Lady Tremaine is undoubtedly one of the worst stepmothers in all of the Disney fairytales. Cruel and vicious toward her kind stepdaughter, Cinderella, she and her equally terrible stepdaughters are cast in a new light in author Serena Valentino’s latest installation in her Villains series, Cold Hearted. The series continues to give an interesting twist to the villains we know and create interesting and thought-provoking backstories that engage readers long after the book is closed.
Valentino takes a unique spin on Lady Tremaine, Anastasia, and Drizella who hail not from the Many Kingdoms where fairytales come true but from bustling London. Lady Tremaine was happily married when the love of her life meets an untimely death. Six years after that terrible tragedy Lady Tremaine meets a dashing knight, Sir Richard, from the Many Kingdoms and before she knows it, is on a ship with Anastasia and Drizella to join Sir Richard and his daughter Cinderella in the far off land. However, the life of a knight’s wife isn’t all she believes it will be, and things quickly take a turn for the worst. Stepmothers don’t fair well in fairytales and Lady Tremaine’s own slow downfall into her fated destiny as wicked stepmother asks readers to consider if she ever had a choice in her role of the age-old tale. Perhaps it was fate and abuse that turned her heart cold.
Valentino once again builds a fascinating and robust world that readers will no doubt get lost in from the first page. Tying in the Odd Sisters with a witch and fairy magic, the Tremaine family story gets an overhaul and readers might find themselves surprised by their empathy for Anastasia, Drizella, and yes even Lady Tremaine. Departing from the first-person narrative of book 7 (Evil Thing), Valentino returns to a third-person narrative, the story being read by the fairies who have been asked by Cinderella to help her suffering stepsisters long after she’s been crowned Queen and living her happily ever after. The fairy council turns to the tale of Lady Tremaine to help make their decision on whether to intervene, thus giving the readers a glimpse into the world of the Fairy Godmother and the fairy realm. Valentino writes a familiarity into the tale while also expertly lacing in the Odd Sisters and the more sinister elements of magic causing an unsettling but pleasant reading experience. There’s more going on behind the scenes of the Many Kingdoms and the magic that dictates the lives of its citizens.
Experiencing Lady Tremaine’s past with all its loss leaves the reader hoping for the best though we all know the outcome for Lady Tremaine. Poignant when needed, compelling and well-written, Cold Hearted is yet another triumph in the Villains series from Valentino. Cold Hearted will be available in stores on July 6, but you can preorder the book from your local bookshop now!