Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 11 Jul 2019

Member Reviews

When I first started Stepsister I was hesitant, wondering quite where the story would go.
We begin with a well-known scenario, that of the prince trying to find the owner of the glass slipper. We watch a mother desperate to secure safety for her children force not just one but two of her daughters to mutilate themselves in an attempt to win the prince’s hand. Each time, their deception is uncovered. Yet in this story we see that the two sisters are unwilling partners in this deception. They succumb to their mother’s wishes because it’s what is expected of them. As in the fairytale, our forgotten put-upon stepsister gets her prince and leaves.
In this story, however, we remain with those left behind.
The characters of Tavi and Isabelle do not fit the conventional view of a woman. Tavi is obsessed with knowledge, and desires nothing more than to discover something. Isabelle has rather lost her way, knowing only that she wants something that society deems she cannot have. Bound by the expectations of others she subjugates her wishes in an attempt to do the right thing by her family.
I found myself amazed by the very sympathetic portrayal given to characters we’re encouraged to dislike. This feeling only grew as the story unravelled.
Though I was perplexed by this element initially, we have the characters of Fate and Chance playing their own game. Meddling with the lives of Isabelle and her family, each wants to leave their mark.
Without giving anything away, this was a story that showed us a girl full of character slowly learning to love herself and resolve to have confidence in her own desires. Dressed up as a fairytale retelling this was a dark feminist call-to-arms that I would strongly recommend.
A huge thank you to NetGalley for allowing me to read this prior to publication in exchange for my honest thoughts. I’m still gushing!
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After the prince finds Ella and whisks her off to his castle for them to marry, we never find out what happens to Ella's step-mother and step-sisters. This is a brilliant twist and continuation on the classic Cinderella story we all grew up with.

Isabelle is a fierce, strong young woman, while her sister is intelligent and well read, but they have had to hide away those parts of themselves so they do not disappoint their controlling mother who just wants to marry her daughters off. Their mother is set in the mindset that no man will want a woman who will speak up or correct a man. Doubled with the fact that the sisters are not seen as pretty, their mother is cruel (I mean come on Tavi had to cut off the heel of her foot to fit into the glass slipper, and when that didn't work, Isabelle had to cut off her toes). 

But when Fate and Chance come along, Isabelle must figure out the path she needs to take. If she follows what Fate has in store for her, she will be dead in a matter of weeks having lived a short and miserable life, but if she takes a Chance then she can not only live, but live a life as herself and not having to hide. I love the self-discovery in this book, we see the internal battle Isabelle has to go through to secure her future, however long or short they may be. And most of all I love how, along her journey, she finds people that love her for who she is, and not what her mother wants her to be.
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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.
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really loved this story, it wasn’t what I thought it would be at all. This one follows Isabelle, it starts from when the prince brings round the glass slipper and follows Isabelle afterwards as she and the rest of the family are adjusting to life without Ella as their servant, the village has shunned them after finding out how they treated their new queen and ultimately they are left with nothing.

Isabelle meets the fairy queen Tannaquil and asks her to make her pretty, Tannaquil tells her if she can find the 3 pieces of her heart she will grant her the thing her heart desires most.

Before she can find them Isabelle has to first work out what they are and so the journey and adventure ensues.

The chapters in this book and short and snappy, and always leave the reader guessing at what’s going to happen next. It was a story of courage, determination and a girl realising her worth.

It reminds us that beauty and the idea of being pretty isn’t important & that it’s what’s inside that matters.
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A powerful retelling of the classic fairytale with a feminist take on the ugly stepsister.
It's empowering and inspiring with underlying messages to make you think of how you perceive people, actions and emotion.
Very atmospheric and well written.
A book that tries to unite woman and marvel at their achievements, a fun magical girl power read!.
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I received with thanks an ARC copy of Stepsister from Hot Key Books and Netgalley.

This is my review of Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly. This was published on 15th May 2019

This is a very dark retelling of one of the stepsister of Cinderella. This is tale is not what I had originally expected from this novel. But this is not a bad thing. This was a tale that has been done before but this was done betters and darker than ever before. The writing was beautiful and well done.

Would recommend if you love a good fantasy and fairy tale retellings.
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The story of Cinderella and the story of the ugly stepsisters has been told in a million different ways, so to find one that takes the story in a completely different direction was something I immediately wanted to read. Stepsister follows Isabelle, one of the ugly stepsisters to the newly crowned Ella, Queen of France. Reviled for the way she treated her stepsister, Isabelle and her sister Octavia are left with little options – they have tried to be sweet, pretty girls and find husbands but they never live up to their perfect stepsister. With war brewing and no way to protect themselves, Isabelle and Octavia must stand up and fight, proving that girls are a lot more than pretty possessions.

