Before Midnight (Once Upon a Time series), by Cameron Dokey
I saw the compilation "Once," which contains this book, at the Walmart where I work. I toyed with buying it for a long time before I finally picked it up in the evening of April 30, 2012. As I write the first draft of this review, it is now May 1, 2012, and I have already finished the first book, "Before Midnight", a retelling of "Cinderella."
I finished "Before Midnight" in several hours. It really is that good.
"Before Midnight" is the tale of Cendrillon, whose real name is Constanze. The night she was born, a terrible storm blew out all of the fires in their home except for the one in the kitchen. When she finally arrived, just before midnight that night, her mother held her once, then died. The nickname "Cendrillon," which translates into English as "Cinderella," comes not from cleaning, or sleeping in, fireplaces. Rather, she earns her nickname when her first cry awakens all of the fires that had blown out in the storm.
When her father arrives two weeks later, carrying an infant boy her own age, he finds that his daughter has been born and that his wife has died. He curses his wife's grave so that nothing ever grows on it again, and then makes two wishes: 1. That the boy he brought to his home will never leave the property, and 2. That he will never see his daughter again until she can heal the damage to his heart that she caused by "killing" her mother.
Cendrillon grows up knowing that she is the mistress of the house, but as the only other occupants are the servants and the boy her father brought home, who is given the name Raoul and put to work, she chooses to work by their side rather than behave as the mistress of the house.
Every year she plants something on her mother's grave, and every year she makes the same birthday wish -- that the plant will still be alive come her birthday. And every year she is disappointed.
Then, for her fifteenth birthday, she makes a new wish. She wishes for a mother and two sisters for her to love.
There are several things I adored about this book. Primary among them is that finally we have a good explanation for how the daughter of the master of the house ended up being treated like a servant -- she never told her stepmother or stepsisters that was who she was, and since her father had more or less disowned her, they never expected that there would be a daughter to find. They saw her working alongside the servants and assumed that she was a servant as well. The longer it took her to tell them, the harder it got. I would not be surprised if pretty much everyone has had that kind of experience (not being the mistress of the home, but how it gets harder to tell the truth the longer you put it off part), and I could really feel Cendrillon's discomfort.
The overall theme of the book is love. Not just the "romance novel" kind of love, but love of friends and family as well. I was mildly disappointed that the love she and the boy, who is named Raoul, share was more of a sibling and friendship love than a romantic love. However, considering that her relationship with Raoul lacked both a ball and a glass slipper, I wasn't totally surprised.
I just wish I had discovered Ms. Dokey's writing years ago. I could have been reading her work all this time. But, at least now I get to have the enjoyment of catching up. Next on my list: "Golden" her retelling of "Rapunzel".