The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines

The Stepsister Scheme (PRINCESS NOVELS)From the author's website"Cinderella–whose real name is Danielle Whiteshore (nee Danielle de Glas)–does marry Prince Armand.  And if you can ignore the pigeon incident, their wedding is a dream come true.

But not long after the “happily ever after,” Danielle is attacked by her stepsister Charlotte, who suddenly has all sorts of magic to call upon.  And though Talia–otherwise known as Sleeping Beauty–comes to the rescue (she’s a martial arts master, and all those fairy blessings make her almost unbeatable), Charlotte gets away.
That’s when Danielle discovers a number of disturbing facts: Armand has been kidnapped and taken to the realm of the Fairies; Danielle is pregnant with his child; and the Queen has her own very secret service that consists of Talia and Snow (White, of course).  Snow is an expert at mirror magic and heavy duty flirting.

Can the three princesses track down Armand and extract both the prince and themselves from the clutches of some of fantasyland’s most nefarious villains?"

Remember when I said in my review of Jenna and Jonah's Fauxmance that I spent a significant amount of time trying to choose the rating I wanted to give to the book which I felt bordered between a five and a six?  Well, second verse same as the first.  Here's another pleasant, but slightly lackluster book.  This time it's a little easier for me to give the six rating because I know exactly where a great portion of lackluster feeling is coming from.

The book follows the story of Danielle (Cinderella) in her quest to find her missing husband, Prince Armand, who I assume is simply charming.  She does this with the help of Talia (Sleeping Beauty), a girl given many a gift by faeries, and Snow (White), an expert in mirror magic.  Danielle, not to put too fine a point on it, is nice.  She's sickly nice.  She's the kind of nice that makes your teeth rot.  She doesn't kill bad guys even if they are majorly bad and she tries to believe in everyone she meets.  She's also a great portion of the problem I have with this book.   Danielle's actions with regards to her stepsisters and to other characters in the book drove me mad.  Why does she always try to understand and forgive them?  I must be a total hater, but I like a character with some teeth like Talia. 

Additionally, while Snow and Talia had interesting stories behind their powers that made sense with regards to their faerie tale stories, Danielle seems to have no reason she can communicate with animals, nor is there a reason why her mother was able to turn herself into a tree that could gift things to Danielle.  The answer is simply, "It seems to be magic."  

I also didn't enjoy the random turns into humor this book made.  It seemed like Hines was attempting to be serious the majority of the time, but decided to include lots of humorous bits. 

So, after all that bitching, why the good score?  I adored Talia and Snow and their relationship with each other.  I enjoyed the easy feel of the book, which was perfect for early summer.  Really, have I mentioned that I adore Talia?  I did?  Let me reiterate.  She's everything I wanted Danielle to be.  Brave, sure of herself, hard, but still with flaws.  She is a heroine in all of her glory. 

I think I'm going to give the follow up book a read to see if the focus moves away from Danielle towards the group more as a whole. 

Verdict:  6.  Not my favorite book, but decent light fare that I hope will improve with a different focus in later books.

Thoughts:  I'm stuck in a rut of books that I rate five to six.  I can't wait to get past it.

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