Book Review: Cinders, by Michelle Davidson Argyle

For those of you who read this blog on a regular basis, you know that usually Ien does the book reviews. After reading the teaser excerpt for this one, I had to email her. The novella doesn’t release for another few weeks, so I count myself honored to have been given the opportunity to read it early for review.

I didn’t intend on reading this novella in one sitting. However, like good stories are apt to do, this one quietly pulled me in and by the time I realized it—I was past the point of no return.

I’ve read quite a few Cinderella sequels: some playful, some humorous, some full of talking animals and other familiar fairy-tale elements. Argyle’s Cinderella while playful in some areas, humorous in others, is haunting in its elegance and simplicity. The prose itself is pitch perfect for the narrative, to the point where as a reader you forget that you’re reading. It’s presented like the glass slipper that it is: beautiful, translucent, and full of unexpected magic.

The characters are solid, memorable, sturdy and some of them ephemeral (I’ll leave that for you to figure out…I don’t do spoilers). The plot is deftly paced. But what struck me above everything else is Argyle’s use of imagery. So many passages echo after they’ve been read…not because of how they were written, but because of what they said.

…After a moment Cinderella realized she was touching her crown, thinking of the grease on Marion’s chin as she ate her food and told Rowland things weren’t fair…

…Neither of these images represented what Cinderella saw now: a skeleton of a woman so thin and aged she looked as if she belonged to the worn stone walls. Her skin was gray, her eyes dull and lifeless. Her hair had fallen out in clumps, leaving only strings to cover her baldness…

I am actually leaving my favorite passages out because I want them to have the same effect on you as they did on me. They aren’t mere descriptions. They tell the rest of the story.

Cinders takes unexpected turns, ironic turns, turns that some readers won’t appreciate. Those aren’t the readers to whom the story was intended. Few writers have the skill and foresight to craft a fairytale that is applicable to real life, while maintaining the elemental integrity of the story. Argyle does this seamlessly and while you think for a time that you’re simply hearing another classic tale, slowly, you begin to see another layer—the bones beneath the flesh—and it is this layer, that adds the most brilliant aspect to Argyle’s prose. With this layer, she breathes life into characters that we’ve become all too familiar with and gives them new purpose. This layer presents to us another fairytale, a slightly darker, more visceral one…read carefully and you’ll see exactly what I mean. There is no question that each and every line was arranged with clear purpose and if you look closely, you’ll see the reason for the novella’s title.

Keep your eye on this girl. I don’t say that often. This brief journey into Argyle’s imagination left me wanting to see more of what she’ll create in the coming years and there are few things more exciting for a reader than discovering, not just a book that holds promise, but an author with whom we know we’ll share many adventures in the future.

You can find out more about Michelle at her website here.  Or you can find her fan page on Facebook here.

11 responses

  1. Oh man! I want to read that so so bad now.

    I love good novellas!

    I’m totally gone to buy a nice bottle of wine to go with this, and am actively plotting to make sure I get my hands on it before the Wife Unit does. She has a really bad habit of seeing my books and going “Ooooooo,” an then she disappears for several hours.

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  3. What a glowing review! Glam does vivid and poignant like nobody’s business, and she can seriously turn a phrase. I can’t wait to read it in book form all polished up and shining.

  4. Thank you for sharing this! Usually I don’t like old, well-known fary-tales and stories they seem too ordinary and boring…;) (that’s why I strive to create new creatures in my books – weightless korks, fish-keepers, glowing, living balls, rock pieces, Brown faces, Fiery people, etc.) . But I remember a good thought that the new things are usually well-forgotten past ones…
    Yet, it seems this story has nothing in common with the original fairy-tale! The style is really fascinating, characters too! Would love to read it!
    Best wishes to all book fans! Let the wonderful noise of the sea alwayssouhds in your ears! (a greeting of the water dragons’hunters – one of my brand-new characters too).

    • Ivan, thank you so much for stopping by to read! You’re right that this book doesn’t have too many connections to the fairy tale. It does, in a way, and then it doesn’t. There, I’m completely vague for you. Hope you get around to reading it! I’ll have to go check out your awesome stuff. 🙂

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