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Stepsister

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Isabelle should be blissfully happy – she’s about to win the handsome prince. Except Isabelle isn’t the beautiful girl who lost the glass slipper and captured the prince’s heart. She’s the ugly stepsister who’s cut off her toes to fit into Cinderella’s shoe ... which is now filling with blood. When the prince discovers Isabelle’s deception, she is turned away in Isabelle should be blissfully happy – she’s about to win the handsome prince. Except Isabelle isn’t the beautiful girl who lost the glass slipper and captured the prince’s heart. She’s the ugly stepsister who’s cut off her toes to fit into Cinderella’s shoe ... which is now filling with blood. When the prince discovers Isabelle’s deception, she is turned away in shame. It’s no more than she deserves: she is a plain girl in a world that values beauty; a feisty girl in a world that wants her to be pliant. Isabelle has tried to fit in. To live up to her mother’s expectations. To be like her stepsister. To be sweet. To be pretty. One by one, she has cut away pieces of herself in order to survive a world that doesn’t appreciate a girl like her. And that has made her mean, jealous, and hollow. Until she gets a chance to alter her destiny and prove what ugly stepsisters have always known: it takes more than heartache to break a girl.


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Isabelle should be blissfully happy – she’s about to win the handsome prince. Except Isabelle isn’t the beautiful girl who lost the glass slipper and captured the prince’s heart. She’s the ugly stepsister who’s cut off her toes to fit into Cinderella’s shoe ... which is now filling with blood. When the prince discovers Isabelle’s deception, she is turned away in Isabelle should be blissfully happy – she’s about to win the handsome prince. Except Isabelle isn’t the beautiful girl who lost the glass slipper and captured the prince’s heart. She’s the ugly stepsister who’s cut off her toes to fit into Cinderella’s shoe ... which is now filling with blood. When the prince discovers Isabelle’s deception, she is turned away in shame. It’s no more than she deserves: she is a plain girl in a world that values beauty; a feisty girl in a world that wants her to be pliant. Isabelle has tried to fit in. To live up to her mother’s expectations. To be like her stepsister. To be sweet. To be pretty. One by one, she has cut away pieces of herself in order to survive a world that doesn’t appreciate a girl like her. And that has made her mean, jealous, and hollow. Until she gets a chance to alter her destiny and prove what ugly stepsisters have always known: it takes more than heartache to break a girl.

30 review for Stepsister

  1. 5 out of 5

    Emily May

    Everyone said a girl with a strong will would come to a bad end. Everyone said a girl’s will must be bent to the wishes of those who know what’s best for her. Isabelle was young, only sixteen; she had not yet learned that Everyone is a fool. First off, I want to say I really enjoyed this book. There are so many good things I want to say about it (and will), but I also think I have to admit that for the first 25% I thought I was going to love it more than I did. The opening is very strong, the w Everyone said a girl with a strong will would come to a bad end. Everyone said a girl’s will must be bent to the wishes of those who know what’s best for her. Isabelle was young, only sixteen; she had not yet learned that Everyone is a fool. First off, I want to say I really enjoyed this book. There are so many good things I want to say about it (and will), but I also think I have to admit that for the first 25% I thought I was going to love it more than I did. The opening is very strong, the writing is gorgeous and highly-quotable, and it's got that beautifully eerie dark fairy tale vibe going on. I was thinking an easy five stars. History books say that kings and dukes and generals start wars. Don’t believe it. We start them, you and I. Every time we turn away, keep quiet, stay out of it, behave ourselves. True to the Grimm brothers' version of Cinderella, the book opens at the end of the tale we know with the stepsisters mutilating their own feet to attempt to fit the glass slipper. Of course, this doesn't work out, and Ella and her prince get their happy ending anyway. Here, that's only the beginning. Isabelle and Tavi are left behind with their overbearing mother. Isabelle, especially, is overcome with bitterness. She's angry at a world that renders a woman worthless if she is not deemed beautiful. Donnelly doesn't stop with something that simplistic, though. Almost all the women in this story are sympathetic, and though their actions are not excused, it is clear that the real "villain" behind it all is society and the way in which a girl's worth is determined. Ella is never dismissed as an airheaded beauty, nor is the "evil stepmother" entirely evil. It is interesting and sad how we see the way Maman's fear for her daughters drives her to horrific acts. She is deeply afraid of them being left without husbands and starving when she is gone. It's not an unrealistic fear. “Change is a kiss in the dark. A rose in the snow. A wild road on a windy night,” Chance countered. “Monsters live in the dark. Roses die in the snow. Girls get lost on wild roads,” the crone shot back. Alongside this, there is another part of the story. A fantasy story and a game. One in which Fate, who has determined the course of Isabelle's life, plays against Chance, who wagers that he can change it. These two characters go head-to-head to see that Isabelle takes the path of their choosing. For the most part, it's thrilling, though I think the overlong and convoluted road this aspect of the plot took made it a four instead of a five star book for me. There was a definite part somewhere in the third quarter where it got a little too much. But, ultimately, it's a gorgeously-written feminist fairy tale that unites women instead of demonizing them. I absolutely loved the shout-out to female military leaders of history, and the moments of perfectly-timed humour: “The feeling that you want to own someone body and soul, spirit them away from everyone else, have them all to yourself forever and ever and ever,” Hugo said dreamily. “It’s called love.” “No, it’s called kidnapping,” said Tavi. Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

  2. 4 out of 5

    Chaima ✨ شيماء

    This book: *is a bold, subversive and startingly original reclamation of one of literature's most reviled women which, by recasting Cinderella's evil stepsister as a hero in her own right, illuminates a known story from a new evolving and multifaceted perspective while eking out depth and redemption and seamlessly grafting concepts of self-discovery and identity to an unrepentant celebration of kindness, courage and forgiveness* Me, completely immune to critical thinking: BE THE UGLY, BITTER AND PETTY S/>Me, This book: *is a bold, subversive and startingly original reclamation of one of literature's most reviled women which, by recasting Cinderella's evil stepsister as a hero in her own right, illuminates a known story from a new evolving and multifaceted perspective while eking out depth and redemption and seamlessly grafting concepts of self-discovery and identity to an unrepentant celebration of kindness, courage and forgiveness* Me, completely immune to critical thinking: BE THE UGLY, BITTER AND PETTY SWORD-WIELDING REJECT JENNIFER DONNELLY WANTS YOU TO BE!!!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nilufer Ozmekik

