While I spend much of my time giving each reader the right book, sometimes I’m given the right book at the right time. A recent class assignment on fairy tales had my daughter placing Bound and Cinder on hold. I picked up the books at the library and promptly began reading Bound.
Napoli may be overlooked in the “new” rush of retold fairytales, but that would be a shame. This reworking of the Chinese version of Cinderella keeps the reader gripped from the very first page. It’s even possible to not realize that this is a Cinderella story until midway through the book – Napoli’s lovely prose brings Xing Xing, a peasant at the beginning of the Ming dynasty, to life. Both her sorrow at the loss of her father and mother and her joy in the natural world around her highlight Xing Xing’s deep feelings and her difference from her stepmother and stepsister, with their focus on achieving wealth through marriage.
Xing Xing bravely copes with the petty cruelty of her stepmother and larger dangers, using her ties to her parents and the skills they gave her to navigate her trials and achieve happiness of her own. Napoli’s book not only draws attention to the commonality of fairy tales while illuminating Chinese history, she has written a spellbinding tale for fans -of historical fiction or fairy tales- of all ages.