Recommendations for SFF Authors of Various Identities

SFF Authors of Various Identities

Diversity Article

The Last Page by Anthony Huso

The Last Page


House Spirits to Keep You Company

House Spirits to Keep You Company



Charm by Sarah Pinborough

Charm by Sarah Pinborough
Book Name: Charm
Author: Sarah Pinborough
Publisher(s): Gollancz
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / eBook
Genre(s): Fantasy / Fairy Tale
Release Date: July 18, 2013

This review contains spoilers. If you have yet to read Poison, read this review with caution.

How do you follow the re-imaging of Snow White, why with the re-imaging of Cinderella. Both have a similar core story, wicked stepmother, distant father, girl dreaming of something better. All the elements are there, but as with Poison, with Charm Sarah Pinborough has turned the story on its head and attacked it in a different way. Here Cinderella is a headstrong wilful young woman, she is independent, brazen at times. She lives with her father, step-mother (who, although ambitious and ever-so slightly obsessive, is not wicked at all) and step-sister (only one as the other has been married off) in the lower end of town, eking a living out of what little her father earns after her step-mother has spent it. The situation is not good, but it could be worse, and despite the Spartan lifestyle they are helped along the way by the kindness of a Robin Hood/Artful Dodgeresque young man called Buttons.

But Cinders dreams of a better life, a life in the castle, with the prince as her husband and the world at her feet, a fantasy she lives out as often as she can, spending her days dreaming and her nights fantasizing, about what life with her handsome prince would be like. But for Cinders there is no fantasy life, no masked balls, with fine dresses and handsome men to dance with. Those delights are all for her step-sister Rose, a plain but kind sibling who is little more than a tool, used by her mother to re-ignite a lifestyle that was lost to her when she followed her heart. But then – as with all good fairy-tales – Cinderella’s wish comes true, a woman appears offering her the chance to go to the ball, a chance to taste that life she so dearly holds onto in her dreams. All she asks in return is that Cinders search every room in the castle and reports back with what she finds. Cinder’s asks if the woman is her fairy godmother, the woman does not say yes or no. With the aid of the woman’s magic Cinders is transformed and goes to the ball, but she finds that dreams don’t always come true.

Cinders captures the prince’s heart, and with an obsessive step-mother going into melt down, verbally abusing her father and step-sister for all their woes, Cinders realises that perhaps the cost they are paying for her to be happy maybe too high. But then, as she prepares for her wedding she realises that the prince is not the fantasy figure she dreamed of, instead he is a shallow, selfish man, who has a secret that he shares with no-one. Cinders begins to realise that rather than a fairytale ending, she is facing a nightmare and a future without love.

But this is a Sarah Pinborough story, and when you buy into one of her tales you know you’re getting a rollicking ride and usually a little smut thrown in. Cinders is naughty, very naughty at times. Buttons a bit of a perv and the mouse a voyeur (yes I said mouse). But as with Poison, here it’s the other characters you have to keep an eye on, alongside the main players there is another story running its course. Those with a sharp eye, and have read the previous book, will spot three characters that have come before, and that this tale is just a continuation of a greater one started with Poison. But as with that previous tale, here you’re left wondering where you’re being taken, and what endgame Sarah has planned.


From early on I guessed that the prince was the same one from Poison, mid-way through it became obvious who the coach driver who took Cinders to and from the Ball was, but it wasn’t until right at the end that I knew who the fairy godmother was, and what she was looking for hidden away in the castle. But again, at the end, as with Poison we are served a curveball, there is another didn’t see that coming moment. Does this moment signal the end to three of the characters story? Quite possible, there is one story untold, and I think that one might be the one that is out of sync chronologically.

I assumed that the overall story would not be told in a chronological order – my initial thought was we would get something along the lines of Sin City – I was wrong to some extent. Charm does follow Poison, as is obvious by the characters and what the fairy godmother is looking for in the castle. It is the true story that Rose demands of her new husband that is the one that’ll be out of place – or perhaps parts of it will. I’m guessing that Beauty will cover events that happened before Poison, events that led the prince and the Huntsman to being lost in the forest and pursued by unknown enemies.

Poison and Charm are out now. Beauty is due out October 17, 2013.


One Comment

  1. Avatar A.E. Marling says:

    Thank you for writing another review about the nuanced versions of these fairy tales. If the story is even more engrossing than your write-ups then it’ll be a rapture indeed.

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