    5 ugliest, wittiest, fantastic, anti-fairy tale, bravest ,strongest, applause to the strength of women, Hell yeah stars! Retellings crash into art of war doctrines, feminism thesis and here’s an amazing, smartly written fantasy book! You never thought that you could love this new version of Cinderella story! You already knew the old version of fairy tale before Grimm Brothers rule the stories with their honest reality, the beautiful ones are always kind, good hearted, vulnerable and t 5 ugliest, wittiest, fantastic, anti-fairy tale, bravest ,strongest, applause to the strength of women, Hell yeah stars! Retellings crash into art of war doctrines, feminism thesis and here’s an amazing, smartly written fantasy book! You never thought that you could love this new version of Cinderella story! You already knew the old version of fairy tale before Grimm Brothers rule the stories with their honest reality, the beautiful ones are always kind, good hearted, vulnerable and their faces and appearances are reflections of their genuine hearts! They always get the prince and their HEA! Blah blah blah! So being ugly is equal to being cruel, mean, evil and loser of the stories! What if all the equations could change and beauty would not be the only requirement to get your happy ending. What about being brave, smart, hard-worker, intelligent, sophisticated, determined, skillful, creative, charismatic, game-changer and help you turn into a real leader! Isabelle and Tavi are ugly sisters who tried to ruin Ella’s life and now they were punished, abandoned and abused, harassed by their own town people. Are the biased people who judge them because of their appearance uglier or our misled daughters who only obeyed what their Maman told her and felt guilty because of their actions? Every people has FATE and CHANCE! But do they have to do strictly what their fate lead them or do they have their own free will? This book is about women’s right to reject to be judged by their appearances and choose to transform themselves whoever they want to be! So this is not a random retelling of popular fairy tale. This is witty, encouraging, enlightening version of storytelling about what women deserve in their lives! And I loved the final twist which changes all the facts we learned from fairytales. The beautiful, kind hearted queen of the story can turn into a cruel villanelle if she gets jealous!!!!! Our untraditional heroine Isabelle won my heart with her determination, toughness, honesty, fighting soul! She knows she made mistakes and learns her lesson, accepts who she is and finally she understands she can rule her own fate and chances!!! “ Most people will fight when there’s some hope of winning, no matter how slim. They are called BRAVE! Only a few will keep fighting when all hope is gone. They are called WARRIORS! Isabelle was warrior once but she has forgotten it” This book is wake up call to find yourself and embrace your skills, your inner wolf sleeping inside and tearing you apart if you don’t set your inner wolf free and take any risk, you just accept your fate, let the wolf kill you slowly and painfully! This part of book below is a great summary of the story and characters’ great fears and challenges : “This is world the people in it- my mother, Tantine- they sort us. Put us in crates. You are an egg. You are a potato. You are a cabbage. They tell us who we are. What we will do.What we will be.” “Because they are afraid!Afraid of what we could be” Tavi said. “But we let them do it!” Hugo said angrily. “ Why?” Tavi gave him a rueful smile. “ Because we’re afraid of what we could be, too” So; don’t be afraid who you are! What you’re capable! Embrace yourself! Love yourself! Try to become better version of yourself by finding your life purpose, holding your fate into your hands!!!!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lola

    This is not a pretty fairytale. The story isn’t pretty. The world isn’t pretty. The characters aren’t pretty. Even the magic isn’t pretty. It’s not a story that will make you dream a thousand beautiful dreams of happily-ever-afters. I’m not saying the contrary applies—that it will give you a thousand nightmares in which you die a thousand different deaths—but it is indeed DARK. I liked it a lot. I believe the world and the stories in it do not need to be one thing only. The This is not a pretty fairytale. The story isn’t pretty. The world isn’t pretty. The characters aren’t pretty. Even the magic isn’t pretty. It’s not a story that will make you dream a thousand beautiful dreams of happily-ever-afters. I’m not saying the contrary applies—that it will give you a thousand nightmares in which you die a thousand different deaths—but it is indeed DARK. I liked it a lot. I believe the world and the stories in it do not need to be one thing only. They can be good and evil, beautiful and ugly, hopeful and fatal. That’s how people are, aren’t they? You want to believe that someone is all good or all evil because it’ll be easier to predict their reactions and judge whether they are right for us or not. But that’s called being one-dimensional. You don’t want one-dimensional people in your life, do you? And you don’t want to read about one-dimensional characters either, right? No one in this story is just one thing. In the beginning it may seem that way—Cinderella is purely good, Isabelle is pathetically subdued, the stepmother is absolutely evil—but that’s exactly why the author has written this story… To change all of that. It is a well-developed feminist retelling. It’s a powerful and surprising story that asks to be read carefully instead of rushed through to get to the ending. The ending is not at all the most important part. What matters most is the path that leads to the final chapter, and boy oh boy what a hard path Isabelle has to follow. Blog | Youtube | Twitter | Instagram | Google+ | Bloglovin’

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mischenko

    I read Jennifer Donnelly's Lost in a Book which is a Beauty and the Beast retelling and I truly loved it, so Stepsister was highly anticipated. There's a special place in my heart for fairy tales, especially Cinderella. To be honest, I haven't read that many Cinderella retellings. Will my review spoil this book? Not totally...although I do mention the plot and certain themes which lead into the ending. Stepsister begins right at the end of Cinderella as the prince seeks the girl to fit the slipper. Isabelle and Octavia--the evil step/>so  I read Jennifer Donnelly's Lost in a Book which is a Beauty and the Beast retelling and I truly loved it, so Stepsister was highly anticipated. There's a special place in my heart for fairy tales, especially Cinderella. To be honest, I haven't read that many Cinderella retellings. Will my review spoil this book? Not totally...although I do mention the plot and certain themes which lead into the ending. Stepsister begins right at the end of Cinderella as the prince seeks the girl to fit the slipper. Isabelle and Octavia--the evil stepsisters--will do whatever it takes to get the slipper to fit, even if it requires cutting off parts of their feet. Once everyone notices what the sisters have done, they are shamed and hated throughout the kingdom, and their sister Ella now sits with the prince. Life is difficult for the sisters, but more so for Isabelle, as she struggles to accept herself and has much to learn about true beauty. I found Isabelle's character relatable, and her actions are nearly justified due to how's she's been treated; her mother tells her she's ugly, etc. She's had rough times, done evil things, and this has left her feeling angry and jealous, but eventually, she wants to find ways to redeem herself and to fight back once she begins to see what's right and important. As for Octavia, she seems like the stronger sister, but is she? She's certainly smart. Her character was more in the background, but I liked this sister relationship compared to the original. Overall, I loved the character development here. Adding in Fate and Chance who are both battling to change Isabelle's outcome was an aspect that made this retelling so unique. The first parts of this book had me cringing and yet I couldn't put it down. These parts were very dark and unexpected. As the story went on, sadly, I just wasn't as captivated. I liked the short chapters, but it still went a bit slow for me in the middle. Because the majority of the fairy tale itself isn't pretty, it was a little hard for me to love the ending with the way it was written because it wasn't totally fitting. Don't get me wrong: I love redemption and it did end somewhat the way I expected it would because after all, it is a fairy tale retold, but it just didn't feel totally right to me. With all that said, is it correct to say that I think this is an important book? I think so! Characters struggle with change and one of the biggest is learning how to accept yourself. Beauty isn't everything. This is something I myself have struggled with in life with the American culture and what 'it' considers admirable traits. It's easy to become filled with lies as Isabelle has. Because of this, the book did remind me of Beauty by Robin Mckinley at times. So, I do think this can be an excellent read for all ages, especially younger readers which is obviously intended being that it's YA. Themes include beauty, forgiveness, loss, redemption, family, and acceptance. I do love Jennifer Donnelly's writing and can't wait to read more of her books. I also adore the cover of Stepsister. Anyone who enjoys retellings and fantasy should check out this book. 4****

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jasmine from How Useful It Is

