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Book Review: Serena Valentino's 'Cold Hearted'

By: Tanitia Burks

Serena Valentino manages, once again, to take what was once a two-dimensional Disney villain and make it into a fully fleshed-out character. This time, Lady Tremaine has her side of the story revealed in Valentino’s latest book in her Disney villains series, Cold Hearted.

Similar to her previous books, this adaptation of Lady Tremaine’s story includes a retelling of the classic Cinderella story that we all know. This retelling is very brief, and, instead, much of the book focuses on Lady Tremaine and her daughters’ lives before their stories became intertwined with that of Cinderella’s. We find out where they come from, and how all of these characters came into one another’s lives.

The backstory of these characters is explained so vividly, I found my heart going out to Lady Tremaine and Cinderella’s “wicked” (or maybe not-so-wicked) stepsisters. Every emotion these characters felt was so real and relatable. Even though I still thought the actions of Lady Tremaine and the behaviors of her daughters to be cruel, I find myself believing that their feelings and reactions to the events and revelations of the story to be completely valid.

Once again, the central characters in this series, the Odd Sisters, are notably missing from most of this book. Similarly to the last book in the series, Evil Thing, I found myself missing their presence. And yet, I was still just as engaged in the twists and turns of the plot. The Odd Sisters do make a very brief appearance twice in the book, and those two scenes were full of deliciously magical action and dialogue. They set up very interesting power dynamics between the Odd Sisters and the Fairy Council (a magical governing board featured heavily in Mistress of All Evil and The Odd Sisters) that left me anxious for more interactions between these magical powerhouses.

Cinderella was only lightly featured in this book, which works for the story as we are already so familiar with her tale. She still felt like the sweet and kind maid-turned-princess that we are accustomed to. The biggest surprise of the book for me was this story’s take on Cinderella’s father, and the relationship between him and Lady Tremaine. While this take caught me off guard, it worked extremely well in creating the emotional picture of Lady Tremaine. It also gives the reader her “why.”

After reading Cold Hearted, the wait for the next novel in Valentino’s series is made all the more agonizing. I am eager to find out who the next Disney villain is in this series’ lineup. This book, and the series as a whole, continues to be a magically wicked delight for any hardcore Disney villains fan. I’m excited for everyone to get to read this series’s latest edition and to see what the future holds for these books.

To see our discussion of Cold Hearted with Valentino, check out the discussion in our Creepy Book Club!


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