Stepsister

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 11 Jul 2019

Member Reviews

Stepsister was an amazing book that continues on from the ending of the original Cinderella story with a feminist twist. I particularly enjoyed that Fate and Chance are characters within the story. This book will leave you viewing the Cinderella story from a whole new perspective and I highly recommend that you read it.


Thank you to Bonnier Zaffre and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Women can be strong and defiant, they do not have to fit stereotypes, and this is the premise that this book follows.

Stepsister is a fairy-tale re-telling. You know what happens to Cinderella after she tries on the glass slipper, but what becomes of her stepsisters. 

We follow Isabelle, one of the ‘ugly stepsisters’ who cut off her own toes to try and fit in the glass slipper. Her path, her destiny has already been set by fate, and it is too late for it to change. Or is it? Chances appear and will she take them and change her own destiny. 

I love this book, though I did find it a little slow moving at the beginning. Despite Isabelle and Tavi being the ugly stepsisters, I could not help empathising with them. The characters are well writing and I found myself relating to them. They are not conventionally pretty, and fight against the stereotypes of their time. Solving equations, experimenting, sword fighting and horse riding. 

You will find yourself rooting for Isabelle despite how she treated Cinderella, and want her to redeem herself.
The chapters are short and fats paced. There’s enough description that I could easily picture the characters and their surrounding easily without it being too much or too long-winded.

I really enjoyed this book; it’s my first retelling and probably won’t be my last. I look forward to reading other books by Jennifer Donnelly.
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Thank you to Hot Key Books and Netgalley for this arc in exchange for an honest review.

I really loved this book! I’m not a fan of Cinderella but the synopsis intrigued me and I’m glad that I read this because it was so great!

I really enjoy retellings even when I’m not a fan of the original fairytale and this was no exception. This story made me root for the “ugly” sister, it made me feel for her and hope for a happy ending for her. I think that shows how much I enjoyed it, especially as she is a villain in the original story, tormenting Cinderella.

This book deals with female empowerment and how women should empower other women and not tear them down. How women can be more than what society tells us. They put us in boxes and expect us to stay there. You can only be that one thing that they designate to you and we have to cut away parts of ourselves to fit societies expectations. But this story is about breaking out of these boxes and tearing them down. It’s about being true to yourself and being more than what society tells us to be. And that is what makes us so powerful.

I really liked how fate and chance were personified and how each of them tempted Isabelle to make a choice that could lead her in a completely different direction. Fate told her to play it safe, that change isn’t possible, she made her doubt her own ability. Chance told her to take a stand, to be brave and take that step to take hold of her life and lead it in a different direction, to be who she knows she can be. It made her story feel very real, we all deal with these in our own ways, all the time.

I also loved how the fairy queen came to her just like she did for Ella but Isabelle has to find herself before she can actually realise what her hearts true desire is. At the beginning she thinks it is to be pretty, because everyone tells her she is ugly and therefore won’t amount to anything in life. But her journey of self discovery leads her to who she truly wants to be. It was a hard journey full of self doubt and her having to really look beyond what she was told to be and to truly be who she wanted to be.

Tavi was the other sister and I loved her as much as Isabelle, she’s really smart and doesn’t understand why she has to give up her dream of studying to become a suitable wife. I related to her so much! Why girls have to be the ones to sacrifice an education, that they can’t be too smart, because it will hurt the male ego. It’s something we see throughout the book, Tavi is told that she won’t be able to work out the answers by men, that when she corrects the men they feel insulted.

Even Ella, when we meet her, becomes more than just a pretty girl. And I really loved how the author showed the depth and complexity of each of the girls and how they might not be what we all assume them to be.
Honestly this book is filled with themes that I am so passionate about so it left me with a whirlwind of emotions. I felt angry and sad and hopeful and everything else in between. I highly recommend everyone read this book!
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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.

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.

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.
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*I received this arc in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley & Hot Key Books.

“Challenging the Fates is hard. Eating madeleines is easy. Most mortals choose the madeleines.”

This was a fun and imaginative retelling! I thought initially this was going to be the classic Cinderella story but from the point of view of the Step Sisters. I mean it was initially but this story goes much further than that, and I’m glad of it! I think I enjoyed it a lot more because it did.