    I started reading Stepsister on 4/19/2019 and finished it on 4/23/2019. This fairy tale retelling is an excellent read! I like that it started out with the Cinderella story and expanded further after Cinderella went off to her happily ever after. I love that this story focus on the stepsister’s perspectives of how it all went. I love that the stepsisters are portrayed as intelligent and brave, more tomboy than girly. There are many types of girls and this book hit straight on the nail’s head by I started reading Stepsister on 4/19/2019 and finished it on 4/23/2019. This fairy tale retelling is an excellent read! I like that it started out with the Cinderella story and expanded further after Cinderella went off to her happily ever after. I love that this story focus on the stepsister’s perspectives of how it all went. I love that the stepsisters are portrayed as intelligent and brave, more tomboy than girly. There are many types of girls and this book hit straight on the nail’s head by including girls who likes to study and girls who likes to do boys stuffs such as playing with swords and strong willed to speak her mind as compared to girls who wear silk dresses and readily agreeable even when she doesn’t want to. Many readers can easily relate to Isabelle because she often feel unsure of herself when she has more and still feel unhappy than those who has less. This book is told in the third person point of view following Isabelle, 16 as she does what her mom wants, to cut off a few of her toes so that her foot can fit into the glass slipper that the Prince of France brought. Isabelle’s mom told her she’s ugly and she thinks if the Prince marries her she’ll be a Princess and someday will be Queen and no one will dare to call her ugly again. Unfortunately that plan didn’t turn out in their favor and instead backfired. The two stepsisters are Octavia, 17 and Isabelle, 16. Ella is 17. The second view is of Chance. He believes he can change the path for Isabelle after her failed attempt at stealing the Prince from Ella. But Fate is in the way because she already has Isabelle’s life mapped out. She thinks Isabelle is selfish and mean and should keep the path chosen for her. Then there’s the fairy queen who comes to Isabelle’s rescue when Isabelle’s heart asked for help. Stepsister is very well written and filled with Fate and Chance that make you think about yourself. Fate tests you with negative feelings of self doubt and Chance gives you the opportunity to think again and try again. I love the humor in this book, especially toward the end with the “sweaty dead dog”. I like when Isabelle is mean to Ella to turn around and experience how it feels when someone else is mean to her. I like that this story is not a smooth ride. There are many ups and downs and opportunities to change the course of life. I like Felix and the bits of romance. It’s cute. This book is definitely a plus and I highly recommend everyone to read it! Pro: fast paced, page turner, humor, stepsisters, fairy tale retelling, adrenaline rush Con: none I rate it 5 stars! ***Disclaimer: Many thanks to Scholastic for the amazing and beautiful book mail. I appreciate the opportunity to read and review. Please be assured that my opinions are honest. xoxo, Jasmine at www.howusefulitis.wordpress.com for more details

  7. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte May

    Did not realise this was written by the same author who wrote A Gathering Light, which I loved. Just treated myself to this one 😊

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sara (sarawithoutanH)

    Guys, you can tell I liked this book because I wrote a legit review!! Just call me meltotheany 💁🏼♀(jk don’t do that, my reviews would be a disgrace to her name) “Believe that you can make your way. Or don't. Either way, you are right.” Y’ALL ARE SLEEPING ON THIS BOOK. This seriously might be a new favorite of mine! It reminded me a lot of Ella Enchanted - it could be because they’re both Cinderella retellings, but it’s also because they both have deeper messages and generate a feeling of warmth in me. I’m not Guys, you can tell I liked this book because I wrote a legit review!! Just call me meltotheany 💁🏼‍♀️(jk don’t do that, my reviews would be a disgrace to her name) “Believe that you can make your way. Or don't. Either way, you are right.” Y’ALL ARE SLEEPING ON THIS BOOK. This seriously might be a new favorite of mine! It reminded me a lot of Ella Enchanted - it could be because they’re both Cinderella retellings, but it’s also because they both have deeper messages and generate a feeling of warmth in me. I’m not huge into fairytale retellings, but this one was so special and unique. This takes place after Ella leaves for her happily ever after and follows one of the ugly stepsisters, specifically the one who cut off her toes in an attempt to fit into the glass slipper. The story begins immediately after the ugly stepsisters’ fraudulent attempts to win the prince. After Ella becomes queen, everyone in their town turns against them. The sisters, Isabelle and Tavi, are harassed relentlessly for their actions. A constant theme in this book is internal and external ugliness. Who is worse: the sisters who acted out of shameful jealousy or the people who judge them on looks alone? “Here are the things girls die of: hunger, disease, accidents, childbirth, and violence. It takes more than heartache to kill a girl. Girls are tough as rocks.” Isabelle is our lead and her character development is just *chef’s kiss* so good. She is That Bitch and she Did That!!! Despite constantly being told that she’s ugly, she discovers that she’s brave and beautiful in her own way. The story examines the meaning of beauty and the idea that girls cannot be fit into a singular box. This whole book truly feels like an ode to the strength of women. “The wolves in the woods have sharp teeth and long claws, but it's the wolf inside who will tear you apart.”   One of my favorite things about Isabelle is that she’s not naturally kind or selfless. As she tries to find her way after she’s punished for her treatment of Ella, she discovers that goodness is not her default nature. I love a good complex flawed character and I found Isabelle to be incredibly relatable. She transforms in the story but she doesn’t suddenly become a different person. She’s still flawed but she becomes more self-reflective. She finds a way to be better without changing who she is. “This is world the people in it - my mother, Tantine - they sort us. Put us in crates. You are an egg. You are a potato. You are a cabbage. They tell us who we are. What we will do. What we will be.” “Because they are afraid! Afraid of what we could be,” Tavi said. “But we let them do it!” Hugo said angrily. “Why?” Tavi gave him a rueful smile. “Because we’re afraid of what we could be, too.” This book is just so good! It was funny and character driven. I filled this review with quotes because I loved so much of the writing. I wanted to include about five more quotes, but I thought that’d be overkill. Please read this!! I highly recommend the audiobook! Youtube | Twitter | Instagram

  9. 5 out of 5

    Nenia ☠️ Hecka Wicked ☠️ Campbell

    Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest Fairytale retellings are hard-- ideally, you're taking a story that most people are intimately familiar with and trying to put a spin on it that keeps it fun and fresh, while also reminding people about why they loved the original so much, too. STEPSISTER is interesting, in that it tries to keep to the dark, original retelling. When we first meet Isabelle, our heroine, one of the evil and ugly stepsisters, she is cutting off her toes to fit into the shoe-- Unfortunately, her evil plan is outed by Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest Fairytale retellings are hard-- ideally, you're taking a story that most people are intimately familiar with and trying to put a spin on it that keeps it fun and fresh, while also reminding people about why they loved the original so much, too. STEPSISTER is interesting, in that it tries to keep to the dark, original retelling. When we first meet Isabelle, our heroine, one of the evil and ugly stepsisters, she is cutting off her toes to fit into the shoe-- Unfortunately, her evil plan is outed by birds that are friends with her sister, Ella. Ella goes off to marry the prince and Isabelle and her sister, Tavi, are left alone, ostracized by the rest of the town for their deeds. Only their mother, who is slowly going mad, will speak to them without anger, and even she is embittered about her daughters' new and lowly state. It seems like Isabelle is doomed to a life of ignominy but Fate and Chance have other plans. I wasn't sure what to expect with STEPSISTER, but it was much more than I had anticipated. Isabelle is a strong, brave heroine with agency. Her sister, Tavi, is bookish and fiercely intelligent. Neither of them are attractive and both of them have done terrible, selfish things-- but so have the other characters in the book. But neither of them get a free pass because they are ugly. The book is all about beauty, forgiveness, and second chances, and what it means to truly redeem yourself. I'm giving this book a three-star rating because I did like it, but it didn't wow me. The plot was great and I liked Isabelle's redemption arc, and how the human manifestations of both Fate and Chance were both fighting over her future as she (maybe) decides to go off and save a kingdom. The story just felt a bit "young" for me, especially with all of the unnecessary sidekicks. I don't think it was badly done, but I have a bias against sidekicks-- that's just my preference. I think for those who are tired of impossibly pretty and perfect heroines, STEPSISTER will be a breath of fresh air. It's a shame my magnificent four-star rating streak has ended, but at least now you now I'm not secretly a bot. Or, if I am, I'm a far more devious bot than you ever imagined. YMMV. Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!  3 to 3.5 stars

