Danielle De Glas was the daughter of a man who lost his wife early. When he remarried, his new wife treated her stepdaughter badly, and her own twin girls well, turning Danielle into an unpaid servant in her own home. Luckily for Danielle, her mother kept watch over her even from the grave, allowing her to attract the attention and love of Prince Armand, the ruler of her small island kingdom of Lorindar. Her new people gave her a name- Cinderella, and through the influence of her new mother-in-law, Danielle came to know two other Princesses that Queen Beatrice had taken under her wing- Snow White, and Talia, a southern Princess known under the legend of the Sleeping Beauty.
Talia has long been estranged from her own country of Arathea, and for a very good reason. Her story was less about being awakened by the kiss of a Prince and more by being awakened by the birth of twins after the Prince raped her sleeping body. Worse, the Prince was a relative of hers, from a family that had seized power after her mother and father and those in their palace had conveniently fallen asleep. The Prince hoped that by uniting his line with hers by siring children on her, his branch of the family would be recognized as the rightful rulers of Arathea instead of jumped-up upstarts who seized power. And in a way, he accomplished that, but Talia escaped her homeland and took refuge in Lorindar with Queen Beatrice. Now, she acts as one of the Queen's secret weapons, along with Snow and Danielle.
As the story opens, the Princesses are on a mission to capture a faery named Rumplestiltzchen, who makes off with children from royalty and raises them himself while marrying off commoners to Royals. Unluckily for him, he's tried that trick once more in exactly the wrong place- Lorindar, and he's trying to abduct Danielle's son, Jakob, something that neither the Queen nor Danielle is willing to take lying down.
After they capture him and his accomplice and free many of the stolen children, Danielle receives a message from an assassin named Roudette, also known as Red Hood. Red Hood was nearly killed as a child in an incident involving her grandmother, and possesses a red wolfskin that allows her to not only become a wolf, but to command and control them as well. She tries to lure Talia back to Arathea, and is under contract from the Queen Mother of Arathea to bring Talia back, to either serve as a figurehead for the Royal Family or to be killed, and her two sons assume the throne eventually.
But Talia doesn't just blame the current royal house for her troubles, she also blames the Fairies of Arathea, who conspired with the current royal house to depose her own family, and who now are seen as Gods in Arathea. When she is brought to the country by Roudette's magic, she wants revenge on the man who raped her, and to tear the Arathean fairies off their high pedestals and make them just what they are- tricksters and illusionists, no more, no less.
Not everyone is happy to see Roudette returned, though, and some are overjoyed- they want to put Roudette back on the throne, to rule in place of her relatives. But does she even want to rule over the country that so welcomed her relatives as rulers and so completely forgot about her until she emerged from the remains of her palace? And can she bring down the fairy rulers and free her people from their demands? What will she learn about the supposed God of her people, and will she be able to affect some kind of change, freeing her people to be at least less enslaved than they are now? or can she even free her people at all?
I love this series. I had originally thought it was going to be merely a trilogy, but honestly, I see many, many ways that this series could go on. So far, each Princess has had an adventure based around them. First Danielle, then Snow, and now Talia. Here, we get to see where she came from, and why she is so angry at her people and her relatives. She was treated in an entirely shitty manner, and it wasn't until Snow and Danielle came along that she had enough backup to free her people from those imprisoning them-often in ways that don't make them realize that they are little better than slaves to those who rule them.
It's also obvious that something will soon change. Danielle might soon be Queen of Lorindar. Her mother-in-law has not been well since falling to the attack of the Mermaid Princess, and is not long for this world. Will Danielle be able to continue her missions with Snow and Talia, or will she be the one directing the missions if she ends up sitting on the throne. Being a Queen rather than a Princess would certainly allow her less time to be gallivanting around on adventures, and it will be interesting to see who might replace her in the team if she does become Queen of Lorindar.
And let's face it, this series is just fun. Three fairy-tale Princesses- NOT Disneyfied, running around kicking ass and taking names? A Complete and total win. Each Princess is just different enough from the original tales to be interesting, and for the true details of their life to be shocking and compelling at the same time. This is a series I would love to read tons more of. It's well-written and keeps my interest each time I turn a page. Jim Hines has really found a winner here, and I cannot recommend this series enough. Highly recommended.