"The Stepsister Scheme" is one of the few books recently that I've stayed up until the early hours to finish. It was a lot of fun. It was quirky, original, not afraid to handle dark themes but ultimately powered by selfless bravery and optimism.
"The Stepsister Scheme" tells the tale of three Princesses who set out to rescue a handsome Prince. These are not Disney Princesses with phenomenal hair, over-large eyes and chart-topping singing voices. These are Princesses who have survived the appalling abuse handed out to them in the original Grimm fairy tales and have gone on to become resourceful, talented, dangerous women who won't necessarily get to live happily ever after.
You'll recognise the three Princesses as the story unfolds, but you won't have seen this side of them before. Jim Hines presents his Princesses with a wonderful mix of humour, tension, excitement and I-want-to-stand-up-and-applaud originality that is a joy to read.
This is a story that seldom went where I expected it to go. It was humorous, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, but the humour was a gloss on a tale about the strength it takes for young women to survive the things that people do to them.
The Fairies in this book are the stuff of nightmare rather than bedtime stories. There is violence and cruelty and more violence. There are men in the story but they are necessary to the plot, not central to the story-telling The worst and the best characters in this book are all female and they are all formidable.
The world-building is solid, the pacing is good, the ideas are original and the action scenes are tense and exciting. And all of this is has a big bow of humour tied around it to make you smile even when blood is being spilt.
Reading Jim Hines, I feel I've found another talent as original and energetic as Terry Pratchett, only with all the books still ahead of me.
I read his trope-twisting Sci-Fi novel "Terminal Alliance.- Janitors of the Post-apocalypse " and enjoyed it. I only discovered his fantasy novels when I was searching for something to read for the "Grimm Tales" square in Halloween Bingo over on BookLikes. Now I'm hooked. I've already started the second book in the series.