Published by Harlequin Teen, the print edition is 272 pages.
Note: This review is based on an eARC received from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest thoughts about the book.
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.
THE STEPSISTER’S TALE is an absolutely wonderful and imaginative retelling of the classic fairy tale. With a shift in perspective, not everything is as the Cinderella story led readers to believe – the stepsisters weren’t so evil, the stepmother not so wicked, Cinderella not so innocent and the prince not so charming or benevolent. And with a number of deviations from the original, this delightful tale is as captivating and enchanting as the story it was based upon.
Jane Montjoy doesn’t remember the former glory of the crumbling ruin that is her home. She doesn’t remember a life of dancing and servants and finery. She doesn’t know what it really means to be a lady.
Her life isn’t a fairy tale and the prince wouldn’t give her the time of time of day. Not with her plain looks, her work-worn hands and her threadbare clothes.
If only her mother would accept their reality and allow her to befriend those who could be of help, their lives wouldn’t be so miserable. If only her spoiled stepsister Isabella would lend a hand instead of playing among the ashes, things wouldn’t be so dire. If only she wasn’t the only one concerned with their survival, maybe her simple wish for a happily ever after could come true.
Author Tracy Barrett expands upon this well-loved classic, giving readers a longer, if different, look at the world. Told in a voice that evokes the spirit of the original, she reintroduces readers to the stepsisters – Jane and Maude – the stepmother – Lady Margaret – and Ella, who is every bit as lovely in looks, if not personality, as the girl the prince fell madly in love with.
The author’s story pays homage to all the important elements in the classic tale, letting readers view them through a new lens. Her reimagining of the story brings new life to this fairy tale in a way that will entertain, charm, engage and bewitch.
THE STEPSISTER’S TALE is a must for fans of the classic who want to see this story in a new light, for those who never really believed that Ella and the prince were as perfect as they seemed, for those who believe that good and evil aren’t so black and white, and for those looking for an ending for all that may not be quite as grim.
On a Personal Note…
As a lifelong fan of the brothers Grimm, I was incredibly curious about this story by Tracy Barrett. I loved the original, with its harshness and gruesomeness. I loved that evil was punished and goodness and innocence was rewarded. I loved the fairy tale ending.
As an adult I couldn’t wait to see things from a new perspective. I loved the idea that maybe what we knew to be true wasn’t the only truth. That maybe Cinderella wasn’t as much an innocent victim as the story led us to believe. That maybe these two stepsisters weren’t desperate enough to capture the hand of the prince that they’d cut off their toe and heel. And maybe they didn’t have to have their eyes plucked out as punishment for their deception.
I also loved getting a longer look at the world – the Grimm stories were so very short. It was absolutely wonderful spending more time in this make believe, faraway land set in a time long past. It felt very similar to the setting of many a Grimm story. It captured that simplicity of time and place. It didn’t try to elaborate too much.
This world of kings, princes, nobles and common folk, with their belief in the existence of fairy-folk, was very comforting to return to. The author did an amazing job of recreating that feeling with her story. It stayed true to the classic, but with all these fantastic extras that made me smile.
I would love to talk about all that I loved about this story, especially with what went down at the royal ball and with the prince. But as those are some of the most exciting bits, I don’t want to risk spoiling them.
THE STEPSISTER’S TALE was a super quick read although the pace was unhurried. There was a richness of detail about all things close to Jane – her daily life, her family, her home – with much left up to the imagination for the larger world beyond. The small details the author included that made it feel very much in the style of those classic fairy tales were what made this story for me.
I adored it. And Jane. And spent the entire read hoping that she got her happy ending… and hoping that Ella did not.
My favorite passage involves a moment that Jane had at the royal ball. But as I can’t reveal that here, because it’s a total spoiler, I thought I’d share just a short passage from the very beginning of the prologue which sets the stage for this story perfectly.
The house–it was too small to be called a palace–sat at the top of a hill, overlooking thick woods and a river. At a distance, it appeared to be the same as when Mamma was a girl: stately, welcoming, a place of parties and balls, where visitors came to spend long weeks, where Mamma and Papa had danced until dawn the night of their wedding. But once a traveler drew near, changes appeared. Holes gaped in the roof; some of the windows lacked glass, and most were bare of the curtains that would have softened their black emptiness. The few remaining shutters dangled unevenly and banged when a high wind blew.