This was full of twists and turns like any good story should be, but the thing I loved the most was the character growth in Isabelle. She was imperfect and bitter at the start and she came to accept herself and ended up being beautiful anyway regardless of her looks. 
I enjoyed many characters in this story & many times had a smile on my face from a funny or cheeky (looking at you Chance!) moment. 
The story definitely did have its dark moments - France is at war and you definitely get the feel of that throughout, and there’s some awful things that happen in this in terms of how people treat each other, but the story also had many truths in this - it showed society as it really is - unfortunate that we’re like it but true. 
I think after reading Step Sister I’ll definitely be looking at reading more by Jennifer Donnelly - this was a creative spin on a tale we all know and love and I found it to be a lot of fun to read!
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The description of this book reads “A powerful, feminist retelling of Cinderella” - What a statement, you can see why I was sold on this book straight away!

I love a good fairytale retelling, especially one which has been turned on its head and tells the “villains” side of the story. So I couldn’t wait to read Stepsister which is the story of what became of Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters after she goes off to marry the prince. 

Everything about this book appealed to me. I love a good villain and I was intrigued to see if or how the ugly stepsisters could be redeemed. Let’s be honest they’re the Mean Girls of fairytales so they don’t have much going for them. However this book was written so well, and in such a way that you couldn’t help but root for them in the end especially Isabelle.

The writing was fantastic, so fluid and atmospheric. I enjoyed the mix of magic and fantasy, the hint of romance and the fight to be who you are rather than who society think you should be! 

Isabelle was such an inspirational character, she starts off not particularly likeable but she grows more in strength and confidence as the story progresses. You start by feeling sorry for her. I mean she cuts off her toes to try and secure a marriage to the prince, all because her mother forces her to! But you soon realise that you don’t need to feel sorry for her because she is stronger and braver than most girls and is quick to adapt to her new situation. She becomes such a warrior and proves that girls can choose to do or be anything they want, in spite of the gender stereotypes.

I really loved this book. My only criticism is that the ending felt a little rushed. It didn’t stop my enjoyment of it but I would have liked it to have been covered in more detail which is why I’ve rated it 4.5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 (Rounded up to 5)
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3.5 - 4 stars

Steal your stomach for the start of this book because it delves in all twisted up and the story that ensues is every kind of unexpected. The protagonist of this book, Isabelle,  is the kind of character that you have to grow to admire. She's an ugly stepsister with past behaviour and characteristics that speak of inner ugliness. Interestingly, her physical appearance isn't particularly sketched out, leaving the reader to imagine.

We meet Isabelle at a late juncture in the traditional Cinderella story, from the initial opening you will never be able to guess where this story goes. In fact, the book's biggest strength is the ability to tell a unique story when it is a retelling. Both Isabelle and Tavi, the other stepsister are quirky, determined characters, with Isabelle in particular, showing strength and tenacity. The backdrop for this tale is that France is at war and the battle is getting closer and closer to the main characters' dwelling.

There is a clever underlying story of Fate and  Chance, two beings with the power to influence the lives of Isabelle, warring over her destiny. This made for interesting manipulation of the story and characters that Isabelle met. Tanaquill, the fairy queen, could not have been less Disney-like if she tried and I loved that aspect and the quest she sent Isabelle on.

Whilst my enjoyment of STEPSISTER is clear in this review, I didn't fully connect to the characters outside of Isabelle. Sometimes I struggled with the pacing, but it always picked up again fairly quickly.

I am impressed by Jennifer Donnelly's creativity and writing of STEPSISTER and I would definitely be interested in seeking more from her in a similar vein. STEPSISTER will appeal to those readers like myself who like a side of twisted with their fairytales.

