Posts Tagged ‘Jim C. Hines’

Stepsister Scheme Review

Amber Stults

The latest fantasy series from Jim C. Hines features three princesses – Danielle (de Glas) Whiteshore, Ermillina Curtana and Talia Malak-el-Dashat.  The stories that circulate around Lorindar about Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty are based on fact but the true tales do not have happily ever after endings.

This first book in the Princess Novels takes place several months after Danielle’s wedding to Prince Armand of Lorindar.  If one overlooks the pigeon attack against Danielle’s stepmother and stepsisters, the wedding was perfect.  The book reveals the stepsisters’ plan for revenge and sets up future adventures for the princesses.  The Little Mermaid and Little Red Riding Hood will appear in the next two novels.  For now, the princesses must travel to Fairytown to rescue Prince Armand and defeat the stepsisters, Charlotte and Stacia.

Each princess has traits that complement the trio.  Danielle believes the good in others will prevail, has unparalleled tenaciousness and can converse with animals.  Snow is flirtatious, a healer and a powerful mirror sorceress.  Talia is slow to trust but has unshakable loyalty and is a martial arts expert.  All three are quick witted, strong willed and analytical thinkers.  It’s no surprise a tagline for the series is “Do we look like we need to be rescued?”

An exhilarating read, Hines combines a detailed plotline with fully developed characters.  Upon rereading the first few chapters, I found cleverly hidden clues to explain how Stacia and Charlotte can suddenly wield magic.  The action takes place at breakneck speed and I found myself rereading some passages to fully appreciate the artistry behind the chosen words.

Hines includes humor and political intrigue with the action.  For instance, Lorindar’s Queen Beatrice and King Theodore have spies who work separately from each other.  Queen Bea, as the princesses call her, has saved the life of King Theodore many times and not always with his knowledge.  The politics between Lorindar and Fairytown can be problematic and provides another obstacle for the princesses to navigate in their search for Prince Armand.

The content of The Stepsister Scheme has a dark tone at times so don’t pick up this book expecting to read the adventures of Disney Princesses to younger children.  Though the messages of empowerment and female camaraderie are important it’s probably best to read this one for yourself before deciding whether or not your children should read it.  For now, I’m counting down the months until The Mermaid’s Madness is released.

Interview with Jim C. Hines

JimA few months ago I was in my local library and as I was walking by the racks of paperbacks a cover caught my eye. It was the cover for Jim C. Hine’s book Goblin Hero. I know they say not to judge a book by its cover, but after just a quick glance at that one, I had to read that book.

I’m so glad I did.

The novel was awesome. It was witty and funny and kept me turning the pages. In short, I loved it.

When I was done, I looked up its author online and discovered that not only was the novel pretty made of awesome, so was its author. I’ve been following Jim’s livejournal for quite some time now, and that’s how it was that I happened to comment to one of his posts and say, not really expecting an answer, “Hey, when are you going to do a guest-blog spot for Niteblade?”.

Happily Jim said, “How about an interview?”. As you can imagine I jumped at the chance.

Jim’s newest novel, the first in a brand new series featuring some ass-kicking princesses, is called The Stepsister Scheme, and that is mostly what we talked about. Of course, since I first became enamored of his work through the goblins, I couldn’t resist make a quick side-trip to that subject too 😉

Okay, before we get to the Princess series and The Stepsister Scheme in general, I have got to ask – why did you make your goblins in the goblin series blue? Was it specifically to be different or were there deeper forces at work there?

I’m afraid there were no deep forces involved. Not even any shallow forces. I just like blue, and I figured a dark blue color made sense for a race who lived in the darkness. My cover artist painted the goblins much more brightly than I had imagined, but I think that worked well. Looking back, I’m glad I didn’t go with green, if only to keep people from thinking I had ripped off Shrek. (I wrote the book before Shrek came out, even if it wasn’t published until afterward.)

Where did the inspiration for the princess series come from? What about the Stepsister Scheme specifically?

The princess books were inspired by my daughter. Like many young girls, she went through a phase where she was a little infatuated with all things princess. We’ve had princess movies, princess dolls, princess tissue boxes, princess bedsheets. . . . They’re like pastel tribbles, multiplying until they fill up every room in the house!

The movies were all right, moving a little beyond the “helpless damsel in distress” thing, but a lot of the merchandise was just painful. “Simpering” is the best word I can find for some of the imagery.

I decided I needed to present a different kind of princess, women who could save the prince, fight bad guys, and generally kick butt. Sort of a cross between the old fairy tales (pre-Disney) and Charlie’s Angels. And of course, the first book is dedicated to my daughter.

Can you tell us a little bit about Stepsister Scheme?The Stepsister Scheme

This is the first in a series of at least three books. Danielle (Cinderella) is our viewpoint character. She’s just married the prince and is trying to settle down into her new life when all hell breaks loose. Assassination attempts and kidnappings, not to mention secrets of every kind.

Enter Snow (White) and Talia (Sleeping Beauty). If you read the old fairy tales, Talia was gifted with perfect grace and dancing skills . . . just the kind of thing you need if you want to be a martial arts master. As for Snow, she’s inherited her mother’s magic mirror and a whole lot of power. Add Danielle into the mix, with her gift for communicating with animals, and you have an impressive little team.

I seem to remember reading that one of the princesses is based on your daughter, which one is it and how does your daughter feel about that? I’ve got to think it would be pretty darn cool.

The character isn’t based on my daughter, but when we were working with our cover artist, I sent along a photo of my then seven-year-old girl, asking if there was any way the artist might be able to use her as inspiration for Princess Talia (Sleeping Beauty). He did, and did an amazing job.

I asked my daughter before doing any of this. At first I think she thought it was a little weird, but she was okay with it. Then my niece came over, and they were both looking at the cover. My niece decided she wanted to be Danielle. At that point, once my daughter saw how jealous her cousin was, I think she decided this was pretty darn cool indeed.

Retold or modernized fairytales and fairytale-inspired novels seem to be very popular right now, what do you think your princess series will add to this growing body of work?

The absolute best use of tableware in melee combat ever!

There are a few things I tried to accomplish with the book. One is to portray three strong female characters who aren’t caricatures. Some of the early “warrior woman” fantasies give you characters who are all but indistinguishable from their male counterparts. The “Men with boobs” phenomenon. I wanted my characters to be real people with strengths and flaws and their own personalities, personalities which sometimes come into conflict and don’t revolve around men.

I also wanted to have fun. Sure, I’m dealing with some deeper issues, but I want people to keep turning the page and saying, “That’s awesome! I know it’s late and I’ve got work/school tomorrow, but I’ve just got to find out what comes next!”

What is the one question you love to answer or the one you’d love to answer but never get asked?

“Where can I sign up to be your rich patron so you can quit your day job and live a life of spoiled luxury?”

Ooh good one, I wish someone would ask me that question too! Thank you for taking time out to talk with me Jim.

If you’d like to check out Jim you can find him online at

Oh. And did I mention that The Stepsister Scheme was just released today? It was! Go! Go! Go! My copy was pre-ordered, don’t worry about me 😉

*Photo of Jim by Craig Hebert