I am starting to get a feeling for Jim C. Hines. Hines is a very good writer: he comes up with interesting worlds, fun characters, and keeps the action moving. So far, though, while I have enjoyed every book of his that I’ve read I have not found any of them that really stand out. I filed his Jig the Goblin books as excellent, but even when I did it I realized that while I personally highly enjoyed them, they probably would not appeal to everyone. There is simply something missing that prevented them from ascending from “lots of fun” to “you absolutely must read this book”.
The Stepsister Scheme was the same way. This book is undeniably a lot of fun, and I love the world and most of the characters. However, I came away from the book unsure if I wanted to continue reading other “Princess Novels” (which honestly is about the most generic name for a series ever), and the reason is that this book felt a lot more like pulp fiction than the Jig the Goblin books. Now, that won’t be off-putting to everyone. I happen to prefer a virtually asexual irreverent anti-hero to the oversexualized heroines of The Stepsister Scheme; just a matter of taste. Other people may be put off by Jig’s casual barbarity, and prefer the glitz and Charlie’s Angels-style female protagonists who live in Hines’ fairy tale kingdom.
The Stepsister Scheme is undeniably well-written, and like his Jig the Goblin books the world Hines has created is a lot of fun and manages to be both highly derivative of past works while still wrapping everything up in a way that feels new. I also very much enjoyed the fact that Hines used the older, more darkly graphic versions of the fairy tales as his basis instead of the Disney-style happy-fests that are so common these days.
I am coming to the conclusion that the best way to tell if you will enjoy a Hines novel is to read the dust jacket description. If it sounds like something you would enjoy, jump in! You’re going to be in for appealing characters, excellent writing, and although it might not be the best book you have ever read I doubt you’ll regret buying it. For me, Stepsister Scheme wasn’t quite as appealing as Jig’s novels, but it is well worth checking out regardless.
The plot summary contains spoilers! Show it anyway.