I voluntarily read an early copy of this book, thank you Hot Key Books.
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this isn’t the tale of cinderella, about pretty girls who find their prince charming and become a princess; this is the tale of an “ugly” stepsister who preferred to ride horses, climb trees and play pirates!

inhabited by the fairy-tale flourishes and a unique cast of characters, this a beautifully written tale which is so easy to read with twist and turns of the funny and tragic, heartbreaking and hopeful. the writing style is beautiful and the quotes, oh, the quotes! ❤︎ 

a beautiful story of women can be all the things they want to be and being pretty isn't everything!
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I'm a fan of retellings and have a collection in my library. So, I was very eager to read this. I'm so glad it was a very good re-telling. It was entertaining, I loved the characters and the messages in the story. 

The story is a re-telling of the original Grimm Brothers version, not the Disney one, which was great. It's told after the events of Cinderella becoming the Queen marrying the charming Prince. And we follow the 'ugly' step sister, Isabelle de la Paume.
The opening is very impactful and intriguing giving a glimpse of the other characters, Chance and Fates. Fates are creating maps of people's lives, but suddenly Chance walks in to steal these maps.  
Isabelle is miserable after her beautiful and gold-hearted step sister moves to the palace to marry the Prince. She starts questioning herself and how her relationship with her sister changed from their childhood. 

Then, the story becomes richer as Fates, Chance and Fairy Godmother joins the tale. We understand Isabelle even more from her own perspective, and it soon becomes a story of villains. Through this, we follow Isabella in her journey to change her fate, and become who she really wants to.  

I really enjoyed Donnelly's writing, how she creatively built the story in the aftermath of Cinderella. It was an interesting take. I thought the beginning of the book was a bit slow until we get to the part where Fate and Chance joined back. I loved the rest of it, and the fact that it had so many nice quotes and messages all throughout Isabelle's journey. 

I'd definitely recommend this if you like fairy tales, children's or YA books, re-tellings. There are so many out there, but this was very creative and well done. 

Thanks a lot to Netgalley and Bonnier Zaffre for this review copy.
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I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This is the story of the ugly stepsisters and I loved every single second of it. It finally tells a story that makes sense to me, about why they are mean to Ella. I wanted more around the abuse that their mother was obviously putting them through, but other than that, it was glorious.

Isabelle is fierce and wonderful, but also bitter and angry. Tavi actually spoke to me more, as she is seriously into her maths (yay maths nerds! 💙) and doesn’t understand why she should ditch that for a husband. Girl, I hear that! Hehe. But Isabelle is a great lead, and I loved her interactions with Fate, Chance and the fairy queen. Her ending was perfect.

I also loved the play between Fate and Chance, they were so fun. Fate definitely comes across as the “bad guy” but I would have liked it to show a little more that she thinks she’s doing her job, so to speak. Though I liked her ending too. And we do see that a little, but I don’t like how she goes about it. Chance’s free wheeling, happier attitude is great, but actually in contrast to how he ended up in the situation. I liked him realising that actions have consequences and sort of want a whole book on him dealing with that more.

It’s a fun, easy read and one of the best Cinderella retelling I’ve seen. I also love that it starts almost at the end of Ella’s story, so it’s easier for it to work without tripping over reader expectations. Brilliantly done.
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This book has a great introduction and an even greater first chapter where we are reintroduced to the main characters, the ugly stepsister everyone knows from their childhood.
The characters are well developed and the writing is smart and elegant from the stepsister to the Fates and the Marquis of Chance.
We are all used to see beautiful characters being portrayed as good and villains being scarred or even handicapped as if their physical shortcomings were a warning to the others and are interesting to see a book that shows goodness, not as a consequence of beauty but as a fight that we all to wage with ourselves.
This is essentially a feminist book with girls coming into their own power and refusing to be defined by men but the most interesting of all is seeing Isabelle refusing to be the classic heroine and being the classical brooding, uncomprehended hero throughout the entire book.
This is a book that has very short chapters, ideal to be read at night, just like ou old fairytales and I think that was made on purpose, a way to show us that the ideals we live by now are completely different from the ones we had just a few years ago.
My only problem with this book is that it is too long: even though there is no chapter there where nothing matters and Isabelle learns from her mistakes, some of the things that she has to face seem to only be there so we can pity her after all the bad things she did. Even the last few chapters were nice to read but ultimately I could do without them.
Thank you to NetGalley and Scholastic Press for this ARC.
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Fate and Chance intervene in the story of the ugly stepsister, which might not be quite as you think. Not only is the story of Isabelle interesting, but you actually feel and root for her.

