Cinder & Ella by Melissa Lemon
© 8 November 2011 by Bonneville Books
After their father’s disappearance, Cinder leaves home for a servant job at the castle. But it isn’t long before her sister Ella is brought to the castle herself—the most dangerous place in all the kingdom for both her and Cinder. Cinder and Ella is a Cinderella story like no other and one you'll never forget.
I don't think that I would be alone if I admitted to being nervous about reading classic fairy tale retellings. It's hard to expect something entirely new and each time we open one we mentally prepare for a simple retelling that adds basic twists - a new setting (time or place), for example. However, Melissa Lemon has taken the story of Cinderella, one we all know and love, and turned it on its head. Cinder & Ella is NOT just Cinderella...it is a whole new spin on this classic fairy tale.
Cinder & Ella puts a new dark twist on the fairy tale. First and foremost, we are presented with a single family--mother, father, and 4 sisters. No step-sisters or evil step-mother here. On top of that, there is no Cinderella per se; instead we have two sisters in her place - Cinder and Ella (hence the title). When the family's father disappears, things begin to fall apart. The girls' mother falls into what appears to almost be a somewhat catatonic state where she does nothing but sit at her spinning wheel and, well, spin. The oldest daughter, Katrina, and the youngest daughter, Beatrice, are virtually useless while Cinder bears the brunt of the work with help from the mild-mannered Ella.
I don't want to give anything away about this one because I thought it was such a unique take on the Cinderella story! It was a much darker version of the story with interesting fantasy plot elements from the original story (i.e. the tree) woven in. If the names were different, you may not even recognize the story as Cinderella. There is love and loss and the hero-prince of the Cinderella you know is, well, clearly absent. Melissa Lemon has deftly created a dark, spell-binding tale of good and evil and of the strength of faith, family, and friends to triumph in the end.