Monday, July 17, 2017

Fractured Fairy Tales

Review: Isabella and the Slipper by Victorine E. Lieske; Cinder Unit (Duplicate Book 1) by H.A. Kinani

Ready-made stories are everywhere. For the novice no less than the seasoned writer, starting from an existing tale is an inviting shortcut. If your story derives from another author's world-building, it may be dismissed as "fan-fic." Yet it can still be compelling, as long as you avoid the pitfalls any short-cut can entail.

Two of my recent Kindle Scout nominations were based on the same fairy tale, Cinderella, but each took radically different looks at the story—and this is why I cannot dismiss such novels as "derivative."

Isabella and the Slipper

If you've seen the Hilary Duff movie A Cinderella Story, you're acquainted with the plot gimmick for this novel: in the movie, a cell-phone mixup leads step-daughter Duff into a text and email relationship with her high-school prince. Isabella's cell-phone mixup leads her into a text and email relationship... Yeah.

Even the slipper of the title barely appears in the tale. This is a light romance with very little substance, perfect for a summer read if you have nothing better to do. Fortunately, of the two reviewed here, the Isabella nomination was selected, so I was able to read it for free. The earlier nomination in my list, Cinder Unit, which I paid for, was a better story with more complexity of plot and characters.

Cinder Unit

The Ella of this novel is not a step-daughter pining for a dead father, but a clone. The duplicate Ellas are all cleaning girls, though what they clean depends on where they are assigned. The Cinder units all clean soot and ashes (and cinders, of course) from the buildings where they toil. Kitchen Ellas clean pots and pans, and so on.

When unit Cinder-03-Ella-11 is reassigned to a top-secret science building, her new job is to clean soot, cinders and ash from the two-room lab of Mr. Anthony. The only cinder-cleaner in the building, she loses her numbers to become simply Cinder-Ella. The sinister Mother, a prototype-model robot, seems determined to break her Cinder unit, and the human user of the lab is equally determined not to have his lab disturbed by cleaning.

Ella's night at the ball cannot happen if she allows either of them to succeed; yet the story feels new, non-derivative, and deliciously complex. We delight in the echoes of the original fairy-tale, and enjoy the ways in which our Cinder Unit is not Cinderella seeking her prince

This is a genuinely new take on the tale, and leaves me to wait breathless, wondering what clone might be at the center of Duplicate Book 2.

Liner Notes

  • Both novels were only available in Kindle editions at the time the review was written.
  • Both were nominated for Kindle Scout selection, but only Isabella and the Slipper was selected.