  10. 5 out of 5

    Phoebe Jeziel

    Kind of want to read this, but am simutaniously annoyed at how this story is being marketed as if Cinderella wasn’t feminist to begin with. My homegirl survived an abusive household, became queen, snagged herself someone who truly loves her and showed that beauty was always about what’s on the inside. Plot still sounds interesting enough tho lol.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Hafsah

    "Once upon always and never again. In an ancient city..." ...called Bristol, a girl named Hafsah read a book that changed her life. A book that shattered her long-standing views on the characters of a beloved fairy tale. A book that showed her an extra dimension, the full picture, the true story. This book was called, Stepsister. I really liked this (more than I expected to actually) and it's because the story felt nostalgically familiar and yet so new and exciting. I LOVED the added concept of maps that texciting. "Once upon always and never again. In an ancient city..." ...called Bristol, a girl named Hafsah read a book that changed her life. A book that shattered her long-standing views on the characters of a beloved fairy tale. A book that showed her an extra dimension, the full picture, the true story. This book was called, Stepsister. I really liked this (more than I expected to actually) and it's because the story felt nostalgically familiar and yet so new and exciting. I LOVED the added concept of maps that track your life; they show your past present and future and when death is near. Each person has a map, and their depicted paths can be erased/altered/redrawn by Fate and Chance- two characters constantly at odds with eachother and whose personality reflects their name. I absolutely loved Chance! In fact all the characters were BRILLIANT, except, I think, the antagonist. He seemed mediocre and was too easily defeated. This book was similar to Cinderella in the sense that there was still magic, romance, a fairy godmother and all the other characters I thought I knew so well.... And although the writing was a little simplistic, the plot somewhat predictable and the romance childish, these points mirrored the defining aspects of fairy tales. So actually, I found them effective, overall. There were also so many good quotes and lines to live by (because is a fairy tale even a fairy tale of it doesn't have underlying morals to the story?!). Speaking of lessons, I liked Donnelly's take on beauty: beauty can be a burden and constraining, and you can look 'ugly', yet be beautiful. She offered a fresh perspective and conveyed important messages beautifully though metaphors and poetry. But power is a treacherous thing, It's bite is sweet, it's kiss can sting, And, unless I'm much mistaken, It's never given, always taken. Each queen was once a girl like you. Told who to be and what to do. Not pretty, not pleasing, far too rough. Lacking, less than, not enough. Till wounded subjects, anguished dead, Mattered more than things that others said. Then, like a flag, her will unfurled. Go now, girl. Remake the world. The story itself, is more a continuation than a retelling. We start off from when the 'ugly' stepsisters try on the glass slipper, and we continue with Isabelle as the protagonist. Her life is in danger, her map stolen, she's constantly oppressed by society and war is nigh. Her only hope is to find the find the missing pieces of her heart, whatever they may be, and in doing so, discover who she truly is. As much as I hated the stepsisters as a child, that's how much I love them now! And that's because we learn of the source of their jealousy- the trials and struggles they faced year upon year although they may have been jealous. The things that shaped them. Through the story though, we see them begin to shape themselves acoording to how they'd like, not as society wills. Hence why their character arcs are fantastic! Isabelle is strong and skilled. A swordswoman and equastrian. Talented, brutal and brave. But ugly. And jelaous. Like her sister Octavia who is a science genius (she's a nerd, like me hehe, which is probably why I love her so much). Both of them are essentially feminists and are so much more interesting than Ella. Which is why I prefer them to her too. (Walt Disney is turning in his grave). Also, I loved that Jennifer Donnelly ruined Ella's reputation of being perfectly good, kind and beautiful. We're reminded that she's still human, so capable of feeling jealousy and acting on it, thanks to a twist which SHOOK me! All in all, although this did perhaps feel a bit like a childish read, I thoroughly enjoyed it and would highly recommend this if you love fairy tales!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Cortney LaScola - The Bookworm, Myrtle Beach

    It took me a little while to get into it, but I LOVED THIS BOOK. The message is so important, so relevant, and it had me in tears more than once. The author did such a wonderful job making the point that not every girl is the same, and we shouldn't all JUST want to be liked and pretty... we're so much more than that. This sentiment is beaten into our heads from the day we can understand, and it shouldn't be that way. Not anymore. Not only is it a beloved story we all grew up knowing, It took me a little while to get into it, but I LOVED THIS BOOK. The message is so important, so relevant, and it had me in tears more than once. The author did such a wonderful job making the point that not every girl is the same, and we shouldn't all JUST want to be liked and pretty... we're so much more than that. This sentiment is beaten into our heads from the day we can understand, and it shouldn't be that way. Not anymore. Not only is it a beloved story we all grew up knowing, it shows a different side from the "ugly" stepsisters and what happened after Cinderella rode off into the sunset with Prince Charming. I'm a huge fan of fairy tale retellings, and this one was awesome. Read this book. If you have a daughter, or granddaughter, have them read it too. You won't be disappointed. Girl power!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Amira

    I Love This Book A Lot. As you can see I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book because when I was a little girl out of all the Disney villains, the 'ugly' stepsisters didn't strike fear or menace in me. Disdain ? Maybe because I wondered how could a person could be so cruel not only to others, but mostly to himself. I think I got the answer. 'm quite enjoying it. when they cut parts of their feet to fit the glass slipper, it wasn't that much differ I Love This Book A Lot. As you can see I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book because when I was a little girl out of all the Disney villains, the 'ugly' stepsisters didn't strike fear or menace in me. Disdain ? Maybe because I wondered how could a person could be so cruel not only to others, but mostly to himself. I think I got the answer. 'm quite enjoying it. when they cut parts of their feet to fit the glass slipper, it wasn't that much different from when they had to cut parts of their hearts to fit the requirements of their society. I wouldn't exactly call this a retelling as it mostly kept the Ella storyline the same so for me it felt like an expansion of the story which I never thought I needed till I read it. Ps. I thank everyone on goodreads who helped me figure out how to insert a gif. As you can see I

  14. 5 out of 5

    Natalie Monroe

    3.5 stars “Change is a kiss in the dark. A rose in the snow. A wild road on a windy night.” Stepsister is a standard 300-page novel, but I can't help but feel it would've worked better as a novella/short story. The premise and plot are very simple. Whatever ambiguous morality there is is Disney-like, which means Tavi and Isabella are about as morally grey as Elsa is for accidentally hurting Ana. Villains are villains, and good guys are good guys. The prose has a strong fairy tale vibe, too. It's difficult to describe. Butstars 3.5 stars “Change is a kiss in the dark. A rose in the snow. A wild road on a windy night.” Stepsister is a standard 300-page novel, but I can't help but feel it would've worked better as a novella/short story. The premise and plot are very simple. Whatever ambiguous morality there is is Disney-like, which means Tavi and Isabella are about as morally grey as Elsa is for accidentally hurting Ana. Villains are villains, and good guys are good guys. The prose has a strong fairy tale vibe, too. It's difficult to describe. But like, when you're reading Grimm Brothers' tales or Hans Anderson, you're absorbed in the story, but you feel emotionally distant from the characters at the same time. You're not meant to slip into the shoes of Cinderella or the Goose Girl. You experience their stories from the outside. With that being said, it's immensely quotable. “Isabelle had a strong will. She did not know that this was a good thing for a girl to have, because everyone had always told her it was a terrible thing. Everyone said a girl with a strong will would come to a bad end. Everyone said a girl’s will must be bent to the wishes of those who know what’s best for her. Isabelle was young, only sixteen; she had not yet learned that Everyone was a fool.” Even though the characters lack moral complexity, I liked that the stepsisters' hatred and cruelty towards Ella was explained. They in a world where beauty is currency; it's understandable that they would envy their beautiful stepsister. They have other strengths. Tavi is clever af, and Isabella is a fierce fighter. Even the stepmother is shown in a sympathetic light rather than a straight-up malicious witch. Stepsister is on the simplistic side but then again, aren’t all fairy tales?

