he wasn't charming, and it was never a love story. Snow White's jealous mother did pay a woodsman to kidnap and kill her beautiful daughter, but he didn't kill her, and the seven dwarves weren't the happy go lucky miners who sang songs on their way home from work.

Hines's The Stepsister Scheme has plenty of action, comedy and fun characters. But it's really a story of about the power of jealousy, doubt, friendship and love. A great read for young adults, but I'm sure readers of any age would get a kick out this page turner.

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