Publisher: Simon Pulse
Etienne de Brabant is brokenhearted. His wife has died in childbirth, leaving him alone with an infant daughter he cannot bear to name. But before he abandons her for king and court, he brings a second child to be raised alongside her, a boy whose identity he does not reveal.
The girl, La Cendrillon, and the boy, Raoul, pass sixteen years in the servants’ care until one day a very fine lady arrives with her two daughters. The lady has married La Cendrillon’s father, and her arrival changes their lives.
When an invitation to a great ball reaches the family, La Cendrillon’s new stepmother will make a decision with far-reaching effects. Her choice will lead La Cendrillon and Raoul toward their destiny — a choice that will challenge their understanding of family, test their loyalty and courage, and, ultimately, teach them who they are.
By now, you’re probably aware that Cinderella is my favourite fairy tale. I just love everything about it – the story, the magic, how evil the stepmother and stepsisters are, and of course, Cinderella herself. So it should come as no surprise that Before Midnight was on my TBR list, and it had been sitting there for a long, long time, waiting for me to order it off Amazon. When I finally did order Before Midnight, I pretty much read it straightaway.
As you can guess from the title, Before Midnight is a retelling of Cinderella. Since Cinderella is one of the most famous fairy tales, it has been retold many times (think books like Cinder, Ella Enchanted, Ash and films like A Cinderella Story and Ever After). You’d think that it would be hard to create an original take on Cinderella, but Before Midnight manages that successfully.
At the beginning of the novel, we find out that the protagonist’s mother died whilst giving birth to her. Etienne de Brabant, the girl’s father, is distraught and leaves his daughter for a life in the palace. The main character, who was born as Constanze d’Este but is called Cendrillon by the rest of her family and friends, grows up without both her parents and is looked after by a maid. Etienne also brought back a boy after his wife passed away, and this boy is like a brother to Cendrillon. He has no idea who his parents are, but this is revealed at a ball several years later, when the stepmother figure enters Cendrillon’s life.
Cendrillon is a likeable protagonist and you can’t help but feel sorry for her. I can’t imagine what it would be like to not have a mother and be hated by your father. I also like that Cendrillon has a sort-of sibling; I haven’t come across this in other retellings. Although it did take a while for the stepmother and stepsisters to be introduced, I was relieved when they turned out to be less evil than expected – Cendrillon’s father was the ‘wicked’ character in this novel. That’s not to say I liked the stepsisters – Anastasia seemed so selfish and spoiled. The romance element between Cendrillon and Pascal was underdeveloped, which seemed a bit of a shame.
Despite its flaws, Before Midnight is a unique version of Cinderella that will keep you hooked from start to finish. Dokey takes the classic tale and explores new sides to the characters, while staying true to the original Brothers Grimm version. It’s a quick read, with only 193 pages, so you’ll whizz through it, just like I did.