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 3.5 stars. Stepsister tells the story of what happens after the happily ever after, when the prince and his princess have left to be married, and all that’s left behind are the ugly stepsisters and wicked stepmother. Isabelle is one of those sisters, maimed from her attempt at fitting the glass slipper, and shunned by the village who finally see her for what she is...ugly, mean, spiteful. But is it her fate to always to be seen as I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 3.5 stars. Stepsister tells the story of what happens after the happily ever after, when the prince and his princess have left to be married, and all that’s left behind are the ugly stepsisters and wicked stepmother. Isabelle is one of those sisters, maimed from her attempt at fitting the glass slipper, and shunned by the village who finally see her for what she is...ugly, mean, spiteful. But is it her fate to always to be seen as this? Is she destined to live her life the way it has been planned, or can chance give her the opportunity to change her path? This has one of the strongest opening sequences I’ve read in a YA fantasy novel in a long time, with an atmospheric setting and memorable characters as we find the Marquis de Chance and the Fates betting against each other on the outcome of a girl’s stolen life map. I really enjoyed the Crone character in particular - shrewd and cunning, she holds no punches in her quest to bring down Chance and Isabelle with her raven sidekick Losca. Chance I also found enjoyable, especially when paired with his motley crew of travellers - including the diva and her monkey pals, the magician and the cook. They seem to tame Chance’s more tempestuous nature, and make him more relatable and witty (if still a little unpredictable and reckless). It’s a shame that these characters seem to fade somewhat in the second half of the novel, as the story moves more into Isabelle’s quest to find the broken pieces of her heart. Although I liked Tanaquill the fairy queen, I didn’t really see her motivation for helping Isabelle, given that she’s an ancient being far removed from the frivolities of mortal life. There was no real drive behind it. Also, even though I liked Isabelle’s friendship with her sister Octavia and the important message she delivers involving female learning, these characters just didn’t really excite me as much as Chance and the Fates. The same applies to Felix, although I did find their love story endearing and realistic. It was just the right amount of sweet. The story itself is decent enough. It’s fast paced, with nice little nuances from the Cinderella story, that branches out from a retelling into something more. The writing itself is ok too, if a little on the more ‘easy’ side, making this an accessible, lighthearted and appropriate read for the younger YA market. It also carries the important message of following your own dreams and making your own path in life without bowing down to what other’s expect of you. It makes a refreshing change from the usual damsel in distress stories of normal fairy tales. A nice addition to the younger YA market that offers a strong message and a different type of retelling to keep you entertained. I just wish there’s been more Chance.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mary S. R.

    I mean, when you say “a feminist retelling of the darker versions of Cinderella” you should know that now you pretty much own my pocket—and also all the money in it. Seriously. Here. It's all yours! :/ Stepsister takes up where Cinderella's tale ends. We meet Isabelle, the younger of Cinderella's two stepsisters. Ella is considered beautiful; stepsister Isabelle is not. Isabelle is fearless, brave, and strong-willed. She fences better than any boy, and takes her stallion over jumps that grown men fear to attemp/>Stepsister I mean, when you say “a feminist retelling of the darker versions of Cinderella” you should know that now you pretty much own my pocket—and also all the money in it. Seriously. Here. It's all yours! :/ Stepsister takes up where Cinderella's tale ends. We meet Isabelle, the younger of Cinderella's two stepsisters. Ella is considered beautiful; stepsister Isabelle is not. Isabelle is fearless, brave, and strong-willed. She fences better than any boy, and takes her stallion over jumps that grown men fear to attempt. It doesn't matter, though; these qualities are not valued in a girl. Others have determined what is beautiful, and Isabelle does not fit their definition. Isabelle must face down the demons that drove her cruel treatment of Ella, challenge her own fate and maybe even redefine the very notion of beauty ... Cinderella is about a girl who was bullied; Stepsister is about the bully. We all root for the victims, we want to see them triumph. But what about the bullies? Is there hope for them? Can a mean girl change? Can she find her own happily ever after? Expected publication: May 14, 2019 “In an ancient city by the sea, three sisters—a maiden, a mother, and a crone—are drawing maps by candlelight. Sombre, with piercing grey eyes, they are the three Fates, and every map is a human life ...”

  17. 5 out of 5

    Hollis

    Holy shit, guys, this book is flying under the radar right now but it shouldn't be!! History books say that kings and dukes and generals start wars. Don't believe it. We start them, you and I. Every time we turn away, keep quiet, stay out it, behave ourselves. I was completely unprepared for how quickly, and how hard, I would fall in love with STEPSISTER. This book immediately opens up with a warning about how this is a darker take on the well-known tale and it is definitely that. But it's not c/>History Holy shit, guys, this book is flying under the radar right now but it shouldn't be!! History books say that kings and dukes and generals start wars. Don't believe it. We start them, you and I. Every time we turn away, keep quiet, stay out it, behave ourselves. I was completely unprepared for how quickly, and how hard, I would fall in love with STEPSISTER. This book immediately opens up with a warning about how this is a darker take on the well-known tale and it is definitely that. But it's not close your eyes and hide under the cover scary; it's just hammering home the stark truths and unpleasant realities of societal expectations, a woman's fate in this world (and our own), and the bleakness of war. And I mean there's also the fact that the stepsisters lop off pieces of themselves in order to win a prince, which, hey, fun times! "Ella is the beauty. You and I are the ugly stepsister. And so the world reduces us, all three of us, to our lowest common denominator." This is the story of what comes after Cinderella, Ella in this story, gets her prince. What befalls the ugly stepsisters and the wicked stepmother. In this case, it's being shunned. It's being ridiculed. It's shame and regret. It's accepting their choices and living with themselves.. or trying to. It's about a wish to be pretty, thinking it'll solve all your problems, because discovering and facing the truth of oneself is so much harder. How many times had she cut away parts of herself at her mother's demand? The part that laughed too loudly. That rode too fast and jumped too high. The part that wished for a second helping. Donnelly's writing captivated me. It bowled me over. There were passages that made me want to cheer because of the beautiful feminist observations, parts that made me laugh because wow the second stepsister was freaking hilarious, and also parts that made me cry -- embarrassingly one of them had to do with mice. But I own that. "I have that feeling." "What feeling?" "The feeling that you want to own someone body and soul, spirit them away from everyone else, have them all to yourself forever and ever and ever. It's called love." "No, it's called kidnapping." The elements of this story are familiar because we've heard, or watched, the tale. But never from this perspective, never in this way, and there was a freshness, a realness, to this retelling that just.. got me. Strength and shame and beauty and wonder and forgiveness. Intelligence and cleverness and agony -- physical and of spirit -- and heartbreak. It seemed to flow effortlessly and honestly the only thing keeping this from being five stars is the big fancy HEA. I don't think it was a wrong choice but maybe it was a little too right, if that makes sense? I would've liked half a step back, I think. "I wanted books. I wanted math and science. I got corsets and gowns and high heeled silk slippers. It made me sad [..]. And then it made me angry. So no, I can't make myself likeable. I've tried. Over and over. It doesn't work. If I don't like who I am, why should you?" I didn't have much in the way of expectations when I picked this up; I had heard of it but not been endlessly beat about the head with hype. And it definitely deserves some. Totally recommend. 4.5 stars ** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. ** --- This review can also be found at A Take From Two Cities.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly Antill