I am completely torn about how to rate this book. It took me quite a while to get into the story, I particularly found the early chapters quite slow, however once I got further into the story I really started to fall in love with these Isabelle and her sisters. They’re brave, intelligent, brilliant girls and I was rooting for them the entire time. The message of this story is so powerful and so important – that you don’t have to be what everyone expects you to be, that you should follow that dream no matter if others think you won’t succeed.

The story provided a really interesting take on this tale, and I loved the vivid world of France at war. I also liked the additional stories of Fate and Chance, two beings waging a bet over Isabelle’s life. It added a fascinating perspective to the tale and one I really enjoyed. One of the things that did put me off this book is the incredibly short chapters. Most were only a few pages long and for me it was a little off putting, it felt like as soon as I got back into the swing of the story I was at the end of the chapter again. The crazy amount of chapters (over 130) also put me off a little.

This is an emotional and inspiring story and if you’re a fan of retellings this is absolutely a must read. Stepsister is an exciting, feminist take on the ugly stepsister trope and I hope this trend of feminist retellings continues because I am fast becoming obsessed with them. If you love all things fairytales, you’re definitely going to love this one.
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Unfortunately this one didn't work for me. I was really excited for this book, mostly because I really don't like Cinderella story. So I thought a feminist retelling would work for me. 
I liked the prose and the main character but the way sexism was handles just didn't work for me. The sexism is just so over the top that makes it unbelievable. Honestly I was just tired of how many times people told the MC that girls don't do this or that. It's annoying, unrealistic, and over the top. So I just stopped reading somewhere around 50%. 
Sexism hurts women in more subtle ways but unfortunately this writer just can't portray the issue with all of its complexities.
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After a difficult start trying get into the book, I found myself really enjoying this retelling. It is well written and has in its core, a charm that will wish it didn’t have to end.
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I love Jennifer Donelly’s books. A definite buy for our school library. I looked forward to reading this title and was not disappointed. I like a spin on old favourites and different perspectives. A great read
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Thank you netgalley for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.

I am a real sucker for a fairytale retelling and always love to read the story from another point of view. Stepsister is no different, it follows one of the 'ugly stepsisters' Isabelle as she tries to redeem herself from her own past, with a touch of supernatural help.

Fate and Chance are having a wager and Isabelle is the target as they both try to change her path in life.

I really enjoyed this book and loved the redemption arc for Isabelle, the only thing I would say is it did seem a little rushed towards the end. Less about cabbages more about the characters.

The spice girls would be proud of this book and its female empowerment storylines. Girl Power!

I know I will definitely be rereading this book in the future!
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Stepsister by Jennifer Connelly


Stepsister is the retelling of Cinderella from the perspective of the 'Ugly Stepsister'. A twist on the classic story. 

And it works exceptionally well. 

The characters are well developed and are more than just fillers or 2-dimensional cardboard cutouts. The main character in particular is flawed and yet owns those flaws. 

The story itself holds no ultimate surprises (unsurprisingly) but it is definitely a fresh spin on the usual trope. The pacing of the story was off at times, some parts felt quicker than others. 

This being the years for feminism - the book definitely brings these issues about in a clever way. 

Overall, I've always enjoyed this authors writing and I feel she's succeed in creating a fresh, new spin on an old classic.
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*I recieved a copy of this via netgalley however this in no way influenced my opinion.*

4 stars	

So this took me by complete surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I really wish I had read it sooner. This is a retelling of Cinderella which focuses on one of the stepsisters named Isabelle. The plot of this novel is dark, twisty and intricate.

Isabelle is a great character who is told she is ugly and everyone has turned against her and her family due to their treatment of Ella who is now the queen. The thing I liked most is that Isabelle isn’t perfect she has flaws and it was great to see her become kind and self-less but still remains herself. It was super fun going on the journey with Isabelle to find the three missing pieces of her heart that the fairy godmother tells her she must find. When she discovered that she realises that she needs to be the one to lead the army it was a truly incredible moment that I loved. I really liked the idea of having the 3 fates and chance trying to influence her. 

Overall this was a well-written feminist fairy tale with complex characters. My only issue is the pacing was a little off in some places.
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This story explores how nobody is inherently evil or inherently good — everybody has a reason behind why they are the way they are. It makes the reader think that maybe they aren’t always right in their perception or impression of they way someone is. For example, the stepmother is terrified of her daughters ending up alone and miserable and poor when she’s no longer here, which is why she acts the way she does. So this brings forth the question, can you blame a mother for wanting to protect her daughters?
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I loved this retelling of Cinderella and the strong female characters. I enjoyed a new perspective of the ugly step sisters. 

My thanks to Netgalley for an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Stepsisters is based around the Cinderella fairytale. The tale involves Ella’s step sister Isabelle who is unaware that chance along with the crone of fate are vying for her life. Set in France around a war between the king and Volkmar a disgruntled uncle of the king. War is coming to the small town where the ugly stepsisters reside. 

