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The Cracked Slipper - Stephanie   Alexander I enjoyed reading The Cracked Slipper but was deeply disturbed by the turn it takes once we get to the meat of the story. The prologue drops you into this retelling of Cinderella’s escape from the life-changing ball where she loses one of her precious glass slippers (one of which is cracked, hence the title of the novel). If you’ve read Cinderella or watched the animated film, you get the gist. But this tale of Cinderella’s plight has a slight twist—an intimate look inside the happily-ever-after portion of her story. With witches instead of fairy godmothers and talking animals as pets, this isn’t your mother’s fairy tale. I mean, there are talking unicorns! What more could you need?

One thing I noticed right away: the writing is engaging. While The Cracked Slipper needs some editing because of misplaced and extra (unnecessary) words, and an over-excessive use of the word ‘a’, those errors don’t hinder the reader from enjoying Eleanor’s story too much. The world building is pretty solid as you can picture where Eleanor lives and feel like it’s a real place.

The Cracked Slipper has the feel of a period piece with modernized language thrown in—mostly profanity. Some of it is fitting to the book’s tone like the word “dragonshit,” but some of the language would be more suitable to a contemporary romance novel. It’s always odd to me when I read a story where the characters are so refined and proper in their everyday life, yet they drop the F-bomb when pissed like it’s nothing. It made me do a double take.

Things aren’t as happy as you’d think a happily-ever-after should be, but I believe that’s Alexander’s intent with Eleanor’s story. This isn’t a tale about the make-believe princess you expect to read. It’s raw, gritty, and true to life. The realism behind the pauper-turned-princess story relates what it means for Eleanor to be a person of worth after being considered worthless for so long.

The book touches on the harsh realities of Eleanor’s family dynamic somewhat but focuses more on what life is like for her as a princess and wife. Alexander doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to making this story feel real. Eleanor’s wedding night is anything but fabulous and it made me appreciate the author’s intent. With that in mind, I think it’s a bad sign when your fiancé shows up hammered on the eve of your wedding and ends up a passed out drunken mess by the end of your wedding night. Foreshadowing much? I think if Eleanor truly thought about what her prince’s behavior meant, regarding Gregory’s character and how he would treat her, she may not have gone through with the wedding. But then there’d be no story. Or would there?

I didn’t like Gregory as a character. He’s mean, manipulative, and charming all at the same time. Alexander portrays the man behind the royal title as the biggest asshole in the world with exemption to decorum, and it leaves his character room to express his true colors without consequence. I think as readers, we sometimes forget the princes, heroes, and good guys are men underneath it all. And as men, they tend to give in to their baser natures. That fact doesn’t bode well for Eleanor and leads her to seek comfort elsewhere. Enter the gallant and charming Dorian (I loved his character, by the way); he’s everything Gregory isn’t and has a genuine interest in Eleanor as a person, not just as a piece of property. As Gregory’s opposite and best friend, he’s a better fit for the princess, yet finds himself a slave to the bro code. You feel sympathy for Dorian where Gregory makes a girl second guess ever wanting to marry a prince.

Another appealing dynamic of the novel deals with the female presence in the world Alexander has created. The women involved in magic are called witches while the men are just magicians. It’s a little thing, but a title says a lot about people’s conceptions of others. The married women are treated as objects, which is a familiar theme used in period pieces before women had any rights. But no amount of sugar makes it go down easy. The women we’re introduced to deal with their lot in life differently. For the most part, every married woman succumbs to her husband’s will—none more than Eleanor. One of the things that frustrated me about her character is the lack of respect she receives from Gregory. I kept wondering how much of a doormat can one woman be. She knows he’s unfaithful, a drunk and verbally abusive on occasion (which you know may lead to physical abuse) yet has no real option for escape. What is there for her to do in a world where married women are the property of and dependent upon their husbands? I’m not sure what Alexander was trying to say on this topic, but I know it pissed me off and made me scream at my book quite a few times.

For the most part, I liked The Cracked Slipper, but I didn’t understand the plot twist near the end. Aside from that, the ending isn’t very fulfilling. There’s an open-endedness to the resolution of a few issues, and it reads like a bad soap opera. Initially, I didn’t think this way, but as I worked toward the final pages, I was disappointed in how the plot disintegrated. There’s no resolution to the state of Eleanor and Gregory’s marriage; Eleanor and Dorian’s relationship status remains up in the air, leaving the reader confused. I don’t know if that means a sequel is in the works or what. I wanted to like this book more but couldn’t find it in my heart to do so. With more polishing of the plot and characters, this novel could have been much more enjoyable. You can’t lead readers on for hundreds of pages just to leave them with a you-decide-what-happens ending. That doesn’t work for this novel. I would recommend The Cracked Slipper for anyone 17 or older who may be interested in a behind-the-scenes look into a fairytale. Just be warned it may frustrate you in the end.

I received an ARC from NetGalley and CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform for an honest review.