I've been meaning to sit down and write up a post about the Five Glass Slippers contest winners for several weeks now. Amazing how time gets away from me! But now that I am working on the last round of edits on these five stories, and my head is full of all things Cinderella, well . . . it seems like a good time to enthuse a little!
One of the most exciting (and intimidating) things about this contest was the surprise that each story was for me. The contest required no short synopsis or premise-idea submitted in advance, so all I had to go on before diving into reading each story was the title itself. Which, as you know, doesn't tell me a whole lot.
Who would have guessed from the title A Cinder's Tale that this would be a deep-space adventure about miners on a space station orbiting a roasting planet? Imagine! But when I opened that document and read the first line, I was immediately drawn into this thrilling premise. Stephanie (the author) cleverly wove in all the most important aspects of the fairy tale--including my favorite interpretation of the stepsister characters ever. Oh, my! Are they ever unexpectedly wonderful! She effortlessly drops references to various classic versions of Cinderella so that the story is quite brimming with inside jokes . . . and yet the plot itself is unique and unpredictable. A sci-fi adventure that leaves the reader intrigued about this world and interested for more.
The title Broken Glass gave me even less to go when it came to predicting the story. But that story . . . well, that story totally surprised me! I had been reading submissions all day long, late into the night. I was reading them backwards alphabetically (Hey! It's a system). I was still a good fifteen stories away from the "B" section. But as I came to the end of a long reading day, I casually opened up various documents at random, glancing at the opening lines to give myself an idea of what's coming. Broken Glass was the last document I opened . . .
And I read the opening line.
Then I read the next line.
The next thing I knew, I had read half the book, and it was midnight all ready. (My coach was well on the way to turning into a pumpkin.) But that story, which I wasn't supposed to have read for many days completely captured my attention. Broken Glass is the laugh-out-loud comedy of this collection, a hilarious, tongue-in-cheek romp with a cast of characters so delightful (some of them delightfully awful) that they are impossible not to enjoy. I got up early the next morning to finish reading it, then sent it right on to the other contest readers. I wasn't at all surprised to hear back within days from both of them, both casting their votes solidly in favor of this story. Thus Broken Glass became the first story picked as a winner for this collection.
The Windy Side of Care . . . now there's a title that stands out, but really doesn't give much of a clue. I recognized the Shakespearean element, however, and wondered if perhaps the writer might have done a Shakespearean retelling. ("The windy side of care" is part of a quote from Much Ado About Nothing, delivered by Beatrice.) But I was wrong. Rachel wrote an original story all her own . . . though I will say that it has a decidedly Shakespearean-comedy flavor to it!
Windy Side is another funny story, but in a completely different style and tone from Broken Glass. For one thing, it has a decidedly historical feel to it--no magic. I could have believed the kingdom of Ashby in which the tale is set was a real place, not an invention of the authoress. The shining light of this tale, however, is its heroine. Intrepid Alisandra stands out from all other Cinderellas I have ever read. She is smart as a whip, strong-willed, lightning-tongued, and . . . romantic. Oh, yes. Much to her own surprise, Alis discovers that she has quite a tender heart beneath all of her Shakespearean-esque cunning!
This story is told primarily in the first-person narrative, the only one in the collection to use that narrative voice. A perfect choice to go along with this stand-out heroine.
What Eyes Can See, by contrast, is a much gentler tale. I'm so glad that this one is going to be the first in the collection. I had hoped all along to be able to arrange the stories alphabetically by author, but wasn't sure if that would prove the right order for the stories themselves. But Elisabeth Brown's sweet romance really is the perfect opening tale. Her style is elegant and her story is simple . . . but then not simple at all. She allows her characters to carry the day, and such lovely characters they are. There isn't a villain to be seen in this story, but don't let that fool you! Though all the characters are kind, good, and well-meaning, their desires and goals are at such cross-purposes, there is plenty of intrigue to go around. If anything, I thought the intrigue all the more fun and interesting since there was no one I could label the "villain." The clashes of will felt so believable to me. It may not have been a space-adventure or a laugh-out-loud comedy--but this story caught my attention so completely, I read it all in one quick gulp.
Elisabeth's style reminded me of a Georgette Heyer novel--a character-driven novel of manners. I hate to say too much about it, because this story took me so much by surprise, and I hate to spoil that surprise for anyone! You'll see what I mean when you read it, so I'll say no more for now.
The Moon Master's Ball . . . Of all the titles I received for this contest, I think this one intrigued me the most! (Though, on a side note, there were so many wonderful titles submitted, I almost hosted a favorite-title contest and let you all vote! Seriously, some of these titles were just so clever.) The very sound of it promised mystery and magic. And does this story ever deliver on both! Within a single chapter, I was pretty much convinced that this tale would be a winner. I was so curious to know how the unfolding mystery would play out! I couldn't put the story down until I learned the secrets of the Moon Master and how they connected to the little heroine, Tilly. I was also very curious to see how this complex story would tie in with Cinderella. But in the end, how beautifully it did! It was all very Cinderella while simultaneously being very much itself.
One of the contest readers likened it to a Diana Wynn Jones novel . . . and as soon as she said it, I had to agree! There's that same magic to be found. Clara's style style is delightful, a perfect match for the story she tells. The Moon Master's Ball is a Halloween-feeling story. It's autumnal and eerie, like a wind at dusk shivering through dry-leaves.
So there you have it, dear readers: A little, spoiler-free taste of the Five Glass Slippers winners. Not long now until you'll be able to read them for yourselves! In the meanwhile, be sure to add the book on your Goodreads shelves and tell your friends.
What do you think of these stories and titles? Any one you're particularly interested to read?