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I love fairy tales; Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Red Riding Hood, all of them. My particular favorite is Beauty and the Beast. One day, I would like to teach a class on fairy tales and the various incarnations over the years.

However, most of them end with the ‘Happily Ever After,’ when the princess has been saved and she and the prince are married.

What happens after that? Is it all rainbows and butterflies and happiness? It can’t be, every couple has their ups and downs and arguments. And what about the other characters, like the stepmothers and stepsisters and huntsmen and kings and queens?

Enter The Stepsister Scheme.

I picked up this book because of the title and the image. Three women on the cover, all armed. Who were they?

Turns out, they are Cinderella (Danielle Whiteshore nee de Glas), Sleeping Beauty (Talia) and Snow White. And even though Danielle married the prince, happily ever after wasn’t quite achieved.

The tale starts out with one of Danielle’s stepsister’s trying to kill her and then the reader finds out that the prince has been kidnapped. And instead of the prince going to save the princess, it is Cinderella who will rescue her prince, with help from Talia, a warrior, and Snow, a sorceress. And just as this isn’t quite the Cinderella you might remember, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White aren’t typical princesses either. Both are given refuge by Queen Beatrice Whiteshore and both have their own stories to tell.

Talia isn’t the pale skinned, blonde and blue-eyed princess that Disney created. She is dark- dark skin, dark eyes, dark hair- and still fairy-gifted. However, she resents fairies and all they stand for. And after sleeping for one hundred years and being helpless, she rarely sleeps and has trained in a variety of weapons. She is not only Danielle’s maid, but her bodyguard. And her story didn’t end the way that everyone supposes. When she fell into a deep sleep and the rest of the court followed, those who took over the throne fought to enter the palace. After one hundred years, the invaders made it in and killed the sleeping court. And Sleeping Beauty wasn’t woken by a kiss, but by her twins being born. Jim Hines referenced an older version of Sleeping Beauty for his character, Sun, Moon and Talia and created a cunning princess from it.

And Snow White isn’t the demure beauty that Disney portrayed. In fact, she is a buxom beauty and quite the flirt. While she was chased out of her place by her mother, the huntsman took her in and fell in love with her. They were together for a while before the queen tracked them down. And the seven dwarves aren’t quite dwarves in this version.

Stepsister Scheme doesn’t include the fairy tales, but also fairies, in their original characters as tricksters. These fairies aren’t your fairy godmothers, but pixies, goblins and gnomes who want to bargain for human children, especially the one that grows in Danielle’s womb.  And there are some people, including Danielle’s stepsisters, who will do nearly anything to get that child and gain power over the throne.

But Danielle knows what her mother did to see that Danielle had a happily ever after and she is going to do everything she can to see that her child gets the same. Move over, princes, the ladies have this one under control.