This book was provided to me by Harlequin TEEN in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book or my review. Thank you Harlequin TEEN!
PUBLISHED: July 24, 2014 by Harlequin Teen
GENRE: Young Adult, Fairy Tale Retelling, Romance
BUY IT: Books-A-Million | Barnes and Noble
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What really happened after the clock struck midnight?
Jane Montjoy is tired of being a lady. She's tired of pretending to live up to the standards of her mother's noble family-especially now that the family's wealth is gone and their stately mansion has fallen to ruin. It's hard enough that she must tend to the animals and find a way to feed her mother and her little sister each day. Jane's burden only gets worse after her mother returns from a trip to town with a new stepfather and stepsister in tow. Despite the family's struggle to prepare for the long winter ahead, Jane's stepfather remains determined to give his beautiful but spoiled child her every desire.
When her stepfather suddenly dies, leaving nothing but debts and a bereaved daughter behind, it seems to Jane that her family is destined for eternal unhappiness. But a mysterious boy from the woods and an invitation to a royal ball are certain to change her fate...
From the handsome prince to the evil stepsister, nothing is quite as it seems in Tracy Barrett's stunning retelling of the classic Cinderella tale.
With fairytale retellings being so popular in YA lit right now, you'd think there'd be plenty of decent reincarnations of one of my favorite childhood stories. While there are plenty of attempts (see the Epic Reads Fairytale Retellings Map), most of them have flown pretty far under the radar, and some aren't great. Most I haven't been able to get into. The exception to this being Marissa Meyer's Cinder. (According the Epic Reads map, Throne of Glass is also a Cinderella retelling of sorts. I haven't read it, though I do own it and know it is wildly popular.)
But I'm happy to report that Tracy Barrett's The Stepsister's Tale breaks with the tradition of mostly blah Cinderella retellings and brings a whole new spin to the story I've always loved and shockingly, made really annoyed with the Cinderella character, Isabella. I didn't think it was possible. But this story evoked all sorts of emotions in me and it made me look at the other characters in ways I never had in any other translation of this classic fable.
Retellings are challenging for both the writer and the reader. There needs to be some sort of thread that remains the same, but it can't just be the original stoy regurgitated, either. And readers can get bored if it's just the same old story they knew. Most of the retellngs I've read have taken the story to new places or delivered them in a new way altogether: a dystopian world, a high fantasy landscape, an alien ruled planet. But The Stepsister's Tale is a very literal retelling -- it's set in the same type of place and time period that the Cinderella stories we know so well take place in.
In this way, it's very true to its roots -- but Barrett manages to do this without it seeming stale. The thread of truth from the original story is strong. But when your subsconscience starts to expect a certain event or exchange that happened in the original story, it happens, but with a twist or change.
The Stepsister's Tale deals with misconceptions, reminding us that behind every fairy tale are many untruths. In a wicked stepmother, we find a woman who is consumed by grief and whose world has shattered, over and over again. A charming prince turns out to be a loser in tinfoil, looking for a sugar mama to finance his white horse. Ugly stepsisters are actually just two hardworking young girls trying to keep an entire family afloat, bearing the weight of responsibilities that most children couldn't, and who are quite simply haggard, exhasted, and worn through by trying to keep a palace from falling apart around them. And a heroine turns out to be a spoiled girl who had never been taught the harsh realities of life until tragedy struck, and she was ill-equipped to handle her new circumstances.
But I think the best part about this story is that it challenges the notion of happily ever after and that a girl riding away in a white carriage, now a princess, is not the only option. In this case, the happily ever after came from four women, all who are living lives that they didn't plan for, finding out how to level with each other, even after multiple tragedies and hurtful, petty vendettas have been waged.
The Stepsister's Tale was a quick read. If it wasn't for the fact that I've been sick and exhausted, I would'e finished it in one night. Instead, it tookk two nights. It was engaging, fun, and a book I would recommend to anyone. It wasn't necessarily a challenging read and it is short, but I was book I just simply enjoyed. I couldn't find anything wrong with it and was sad when it ended because I felt a real connection to the characters. For these reasons, I give it five hearts!