    Isabelle has grown up in a society where a girl's ultimate sin is not being pretty enough. Isabelle has been told that women should be: PRETTY not smart. PRETTY not strong. PRETTY not brave. To bad for Isabelle, she was: Not pretty but SMART. Not pretty but STRONG. Not pretty but BRAVE. But Isabelle has lost sight of who she is which is what led her to become the "ugly stepsister". Now, through a deal with Fate and Chance she will be Isabelle has grown up in a society where a girl's ultimate sin is not being pretty enough. Isabelle has been told that women should be: PRETTY not smart. PRETTY not strong. PRETTY not brave. To bad for Isabelle, she was: Not pretty but SMART. Not pretty but STRONG. Not pretty but BRAVE. But Isabelle has lost sight of who she is which is what led her to become the "ugly stepsister". Now, through a deal with Fate and Chance she will be reminded who she once was and learn that true beauty is about what's inside, so: Be SMART. Be STRONG. Be BRAVE. It's a beautiful message, isn't it? Well be prepared to be hit over the head with it because Jennifer Donnelly makes sure every page screams it. In this instance, I find that I'm okay with it. So Jennifer Donnelly can grab a megaphone, hop on her soap box and tell it to the world. She is such a talented writer that she sews this message seamlessly into her story about Cinderella's stepsister. Drawing inspiration from the original Grimm's fairy tale she created a magical setting full of characters that are both sympathetic and believable. The characters are neither wholly good, nor are they all completely evil. The decisions each has made are complex and full of consequences that effect themselves and others. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys a good fairy tale.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Katie.dorny

    Arc provided in exchange for an honest review. This was another average retelling that has been saturating the market recently. The last 50 pages were better than the rest of the story. I did enjoy the character development but the unnecessary romantic couplings and the writing style just made this novel mediocre overall. It also felt that the author just decided to stick anything into the plot that she felt like. I remember essences of it from my childhood, but the way thi Arc provided in exchange for an honest review. This was another average retelling that has been saturating the market recently. The last 50 pages were better than the rest of the story. I did enjoy the character development but the unnecessary romantic couplings and the writing style just made this novel mediocre overall. It also felt that the author just decided to stick anything into the plot that she felt like. I remember essences of it from my childhood, but the way this trundled along felt like everything was thrown in just for fun.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sophia Triad

    “Go now, girl. Remake the world.”  I never really liked Cinderella.... Review pending

  21. 4 out of 5

    ;3

    “They cut away pieces of me. But I handed them the knife.” Essential reading for the She Is That Bitch™ and She Did That™ lovers.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nastassja

    Actual rating: 3.5 stars This is a dark tale. A grim tale. It’s a tale from another time, a time when wolves waited for girls in the forest, beasts paced the halls of cursed castles, and witches lurked in gingerbread houses with sugar-kissed roofs. That time is long gone. But the wolves are still here and twice as clever. The beasts remain. And death still hides in a dusting of white. It’s grim for any girl who loses her way. Grimmer still for a girl who loses herself. Know that it’s dangerous to stray f/>This Actual rating: 3.5 stars This is a dark tale. A grim tale. It’s a tale from another time, a time when wolves waited for girls in the forest, beasts paced the halls of cursed castles, and witches lurked in gingerbread houses with sugar-kissed roofs. That time is long gone. But the wolves are still here and twice as clever. The beasts remain. And death still hides in a dusting of white. It’s grim for any girl who loses her way. Grimmer still for a girl who loses herself. Know that it’s dangerous to stray from the path. But it’s far more dangerous not to. Once upon a time, there was a girl. Her name was Ella, but everyone called her Cinderella. She was kind and beautiful and did not deserve to be mistreated and abused by her stepmother and her two stepsisters. But at the end of the day, Ella found her Prince and her happiness. But this is not Ella's story; this story belongs to her ugly stepsisters. When I was a child and first read Cinderella, I self-righteously thought that evil stepsisters got what they've deserved. But years later, when I grew up and understood that not everything is white and black, and ugly is not necessarily evil, I started to ask myself a question: what if? And Jennifer Donnelly - my fairy godmother - answered my question. Stepsister is a spin-off of Cinderella's story and takes place right after Cinderella leaves for the Palace with the Prince, and her ugly stepsisters are left broke and punished for the crimes they've committed. But what was the reason for all of those things they've done to Ella? Was Ella really so innocent? And what is the cost of love, family, and friendship when you lose them? These and more questions are masterly addressed by the author. I honestly didn't know what to expect from this book. It seemed like the stepsisters were so one-dimensional in the original, it was almost impossible to think of a decent story for them. But as it turned out, one can come up with the most poignant, heart-breaking story that will make you weep, like I did more than once. And did I tell you that I love this story much more than I did Cinderella? And that Cinderella seems like one-dimensional compared to her sisters, now? Oh my god, this is all so confusing but, at the same time, so marvellous! Jennifer Donnely created such a strong empowering story, giving solid reasons to everything that had happened, and sprinkled it with a dose of the magic from the original fairytale. Stepsister definitely looks more mature and darker compared to the original. By the way, this book refers not to the Disney's Cinderella, but to a darker version, where stepsisters cut their fingers off in order to get the damn slipper on and, consequently, the Prince. When you look at the story under a different angle, you start to realize what if the two girls had cut their feet not because they desperately wanted to get the prince, but because society demanded it. In the alternative version of the real 18th century France, the author saved the same rules for the wicked: misogyny and sexism continue to bloom; smart and strong are ugly words for women, beautiful, on the other hand, are the best compliments a girl can dream of. “Can’t you make yourself likeable? Can’t you even try?” Something shifted in Tavi then. She was always so flippant, trailing sarcasm behind her like a duchess trailing furs. But not this time. Hugo had pierced her armor and blood was dripping from the wound. “Try for whom, Hugo?” she repeated, her voice raw. “For the rich boys who get to go to the Sorbonne even though they’re too stupid to solve a simple quadratic equation? For the viscount I was seated next to at a dinner who tried to put his hand up my skirt through all five courses? For the smug society ladies who look me up and down and purse their lips and say no, I won’t do for their sons because my chin is too pointed, my nose is too large, I talk too much about numbers?” “Tavi …” Isabelle whispered. She went to her, tried to put an arm around her, but Tavi shook her off. “I wanted books. I wanted maths and science. I wanted an education,” Tavi said, her eyes bright with emotion. “I got corsets and gowns and high-heeled slippers instead. It made me sad, Hugo. And then it made me angry. So no, I can’t make myself likeable. I’ve tried. Over and over. It doesn’t work. If I don’t like who I am, why should you?” I can't express with words how much I admire the ugly sisters - Isabelle and Tavi! Please, stay ugly in the face of the world if it means you can be yourself! Jennifer Donnelly created such a deep, meaningful story, full of heartache but, also, redemption and finding your true self. Her prose is luminous with empowering words. I couldn't help but fell in love with it. Every girl will see herself in Tavi or Isabelle: girls who weren't up to someone's expectations, or girls who lost themselves and couldn't find their true self. This story is for all of us: She was sorry for all the grim-tale girls locked in lonely towers. Trapped in sugar houses. Lost in the dark woods, with a huntsman coming to cut out their hearts. Highly recommended!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nadhira Satria

