Four familiar fairy-tale characters decide to be their own heroes in Shinn’s YA debut.
Retellings of fairy tales for teenage readers abound, with most adding some sort of twist to the stories. Shinn’s entry offers an ensemble of princesses who just say no to the idea of being damsels in distress. The story begins with Princess Briony waking up in her castle bedroom to find the walls now overgrown with thorns. A curse that the faerie Willa Knightshade placed on her during the celebration of her birth seems to have come true. But there’s also an additional problem: no “true love” has kissed her awake, and everyone else in the city of Sturrybucque is still sleeping. Briony decides to search for the true love who was supposed to come find her. As she hacks her way past the thorny hedge, she encounters a bandit known as the Gingerbread Man (because he always smells of cookies); he later turns out to be Hansel of the well-known brother-and-sister duo. A playful flirtation immediately arises between them, even as Briony holds her own against him in combat. While on the road, Briony teams up with Ella, who’s hiding from her evil stepmother; Rapunzel, who’s stuck up in her tower; and the mermaid Fortunata, who’s imprisoned in a circus sideshow. Dubbing themselves the “Coalition of Self-Rescuing Princesses,” the girls set off to confront Willa Knightshade. Along the way, they discover their unique talents and strengths and a more realistic kind of love. Overall, this fun adventure moves along quickly, with Shinn injecting a lot of humor, as well as some positive feminism, into the story along the way. Briony, resourceful and feisty, is the kind of heroine who would make a great best friend in real life, and her blossoming romance with Hansel is sweet but still grounded. Due to some mild cursing and slightly suggestive language, this story may best suit older teens seeking fairy tales with a modern sensibility.
A welcome addition to the genre of