Isabelle with her sister Octavia (Tavi for short) are subjected to ridicule and misfortune for the past mistreatment of Ella by themselves and their Mamon (mother) have to find ways to survive. Isabelle meets with a fairy queen one night who will only grant her a wish once she locates the three pieces of her heart. Isabelle sets out to find out what those pieces are to enable the fairy queen to make her beautiful. 

During the first few chapters we meet chance and his entourage of misfits which include an actor, a diva, magician, chef, four monkeys and a set of acrobats none of which really make any difference to the story they only lead to a break in flow of writing. Chance uses this troupe to perform one play to help Isabelle realise that women can be strong. Fate and chance have little interaction with Isabelle and I am unsure of the actual need for them within this tale other than to break up the writing the whole story could have been set in motion by the fairy queen alone. The play performed by a travelling circus or story tellers.  

The author uses ends of chapters to almost philosophically in a sense to analyse some of the story this slows the pace of the writing. These little segments could have been used as sectional partitions but they are not which is a shame. All in all the book is well written and had a good plot from beginning to end but I couldn’t give it five stars as the writing didn’t quite flow as freely in some places.
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What a fantastic spin on a fairytale classic. This is unlike anything this author had written before and I loved it. Such a perfect writing style and it was so intriguing I couldn't stop reading.
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This is one of the best fairytale retellings I've ever read, and that's saying a lot considering how many I have read.

I didn't know I was looking for a feminist, dark retelling of one of my favourite fairytales, but apparently Netgalley decided to dangle Stepsister to me. 

This gave me all the feminist feels, it even made me laugh in places. Not gonna lie, I might even have teared up in spots.
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OMG you guys I don't even know where to start with this book i loved it soooo much!
So although this is put across as a retelling the story starts where the original (and more dark and twisted version of) cinderella finished. It is told from the POV of one of the "ugly" stepsisters isabelle. Cinderella has gone and married her prince and her stepmother and sisters are left to deal with the aftermath and backlash from their village as they are now aware of the way cinderella was treated
I love the way the author told this story and the message it sent, I really felt connected to the main character, to the point where I actually felt sorry for her! It makes you understand how the sisters must have felt as children constantly being compared and judged against someone so beautiful who seems to be given things just because of their beauty. There was a part in the story where a visitor came to the house but only gave sweets to cinderella because of how pretty she was and that really struck a cord with me! It feels like in today's society everyone is becoming more obsessed with beauty and it can feel like women are given things or get further because of how they look while other women's talent and intelligence are overlooked because they haven't blown dried their hair and put lipstick on
I loved how fiercely strong and independent isabelle and tavi came across and how they rebelled against what society expected of them. I love a retelling but this was honesty my favourite EVER and definetly one of my favourite reads of all time. You should go and buy this book IMMEDIATELY! 💗
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GENRE(S): Young Adult, Pseudo-Historical, Fantasy, Fairytale Retelling.

QUICK SUMMARY: 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.

TW: Self-mutilation, mental illness (dementia), minor animal cruelty.

AVG. GOODREADS RATING: 4.15 ★ over 1, 700 ratings.

MY RATING: ★★★★★ (5)

MY REVIEW: The opening sequence is badass. Right away, it shows you how hardcore the main character is, and that assures you that this is not going to be a Nice Fairytale. The protagonist gives me Joan of Arc feels, and her character development and working on her flaws, and reworking and rethinking the way she’s shaped herself through the male gaze was really on point. I also loved her sister, and how in her ‘ugliness’ manifested itself as a sharp tongue and a keen mind.

In general, it does an excellent job of picking apart the step-sisters relationships with each other, and with (Cinder)Ella, and exploring how their mother (Ella’s step-mother) played them against each other. Ditto as showing what it means to be considered “ugly”. Because, really, if you’re a woman, ugly can mean not conventionally attractive, but it can also be a misogynistic way of saying a woman is “difficult”, clever or not particular about your appearance to a man’s satisfaction. There’s also a sweet little quote I can not find about how it’s a man’s world, and ugliness is the one sin that men can’t forgive in a woman. I also loved how much depth was given to the character of Ella, that there are downsides and flaws to be found in being pretty, and gentle, and beloved.

The setting (and the villagers that populated it) made me think of the Angry and Judgemental Townspeople in Beauty and the Beast, only partially because that’s also a pseuso-historical French village. Overall, I did like the fantastical Chance vs. Fates element of it, as well as the Fae Queen, but it was the way that feminism was so neatly and elegantly picked apart that made this book a hit for me.

It’s not as dark as Damsel by E. K Arnold or Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo, but it’s definitely worth the read if you’re into feminist re-imaginings.

Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC!
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