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)



The Fairy Tale Effect – Part I – Poison by Sarah Pinborough


Before you open another door with a ‘Once upon a time…’ sign on it, try to remember all the stories read in childhood – Hans Christian Andersen, Brothers Grimm, Aesop, Charles Perrault etc.

I loved them all. The darker they were the more satisfied my young imagination was. Pages and pages full of princesses, witches, charming princes, kings, castles, knights, mysterious cottages, dwarves, fairies, talking animals, poor people, rich people, riddles, spells and so on and so forth. It wasn’t just the stories themselves, but the magical world they invited me into or just pulled me in with enticing adventures.

Even though they were informative and filled with the moral that we were to draw from them, I asked my school friend if she thought that there was supposed to be more to them. She was more of a Maths girl and didn’t see the point in perusing answers to subjects that kept her away from algebra. My school librarian was harassed many times with questions about possibly ‘abridged’ stories, because we were children and were not allowed to know the whole truth.  One day she gave up and told me when I was a bit older I could look for books by Angela Carter. But I had to swear I would tell no one that she told me.

I found them some time later – when I was a bit more grown up 😉 – and I was in an utterly different fairy tale world from the one I remembered. The covers contained more wicked evil, cannier characters who actually behaved more like adults in comparison to that ‘abridged’ material I was used to. Being a fan of Angela Carter I thought I read it all – as far as rewriting of fairy twists and tales goes.

Sarah Pinborough proved me wrong. She’s been one of my favourite authors – The Language of Dying, The Dog-Faced Gods Trilogy and Nowhere Chronicles are among my favourites – but what she did with the traditional story of Snow White amazed me.

Poison by Sarah Pinborough is everything you know about Snow White and, what’s more important, everything you don’t know about her. The characters are dark and extremely natural – the story could have happened anywhere. Even though it’s set in the original fairy tale type world, it is astounding what Sarah Pinborough did with the story. To explain it better, she knew when to use blood and when to use glitter.

The characters’ virtues and vices drive the story. Lilith aka the Evil Queen Step-Mother is not simply possessed by jealousy, but has much murkier intentions and reasons hidden behind that perfect fair beauty facade. The dwarves are truly brilliant and so, of course, is Snow White – my favourite character. She is the princess, but she won’t let the tight corset of court life restrict her in any way. Is this going to be something that Prince Charming loves about her? You need to read and see for yourself, how an intelligent and independent girl who also happens to be fun and kind of a tomboy is seen by her true love.

The story really spins at high velocity when the obvious happens – Snow White is poisoned. We all know how and why, but the what-happens-next part is so deliciously enthralling that you won’t want to put the book down.

The story of Snow White rewritten by Sarah Pinborough is truly compelling, and I can also tell you, believe it or not, it doesn’t end the way you would expect. You could try to guess, but well, you will be as taken aback as me. The end left me speechless, because I could not, would not come up with anything of the sort.

Fairy tales, at least Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, are getting a remake which is going to fill the covers (very nice and shiny) and your imagination with Poisonous magic, Charm and Beauty.

Stunning drawings by Les Edwards ( make Poison even more alluring.

I recommend them to everyone – it doesn’t matter if you have read fairy tales before or are about to start this adventure. Poison is truly brilliant, haunting and unputdownable.

Poison is published on 25 April 2013, followed by Charm in July 2013 and Beauty in October 2013.

I can’t wait to read Charm and Beauty and will definitely read Poison again.

If you want to read how Sarah Pinborough came up with the idea, you can find it here:

Author: Sarah Pinborough

Title: Poison

Publisher: Gollancz

Format: Uncorrected Manuscript Proof, 200 pages

Published: 25/04/2013

ISBN: 9780575092976 (Hardback)

Poison 2