Saturday, August 13, 2011

BOOKS: The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines

I like Jim C. Hines' work. I raved about his first book in the Jig The Goblin series last July and there's another favourable review of the second book of that series coming up later this month. And here is the other series-starter he's famous for, The Stepsister Scheme. It's the lead-off to the so-called Princess novels. (The fourth and concluding book in that series was published not long ago).
But, if you are going to start that series, do yourself a favour and get the opening book, the best of the lot. It's a riff on what has become a popular theme of late--take the fairy tales of our youth and give them a slightly more updated and mature point of view. DC Comics has been doing it with their Fables comic books for years and Marvel Comics is going to get into the act later this year. AND you'll be seeing maturated fables on TV all over the fall schedule. And yet, I think The Stepsister Scheme might be the best of the lot.
Quick back of the napkin story pitch. Charlie's Angels in fairy tale times with Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Snow White serving as the Angels.
And it works just fine. Hines takes the basic fairy tale stories of each and works them out to their logical conclusions. Not all that work is fit for young 'uns. The fairy tales often put a nice gloss on an awful story. We all want, as youngsters, to believe in the very best. Hines decides we're all adult enough to know the truth now in this PG-rated story.
Talia, aka Sleeping Beauty, probably has it the roughest getting to where we are in this first story. She's the tomboy warrior here and a good match in any fight our merry little band of women will come up against. Think Kate Jackson.
Snow White's the Farrah Fawcett character, full of sometimes juvenile impulses and lots of magic. Beneath the blondness and mirrors of magic, there is resolve and a kind of survivor instinct.
Lastly, we have Danielle, the one-time Cinderella and now the wife of Prince Charming and soon to be mother of a young son. All of who are doted upon by good Queen Beatrice, the Charlie of our ladies. And obviously, this is the Jaclyn Smith part. (Somehow, I'd have Helen Mirren playing Beatrice).
So, that's the cast that ends up running into a battle with Danielle's stepsisters, the former harridans of Cinderella fame. They (Stacia and Charlotte) magically enchant the good Prince Charming (Armand) and make off with him to a place of dread for the rest of the enchanted world, Fairytown. Forced to leave behind most of their magical powers, the threesome takes on the stepsisters and various denizens of Fairytown and restores Armand to his rightful place and rightful mind. And not everybody lives happily ever after.
It's all PG-rated. In this case, PG stands for Pretty Good, too.

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