    I know I’ve been disappointed a lot by 2019 releases bUT THANK GOD THIS ONE DIDN'T DISAPPOINT. I LOVE RETELLINGS AND BOY OH BOY, A "VILLAIN" RETELLING?? YES PLEASE AND IT TURNED OUT SO GOOD, I LOVE IT

  24. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    What a wonderfully different take on the after version of Cinderella from the villain's point of view. Complex characters and a layered plot make this telling a wonderful coming of age story about becoming true to yourself and finding meaning in your life. A feminist tale with a wonderful message!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Nana

    Stepsister takes up where Cinderella's tale ends. We meet Isabelle, the younger of Cinderella's two stepsisters. Ella is considered beautiful; stepsister Isabelle is not. Isabelle is fearless, brave, and strong-willed. She fences better than any boy, and takes her stallion over jumps that grown men fear to attempt. It doesn't matter, though; these qualities are not valued in a girl. Others have determined what is beautiful, and Isabelle does not fit their definition. Isabelle must face down the Stepsister takes up where Cinderella's tale ends. We meet Isabelle, the younger of Cinderella's two stepsisters. Ella is considered beautiful; stepsister Isabelle is not. Isabelle is fearless, brave, and strong-willed. She fences better than any boy, and takes her stallion over jumps that grown men fear to attempt. It doesn't matter, though; these qualities are not valued in a girl. Others have determined what is beautiful, and Isabelle does not fit their definition. Isabelle must face down the demons that drove her cruel treatment of Ella, challenge her own fate and maybe even redefine the very notion of beauty . The story is truly a fairytale with a fairy godmother, magic, a prince and princess. There are evil villains and the heroine is actually a heroine and she falls in love. I really enjoyed the book and I would like the author to write one more book with the story of the other stepsister.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Alaina

    I have been dying to step into this book since I first saw it's cover on GR. Stepsister was an adventure. In it, you will meet Isabelle who is one of Ella's stepsisters. All she wants in life is her mother's damn approval. She does absolutely anything and everything her mother asks or wants her to do. For example, chopping her foot up without hesitation so she could fit into a damn shoe. I get that her mom didn't like being poor.. but she could've I don't know.. gotten a job? Yeah, yeah.. that's/> I have been dying to step into this book since I first saw it's cover on GR. Stepsister was an adventure. In it, you will meet Isabelle who is one of Ella's stepsisters. All she wants in life is her mother's damn approval. She does absolutely anything and everything her mother asks or wants her to do. For example, chopping her foot up without hesitation so she could fit into a damn shoe. I get that her mom didn't like being poor.. but she could've I don't know.. gotten a job? Yeah, yeah.. that's absurd! How dare I suggest that! After meeting Isabelle, I felt bad for her life instantly. No mother should dare call her own child ugly. I get that it's a fairytale and such but still - that's cold. It also doesn't help that her, her sister Octavia, and her own mother are cruel to Ella and anyone around. Or is she cruel to begin with? Yes, she might've gone with what was being said or done at the time but that is basically due to peer pressure. Not condoning her behavior whatsoever but she was trying to do her best to earn her mother's love - which she should've of had to do to begin with. Ya know? Other than all of that, I honestly really enjoyed her journey. Especially when it came to her finding her heart of all things. She's trying to change her fate which ended with me rooting for her. Out of her family, she was the nicest and I think that's saying something (and no I'm not counting Ella in that because she already has her happy ending!). I definitely laughed when she first met the fairy godmother because of that damn fairy snarling at her. Overall, I suggest everyone should listen to the book because the audio was entertaining. OH! Before I forget, you also meet Chance and I definitely loved him as well because he was ALWAYS in Isabelle's corner. He was friendship goals man. Possible boyfriend goals?

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Proffitt

    I got bored. Which meant I started picking at things like how it's simultaneously real-world (set in France) but with metaphorical characters (like the Fates and Chance as anthropomorphic personifications) and it takes a better author than this one to pull that off. And how all the really nasty villains are women. And how a pack of mean girls in a rural French village feels like the author is trying too hard. All the asides, flashbacks, and authorial intrusion with heavy-handed metaph I got bored. Which meant I started picking at things like how it's simultaneously real-world (set in France) but with metaphorical characters (like the Fates and Chance as anthropomorphic personifications) and it takes a better author than this one to pull that off. And how all the really nasty villains are women. And how a pack of mean girls in a rural French village feels like the author is trying too hard. All the asides, flashbacks, and authorial intrusion with heavy-handed metaphor slowed the pace down to such a crawl that I eventually hit a pause and found myself griping at Melissa who always responds to that impertinence by asking "so why are you still reading this?" To which the answer is almost always "huh. Yeah, I guess I'm done, now." I'm going ahead with one-star for a rating, but want to make explicit that this is likely a personal response and idiosyncratic. Your response will almost certainly vary.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Marquise

