Review #8: Cinderella’s Secret Diary (Book 1: Lost) by Ron Vitale

Disclaimer: I received this book for free through the Cannonball Read. I must give thanks to the author for being kind enough to share his work with us.

Unfortunately, despite my disclaimer and appreciation of the author, I have little to nothing good to say about this book. I’ll get my one good thing out the way – the premise is pretty decent. The book takes place a few years after Cinderella’s “happily ever after.” She has escaped the clutches of her evil stepmother and stepsisters, and is now a princess. However, she remains fairly miserable and unfulfilled as the prince neglects her for long periods of time and she cannot produce an heir. She has a volatile (at best) relationship with the queen. She convinces the queen to send her and Clarissa to France, ostensibly to meet with a witch who may help her with her fertility issues. Her two solaces are her best friend, Clarissa, and writing in her diary to her fairy godmother.

The latter is what makes up the narrative basis of the story. Each chapter is written as a diary entry to Cinderella’s fairy godmother. The only break from this is when FG writes back to Cinderella. Cinderella is imploring FG to come and rescue her from her bland existence, to bring joy to her life again. Unfortunately, this narrative device results in a lot of “telling” and not “showing” (as a fellow CBR reviewer pointed out). Everything that is told to us, is Cinderella’s memory of what happened. We only ever know her side, and even that is removed. As a result, we never feel in the moment of what’s going on and are only given Cinderella to side with.

This is another major problem with this book. Cinderella is a character we all know and love, but here she is weak, simpering, bratty at times, and very difficult to root for. She is constantly going for walks at night (I have no idea to what end) and has long reflections on her difficulties, yet these are written in such a vague fashion there is no connection with her as a character. At one point she reflects upon her relationship with her father and stepmother,

I had grown beyond that and needed to think about my own future and not my past. The past was the past and so it is.

Not only is this totally trite writing, but at no point do we get to see her grow past this. Rather, she goes and visits her father and this is shoe-horned in. It would be so much more effective if Cinderella actually had a confrontation with her stepmother, and we saw growth from this. In another example, we are told that Cinderella is in training for (I assume) being a witch, but we learn nothing of this training (perhaps Vitale ran out of ideas?).

There are also numerous instances of plain bad plotting that should have been caught by any decent editor. Early on, it is established that the queen dislikes Cinderella, yet seemingly out of nowhere this little gem is included,

The queen allowed both meetings to take place with minimal protection from the guard. Her continued support I cherished.

Once FG was revealed to Cinderella she continued to write, this time to her in-utero daughter (yes, she gets pregnant, and also somehow knows she’s having a girl). Not only does she write extensively about her love affair which I would consider inappropriate for her child to one day read, but her writings include lots of blah blah about powers, and long discussions with her witch-mentor, Renee. Suddenly, we’re supposed to buy into Cinderella being a witch, despite nothing in her mythology (that I know of) to indicate such. At this point, Vitale really seems to be writing whatever he wants and is using the Cinderella thing as a way to just get people reading… there is no connection any longer to her original story.

The writing itself is also pretty awful. The book is set in England and France, during Napoleon’s rising, so I understand the need for a more particular and proper style of writing (especially when the characters are speaking), but that does not excuse some of the most poorly constructed sentences and dialogue I’ve read in a while. In reference to her pregnancy:

“I feel not as nauseous today as I have on this journey.” Loud bangs on a drum distracted me for a moment, and then I continued. “I am more comfortable today.”

We also get this word smash-up, that I literally had to read several time to decipher what was going on,

Renee has shared with me how the sisterhood can help thwart Napoleon will also be discussed.

Finally, this book is supposed to be a Young Adult book, but quite frankly I can’t see this appealing to anyone except maybe the stereotypical sad, middle-aged cat lady. There is nothing youthful or fun in this book, despite the amount of fantasy. Vitale’s attempt to sell a feminist message and present a strong female characters falls flat. He also seems to lack connection with a female character, in general. Granted, it may be quite difficult for a male author to truly understand and embrace their female characters, but I’ve seen it done. Alas, this was not the case here.

While I did not like this book, I truly appreciate Vitale’s graciousness (and courage, knowing we are not obligated to write kind reviews for the CBR) in sharing his book with us.

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