I liked Charm more than the first book, but I’m still somewhat wondering exactly what to think about this. There’s less of a focus on sex in this book than in Poison, and what there is ends up feeling less exploitative and like power-play. Indeed, two of the scenes include a lot of tenderness, for quite different reasons. I can appreciate the world created, in which sex isn’t a huge deal but can be a way to share joy.
It’s also an interesting set-up world-wise, with Robin Hood making an appearance and more references to Hansel and Gretel, etc. It’s all a bit too wildly promiscuous about the stories mingling for my taste — there seems little rhyme or reason behind it — but it’s kind of fun to figure the references out, anyway.
As with the first book, the narration remains fairytale-like, and the twists on the original story are quite fun. For example, the ‘ugly’ step-sisters aren’t really ugly at all, and Cinderella’s hatred of her step-mother is rather unjust… but she is lower class than them and she does work around the house, and she doesn’t go to the balls. And her sister, Rose, tries to cut off her own toes to fit the shoe… because she believes it’s what her mother would want. The characters aren’t necessarily likeable, but for me that isn’t so much an issue with the clever sort of tale chosen here. I think you’re only meant to be able to sympathise with Rose, and not so much Cinderella. It’s showing up the selfishness of pursuing a dream to others’ cost.
I’m definitely going to read the third book, Beauty; the three aren’t that closely linked together, I think, but thematically they compliment each other — and the Fairy Godmother is someone you’ll recognise if you’ve read Poison…