For The Reading Quest, I’ve challenged myself with reading 13-17 books from my TBR that fit different themes. For the bard quest Fairytale Retelling, I went with T. S. Lynn’s Cinder Ella, a fairytale retelling with a transgender character.
This magical little novella takes the Cinderella tale and casts our Disney princess as a Black transgender woman named Ella. All the original ingredients of the fairytale are there, from the wicked stepmother to the fairy godmother (in this case, a fae tailor) to Ella’s kind heart of gold. The prince is a princess who loves dogs and Happily Ever involves a bit more hard work instead of a magical wedding.
It’s the same tale you know and love, wrapped in detail-rich writing that engages your senses in tilling the earth, baking bread, cuddling a dog, and holding luxurious gowns in your hands. The opening scene is Ella doing dishes, and I was a bit apprehensive of a story that starts out with housework, but was quickly drawn in and could have read dozens of more pages of Ella cooking, cleaning, and caring for her home.
There’s a splash of queer ladies in love, but I wouldn’t classify this as a romance novel. Ella’s spirits gains as much strength and freedom from her friendships with two different women than it does from her romantic relationship.
Overall, Cinder Ella is a great, sweet read. It’s lovely to spend an hour or two getting lost in Ella’s world, and I hope the author writes more fairytale retellings in the future.