We follow Zoe on her summer adventures in Fairyland. No, not some mythical, magical place where supernatural all the Disney princesses are real, but a theme park with actors portraying the non-Disney-fied versions of the fairy tales. Every summer Fairyland holds internships to allow rising seniors to pump up their resume and give young actors a chance to showcase their talents, even if it’s only at a children’s park. Zoe arrives assuming she got an actual role, with her cousin Jess, only to find out that she is to be the Queen’s assistant. Disappointed, but trying to make the best of it, she goes in on her first day only to be berated for her every action. So much for a fun, carefree summer entertaining children. This summer is going to be a nightmare and it’s only just beginning.
I really enjoyed this. I seem to be stuck in a contemporary YA loop these days, but with stories like these, I’m not complaining. I didn’t realize until about a third of the way in that this was a retelling of Cinderella, but that realization only made me happier. I love fairytale retellings and this was no different. You can’t help but sympathize with Zoe, dealing with the hellish Queen (aka the lady in charge of all that happens in Fairyland) who commands her to get up a dawn to walk her precious pooch and the proceeds to yell orders and demand near impossible tasks. Zoe is the invisible hand that keeps the place up and running, from waking up late cast members to filling in for dismissed workers and everything in between. I loved her through every minute. Sweet and willing to do anything to give her cousin a boost to a coveted Princess position, which is one of the big four (Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Rapunzel). Jess has a minor role as Red Riding Hood, but dreams of being Cinderella.
Jess was everything the sidekick was supposed to be. She stands up for Zoe and never does that backstabbing thing that goes down in so many YA’s. She’s completely loyal. The other characters all range from perfectly charming to alarmingly despicable (like the Queen, who is a tyrant). I will say that my favorite male was Ian. A little cocky, oozing charm, sarcastic, and armed with way too many bad puns, he’s got the Prince Charming at down to a “t.” Watching Zoe do the “I don’t like you, I like you, I hate you, I like you” dance with him was more than a little amusing.
This tale has everything you could want, great characters, good writing, witty banter, and a wicked twist that you may or may not see coming. I certainly didn’t. I recommend it to everyone who loves fairytale retellings, especially fans of Robin Palmer or Alex Flinn.
****Thank you to Balzar + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, for providing me with an eARC via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review****