The Rat Prince by Bridget Hodder
Summary: The dashing Prince of the Rats–who’s in love with Cinderella–is turned into her coachman by the Fairy Godmother on the night of the big ball. And he’s about to turn the legend (and the evening) upside down on his way to a most unexpected happy ending!
Prepare to fall hard for noble, dashing Prince Char, sovereign of the Northern Rat Realm, who won his position through trials of strength and skill (and sausage-eating). Prepare to be charmed by the determined and lovely Rose de Lancastyr, called Cinderella by the evil stepmother who has made her a servant in her own home.
Rose may seem weak, but really she is biding her time, using her servant status to keep an eye on the rat poison she suspects her stepmother is trying to kill her father. Rose is aided by Char and his breed of intelligent rats, who have long been bonded with the Lancastyr family through an ancient spell by a goddess. When Rose makes a wish on an ancient ring, she awakens that goddess and sets into motion a series of events that will change her life and Char’s life forever.
Transformed into a human footman, Char must do everything within his power to keep Rose from marrying Prince Geoffrey, a violent bully and heir to the human throne. The friendship that Rose and Char had as human and rat quickly blossoms into love when they both have opposable thumbs. Rose gives him the name you know better – Prince Charming – and in a faceoff with Prince Geoffrey, Char demonstrates that he is a consummate prince.
This is a delightful twist on the familiar tale, full of characters you’ll want to get to know better. The two characters with the least agency in the traditional tale – the rat footman and Cinderella herself – become the drivers of change here. The worldbuilding is spot on, from the details of the rat throne room to rats’ travel arrangements through the sewers and relations with other rat kingdoms. Char’s point of view is especially delightful; after becoming human, he compares guilt to the feeling of having eaten a venomous lizard, and at one point he has to resist the urge to drop to all fours and scuttle through a crowd of people. Though light in tone, the story doesn’t gloss over the inherent murder, abuse, and cruelty in the tale, and so the conclusion is all the sweeter when our hero and heroine get their happily ever after.