The Cinderella’s Dress series, consisting of Cinderella’s Dress and Cinderella’s Shoes by Shonna Slayton, is advertised as a modern retelling of a classic fairy tale. To be honest, nothing can be further from the truth. This series makes reference to a different version of the story we all know and love, but in truth, the series itself is a continuation of the Cinderella story.
In Cinderella’s Dress, Kate Allen is a young girl living in New York during World War II. Her father is overseas protecting the world’s art from the Nazis when he goes missing in action, and her brother, Floyd, is preparing to leave for basic training in hopes of being a pilot in the war. In the midst of all this, Kate’s mother works in Women’s Wear in a large department store and all Kate wants to do is design and dress the window displays…man’s work.
When Kate’s great aunt and uncle escape war torn Poland and show up at her front door with a mysterious steamer trunk, Kate’s life is changed forever. Come to find out, she’s to be the keeper, or guardian, of Cinderella’s dresses; the rag-laden servant’s dress, the iconic blue ballgown, and the sprawling wedding gown. This is the stuff that fairy tales, and every girl’s dreams, are made of.
Every fairy tale has a villain. In this case, the villains are the descendants of Cinderella’s wicked stepsisters, and they are bound and determined to claim the famous dresses for themselves. When one of the descendants puts the idea in Kate’s head that she might find her missing father by using Cinderella’s famous glass slippers, she is tempted to give them the dresses and allow them to accomplish their goal. It’s when Fyodora and Nessa Kolodenko, the descendants of Cinderella herself, arrive to thwart the would-be thieves, that the adventure truly begins.
Cinderella’s Shoes takes Kate to post-war Italy and Poland where we meet an entirely new cast of characters. In her attempt to find the missing glass slippers that may or may not reunite Kate with her father, she is forced to trust her enemies, follow her instincts and go on a whirlwind journey through Europe that will test everything and everyone Kate knows and believes in.
Cinderella’s Shoes was the first book I ever requested (and got approved for) on NetGalley. Honestly, it kept getting pushed to the back burner as more ARCs came in, and when I finally got to it, I wasn’t all that sure I was even interested in reading it anymore. Imagine my chagrin when I finally sat down to read it and realized it was actually a sequel! So, of course, I had to read Cinderella’s Dress before I started on Cinderella’s Shoes. And then, imagine my irritation when I had to pay $6 on Amazon for a book that I didn’t necessarily want to read, just so I could read a book that I only sort of wanted to read. It was not a good start for me and this series.
Let me tell you, that was the best $6 I ever spent in my life. I absolutely loved this series! The characters in these books were ones that you were just dying to root for. I found myself completely engrossed in this story from beginning to end. It had all the elements a reader loves in a book; historical context, cultural accuracy, and what is probably the most creative take on Cinderella that I’ve ever read. It also has an adorable love story that serves as a great plot thickener, but doesn’t overtake the story like it often does in YA literature.
The dialogue and character development were perfect and completely believable for the time period in which the series was set. Although it wasn’t really that long ago, the 1940’s were a much different world than the one we live in today. Since the series is marketed for young readers (which I don’t completely agree with), I think it does a great job of introducing and ingratiating them into a time period with which they are wholly unfamiliar. It’s important for middle and high school students to understand where we came from and Ms. Slayton does a wonderful job of showing them that. This series also introduces readers to the Polish culture in the best way possible. Being Polish myself, I found this aspect of the novel very interesting and by the end of it, I found myself reading much of the dialogue in a Polish accent (don’t judge me).
As I said, this series hit it out of the park on almost all levels. The one and only issue I had with the story is that in Cinderella’s Dress, the main years of WWII are skimmed over and speed by at an alarming rate. One moment, you’re reading a sweet series of letters between Kate and her love interest, Johnny, and you blink and it’s 6 years later, the war is over, and Kate’s world is completely different. While I was able to recover quickly, this part did make my head spin quite a bit. Unfortunately, this was the one aspect that took my overall rating of the series from a 5 to a 4.
I was truly sad to find out that there would not be a third book in the Cinderella’s Dress series. Not that I could even imagine where it could go from where the series ended, but I wanted to stay with Kate and her friends and family just a little longer. I did, however, read some correspondence the author had with another reader that suggests that there may be a prequel of same nature in the works. So fingers crossed that there’s still something to look forward to from this series!