The Fairy Tale Effect – Part II – Charm by Sarah Pinborough


Poison, the first book in Sarah Pinborough’s fairy tale trilogy was awesome. The story of Snow White was intriguing and had a brilliant and unpredictable ending (I wrote about Poison here). I loved it and I was looking forward to reading Charm – a re-written story of Cinderella.

The Cinderella we know from the original fairy tales is a quiet girl who is neglected by her step-mother and step-sisters. She is saved by a fairy godmother and goes to a ball where her beauty outshines every other girl. Consequently, she marries the prince and they live happily ever after in a big castle. As much as it sounds nice and all, it’s kind of too perfect, isn’t it?

Sarah Pinborough’s Cinderella is a natural beauty and works hard at home, whereas her step-mother is willing to do absolutely everything to be a part of the royal court. Does it all seem just as in the original story? Well, that’s about it, because Charm is much better. Cinderella is a compelling character. She has a dream and is so consumed by making it come true that she is ready to play dirty.

When she is thought to be just an inconvenience to her extended family and an unloved victim, she really seems to be a self-centred spoilt little girl. The story gets darker from then on. “Be careful what you wish for”, would be good advice for Cinderella who turns to tricky magic and murky deals with a witch, who has her own agenda, in order to get the prince.

Pinborough’s characters are always well written, interesting and very real – no matter what positive or negative qualities they might have. The whole family of the main character is incredibly engaging, but Cinderella is such a complex character. She is full of naive determination to reach her goal no matter what – it reminded me of my own hot-headed attitude when I was her age. It seems that everything is on the right track when all of a sudden the magic bubble bursts and Cinderella is faced with the consequences of her actions. It is amazing to see how it changes her – it’s probably one of most difficult aspects of writing a good character, but Pinborough rocks here. All the other characters, including an intriguing friend with benefits and a cursed footman, are vibrant and very realistic. I found Cinderella’s relationship with her sister, Rose, very fascinating. And I can’t forget about the prince – he’s a completely different person to the one you think you know. Yet again, the darkness around his secret is astonishing and perfectly caricatures his perfectness.

I have to confess I love winter and the snow it brings – the book is set in a kingdom covered with snow and, after reading just the opening two pages, I realised how much I miss it. The descriptions are stunning.

I simply love the book, though the best part of Charm is how it is flawlessly connected to Poison. The story of Snow White is not finished and it gets better and better. The ending is yet again unexpected and brilliant and makes you want to keep on reading – another example of Pinborough’s great writing. She keeps you captivated and dying to turn the pages faster. Charm is very well written, full of magic, great old fairy tale goodness and loads of surprises.

I’m going to say it again: the illustrations by Les Edwards ( are incredible and the cover is striking.

I can’t wait to read Beauty!

Author: Sarah Pinborough

Title: Charm

Publisher: Gollancz

Format: Hardback, 220 pages

Published: to be published on 18/07/2013

ISBN: 9780575093010 (Hardback)