Series: Tyme #2
Published: Oct. 2016
Ella Coach’s mother died while working in a factory and now she wants reform for the labor class. Unfortunately, her father has remarried and their family is trying to climb the social ladder. But Ella doesn’t want to be a quint and moon over Prince Dash like every other girl at her new fancy prep school. Dash is a bit strange, anyway, since the Witch’s curse was removed from him. He is no longer sure what he wants, now that he is no longer cursed to break hearts. But it’s probably not social revolution. Meanwhile, Serge, a jaded Blue fairy godfather, wonders what it would be like to be able to help the kids who need him, not just the ones who can pay. And his new apprentice Jasper just might show him the way.
Disenchanted is the modern fairy tale retelling I am pretty sure everyone wants, and it’s strange I have not seen anyone else talking about it. From it’s protagonist of color to its focus on working conditions and a living wage, it encourages its readers to empathize with others and to think critically about their own world. And let’s not forget it’s also an engrossing story.
Megan Morrison immediately sets the tone of the story by alluding to Cinderella’s dark skin and bronze curls, but otherwise not making a big deal out of it. Cinderella is not looked down upon in this world because of her skin color, but rather because her family is “new money.” Similarly, it’s well-known that a few of the guys are crushing on Prince Dash Charming and hope to marry him. No one sees this as a problem (except for the fact that Dash is straight) and instead they talk with each other about other romantic prospects that might be more realistic for the boys to attain. Acceptance is the norm in this world, if you’re not talking about class.
The bulk of the story then focuses on Ella’s desire to reform the working conditions for those who labor in the factories that keep the owners of the Garment District prosperous. She explains the concept of sick leave to another character, explores the exploitation of cheap child labor, and advocates for doing business only with ethical companies. She explains in simple terms why poor people remain poor, even when there are two working adults in the home, and the devastating consequences when one member of the household becomes ill–lower income but more bills.
Intertwined with these heavy concerns are the stories of Ella, Dash, and Serge. Ella is struggling to accept that her money now has money and she is part of a new social class. She wants to be with her old friends, but may find that she has new power with which to do good. Dash, meanwhile, might be falling in love with Ella, but the crown is at risk if he does not placate political forces by courting a more suitable match. And Serge remembers the days when he thought fairies could make a difference. Now they work only for clients with money and they often do things that trouble his conscience. Is reform possible for the Blue Fairies?
In some ways, the book seems inspired by the early 20th century and the Triangle Factory in particular, but it’s impossible not to notice that the story also comments on relevant issues today, such as a living wage. If you’re looking for a bit of social commentary mixed in with your fairy tale romance, look no farther than Disenchanted.