    What I liked: The Prose: Jennifer Donnelly definitely knows how to write, her style flows so well. And there's so many quotable passages I lost count! The Fate vs Chance gamble: I wasn't bothered at all by the absurdity of Chance's entourage, even though "slapstick" doesn't usually work so well for me in writing as in visual media, because I was more focused on the larger picture, the high stakes gamble between the Crone and Chance for the future of Isabelle. I think that, without this subplot, Stepsister/>The/>The What I liked: The Prose: Jennifer Donnelly definitely knows how to write, her style flows so well. And there's so many quotable passages I lost count! The Fate vs Chance gamble: I wasn't bothered at all by the absurdity of Chance's entourage, even though "slapstick" doesn't usually work so well for me in writing as in visual media, because I was more focused on the larger picture, the high stakes gamble between the Crone and Chance for the future of Isabelle. I think that, without this subplot, Stepsister would be just another "Cinderella" retelling from the stepsister's POV, and, frankly, I've already read that "twist," so for me it'd be utterly dull and unimaginative. Another retelling from Wicked Stepister and/or Wicked Stepmother's side? Not enough. Add something new and you'll catch me. Otherwise, get lost. I don't count "Cinderella" amongst my favourite tales, so . . . Neither do I share the opinion that Isabelle is a puppet totally at the mercy of Fate and Chance, with no agency at all. I think that the very fact that she fights so much against her destiny is precisely the point. Helps that I'm used to Greek tragedy, I suppose, it makes the game a familiar and comfy territory for me. If you want to know what "lack of agency" looks like, read Greek tragedy. They're all powerless pawns of Fate in it. Not here, Donnelly subverts it. The stepsister: I liked her, warts and all. One trick to make a villain or antihero or just a plain ol' unlikable grump is to explain why they became what they are currently, and it worked well for Isabelle: we know her reasons to become the bitter woman we meet. She's relatable in the sense that her motives are things any average person could experience that would sour their character. The redemption arc: The conclusion to the redemptive journey could've been better, but I just can't help be drawn to these kinds of arcs like a bee to flowers. What I didn't like: The ending: Given the grim atmosphere and tone of the story for most of the book, the ending was jarringly and inappropriately cute. It simply doesn't fit with the rest, in my opinion. Sounded more like the author wanted a Happy Ending no matter the cost. I'd have opted for a bittersweet conclusion, far more fitting to the story than the ". . . and everyone got their heart's desire and lived happily ever after" stuff, which didn't even look credible within the plot, because at least one or two of the primary characters shouldn't have got a HEA. Instead, everyone got their cherished wish, not just Isabelle. Her mother got hers, her sister got hers, her beau got his, her stepsister Ella got hers twice, the king got his, etc., etc. Even the horse got his! It's forced, and, for me, it singlehandedly stopped the book from being a perfect 5 stars one. Tanaquill: My impression is that the Fairy Queen is present as much because she's a staple of the tale as a need for a powerful third chess player to counter both Fate's and Chance's power over Isabelle. I didn't like her inclusion, however, as this was the equivalent of the infamous Deus ex machina of the Greeks. The stakes were higher and the gamble more interesting without Tanaquill having to poke her nose in the game between Fate and Chance, and doing so by kicking the chessboard to scatter the pieces for additional annoyance. Isabelle could've got along just fine without the silly magic objects, which she uses in too convenient escapes anyway. She had the guts and the strength. All in all, more in favour than against, so 4.5 stars it is. I'm counting this retelling amongst my top retellings not just for Cinderella (for which it counts as the 2nd most creative to date) but for tale retellings in general. It was that good a story, my first from this author.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lou

    There has been a whole load of retellings over the past few years changing and subverting age-old tales and in a time when female empowerment is firmly on the agenda, this is a powerful, meaningful and empowering story. In lush, lyrical prose Donnelly rafts a mesmerising and timely tale which takes place immediately after the original concludes. I loved this as it was well thought out, written in a pacy fashion and has a genius cast of characters - fate and chance, and I particularly enjoyed how There has been a whole load of retellings over the past few years changing and subverting age-old tales and in a time when female empowerment is firmly on the agenda, this is a powerful, meaningful and empowering story. In lush, lyrical prose Donnelly rafts a mesmerising and timely tale which takes place immediately after the original concludes. I loved this as it was well thought out, written in a pacy fashion and has a genius cast of characters - fate and chance, and I particularly enjoyed how strong-minded, independent and intelligent Cinders was compared to the classic version. The characters come alive on the page and you live every single second alongside them. Some retellings are mediocre, others abysmal but every now and again, once in a Blue Moon I stumble on a thoroughly entertaining twist on the original, and here, Ms Donnelly redefines the much-loved fairytale, Cinderella. She brings it up to date and takes into account what is happening in the world right now including #metoo demonstrations and the movement as a whole and the way we women have an innate human right to be in complete control of mind and body. The stereotypes from the classic version are gone and replaced with updated characters. I don't want to give too much away, but this is fantastic retelling and is certainly up there with the best I've read. Many thanks to Hot Key Books for an ARC.

  30. 5 out of 5

    TheYALibrarian

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Rating 4.5 Stars I have met Jennifer Donnelly many times and I was truly inspired by her talk about why she was inspired to write this book. As a child she was read and told the story of Cinderella many times. But she really could not connect to Cinderella's character. Cinderella was kind, beautiful, and essentially perfect. Donnelly said she was not usually these things (even thougd I disagree) and I could understand on a deep level as well. So that being said she turned her attention to the Rating 4.5 Stars I have met Jennifer Donnelly many times and I was truly inspired by her talk about why she was inspired to write this book. As a child she was read and told the story of Cinderella many times. But she really could not connect to Cinderella's character. Cinderella was kind, beautiful, and essentially perfect. Donnelly said she was not usually these things (even thougd I disagree) and I could understand on a deep level as well. So that being said she turned her attention to the ugly stepsisters who were neither pretty nor kind. How they were never really given any attention, only being reflected in their cruel actions to Cinderella. So this story was told from the view of one of the ugly stepsisters Isabelle. How she learned that her previous actions do not define nor and neither does beauty for that is just abject and real beauty comes from within. We begin the story with the conversing of the characters Fate and Chance that are key players to this story. They make a wager to see if Isabelle, the ugly stepsister, can be given a second chance. If Chance loses he can no longer interfere with any other mortals fate. With the game set we are transported to the version of Cinderella rarely told. How the stepsisters, forced to cut off their heel or toes in order to fit into the glass slipper. Both attempts failed with undeniable bloom of red on their stockings and right before the prince and the grand duke left Ella was able to appear and confirm that she was the girl the prince was looking for. After that the sisters were not just ugly to others, but ostracized for their cruelty. Left destitute they are forced to work for their neighbor in order to have a place to stay and food to eat. Through this Fate is disguised as an old woman named Tantine that tries to make Isabelle stay on the path that has been paved for her. But Isabelle, fierce and brave, refuses to stay on course. She asks for the fairy queen's help to make her pretty, thinking this will be the way to solve all her problems. But she must find three pieces of her heart then her wish will be granted. Isabelle struggles to find these three pieces but eventually finds them with difficulty. For there's a war raging and a face from the past that Isabelle thought was long gone. But she finds out what these pieces of her heart are, Felix the man she is in love with, her horse Nero, and Ella. With two down she is about to make a visit to her stepsister, now the Queen when she stumbles upon the enemy camp of the war lord that has been destroying towns all over France and slaughtering all it's citizens. Determined to thwart the war lord's plans she fins that the grand duke is the traitor and has captured Ella as a bargaining chip to take down the kinds army. Ella and Isabelle escape where Isabelle and her sister Octavia try to apologize for their cruelty only to find out that even beauties like Ella can be cruel and jealous for due to Ella Felix and Isabelle had been separated. Now with all three pieces of her heart Isabelle makes a different wish to have an army to defeat the war lord, using the small wooden soldiers Felix had carved himself. When they are transformed Isabelle realizes that she is the only one fit for the task of leading the battle to save France. Adorned in armor from the fairy queen's magic she charges into battle and kills the war lord himself. The story ends with a happily ever after, Isabelle being the confident woman now general she was born to be and her sister the scholar she always wanted to be. The two are now free and no longer destitute with a palace to live in and Isabelle has the love of her life beside her. Overall this story was one I enjoyed immensely. I'm obviously a fan of Donnelly's writing style that is usually heavy with metaphors and similes weaved with beautiful descriptions. But I would say the whole thing with Isabelle being an ugly stepsister and a woman was laid on a little thickly. Yes woman were not regarded highly in the eighteenth century but we don't need to be constantly reminded about that from almost every man in this book. There's also some repetition of the whole "beauty is found within" and basic "Love yourself" spiel. A great message but I understood it the first few times. Lastly was the ending was a little unrealistic and far fetched. Isabelle has been well trained in horse riding and swordsmanship but I don't think enough to have the strength to lop off the warlords head but that could be misogynistic of me with her nor being strong enough to defeat a man. Anyway I will read anything this woman writes and I heard there is another fairy tale book in the works and I'm so here for that!!!!

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