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Take time out for this re-envisioned fairy tale

Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella by Megan Morrison

The holidays seem to be when folks feel the most pressed for time, but I disappeared for several hours into the land of Tyme this week, and emerged feeling inspired.

Tyme is the fictional world created by South King County author Megan Morrison, who invests familiar fairy tales with more spunk, spine and dimension than the versions we grew up with. Morrison is a middle school teacher, and although her books aim for a middle grade audience, I’m living proof that adults, too, can get drawn in by the plot.

The first book in the Tyme series, “Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel,” came out last year. The second installment, now in bookstores, is a reworking of the Cinderella story. While the heroine in “Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella” still has to contend with an oblivious father, a stepmother, and a Prince Charming in her life, the plot is about much more than regaining a lost slipper.

For starters, Ella has a significant backstory. She was born to a brilliant but impoverished inventor and his hardworking wife. As a child, Ella worked alongside her mother in a sweatshop, and her mother’s premature death was linked to deplorable working conditions. This leaves Ella with a keen awareness of economic and social injustice.

But when her father remarries, it is to a woman with significant business acumen, who translates his ideas into marketable products. They set up a factory to go into production, and the same old working conditions that Ella once experienced firsthand are now the means to the new, combined family’s posh lifestyle.

They move to Quintessential, capital of the Blue Kingdom, and the stepmother insists that Ella be enrolled in an exclusive school for the children of wealthy families. Prince Dash Charming, heir apparent to the throne, also attends this school. He is recovering from his own youthful trauma – he recently returned to the Blue Kingdom after being kidnapped and turned to stone by an evil witch. In surviving this ordeal, he broke the curse that plagued generations of men in his family – the ability to charm and then break the heart of anyone who falls in love with them.

Now that the Prince has lost his facility for insincere flattery, he’s left with poor social skills, and his comments are truthful but blunt. This upsets the expectations that his father the king – and the rest of society – have for him.

When Ella and Dash are thrown together for a school assignment and begin to discover common ground, they start to suggest reforms – but not without major pushback from the Establishment.

Throw in cutthroat business rivals, a factory disaster, a missing queen, false accusations, a harrowing court case and some fairies with a variety of allegiances, and the Kingdom of Blue is in for upheaval.

“Disenchanted” helps young readers consider some of the substantial issues of the world they’re growing up in without ever losing the magical wonder you’d expect of a fairy tale. This book is terrific!

The Bookmonger is Barbara Lloyd McMichael, who writes this weekly column focusing on the books, authors and publishers of the Pacific Northwest. Contact her at bkmonger@nwlink.com.

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