This story is about self-awareness, belief in yourself and your potential, determining right from wrong. Playing with the notion of fate, and if there is such a thing, can someone change it? Do our choices weigh in?

This is not a cutesy, happy ever after tale, far from it. Dark, tinged with melancholy, full of imaginative unexpected embellishments so fantastical, but not 'yelling' their presence. A bit of a slow burner, but worth the pay off.

A story about second chances and changing people's preconceived perceptions, a testament to bravery.
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This book was amazing!, I gave this book 4.5 stars, I loved the plot, I loved how it is based on the grim brothers version of cinderella, and I love how it focuses on the step sisters. I really like Isabelle the most out of all the characters because in a way I can relate to her in other ways I felt sorry for her. The way this book is written is amazing,
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I'd say this was maybe a...3.5? Which may not make sense when I say what I'm about to say, and that is how I feel this book was pretty important to me.

This is a Cinderella re-telling (as I'm sure you can guess from the cover and the title alone!) where the stepsister is looking for some kind of atonement after Cinderella has gone to marry her prince and rule her castle as Queen in Paris. 

Firstly, I really enjoyed the character development of Isabelle. At first, she's clearly only looking for this atonement because she wants to be as beautiful as Ella and perceived as good without...actually being a good person. Doing a good deed because you want to appear good kind of stops it from being a good deed. As the book progresses, she does feel actual guilt and turns into a warrior fighting for goodness. 

Secondly, I have struggled with insecurity my entire life. I'm an LGBTQ+ plus size person with several disabilities and mental illnesses. I've been called ugly far more than I've been called pretty. There is always a kind of weight on top of being beautiful, something to aim for. Although I wish I could just...be, without having to be strong or a warrior or something that outshines the fact that I am not pretty, I like how it highlights how women in the history that wouldn't be called pretty are still considered beautiful because of a characteristic about them that just outshone this. It comforted me, and made me feel like I could still be beautiful by being me and how being pretty (although still a privilege in this society) isn't all sunshine and rainbows. 

Now, for me, a three star rating isn't a bad rating although I know many people who would consider it one. The reason it isn't four or five stars was because I had difficulty getting through it, if I'm honest. There were a lot that just...dragged. The second half of the book was WAY better than the first half of the book but the first half really let the overall novel down, which is super disappointing because I could see this being one of my favourites otherwise. Even though the MC is technically disabled, there was also a complete lack of diversity which I know in part was because of the time period but minority groups still existed and it just...was ignored? Well, it wasn't brought up at all so, yeah, like they don't exist. 

That pretty much sums it up, really. I know I'm going to recommend this to people with insecurities because personally it really uplifted me and helped give me hope and inspiration that a person is more than their appearance and although we live in a world, and always have, where appearance matters more to people than what you are like inside we can still strive to be the best of ourselves. A great book about coming into ourselves, being comfortable with who we are and learning to forgive who we once were.
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You know what? That summary doesn’t even nearly do this book justice. Because this book does something that I honestly didn’t expect. So often in ‘villain redemption’ retellings the way they choose to go is to show it was all a misunderstanding and really they were lovely all along and it was the heroine (in this case Ella) who was trash all along. In this case, it’s never in doubt that Isabelle and her sister and mother were awful to Ella and the story told isn’t one of re-writing but one of redemption. The thing that tends to bother me about this kind of story is that we’re often expected to forgive the ex-villain their past wrongs and move on with them as the protagonist without too much bother. There’s usually a good amount of ‘oh but they had a really hard time in childhood’ thrown in there. Perhaps I’m not as forgiving of a person as I ought to be, but I find it difficult to just go along with a redeemed character unless I feel as though they truly have changed. I thought that this book did a really good job of combining an explanation for why the stepsisters were so horrible alongside a real journey of learning, growing and truly repenting. It makes the whole character arc so much more believable and impactful - this may have the feel of a fairytale but it takes more than magic to fix everything that has happened.

I mentioned the feel of a fairytale, which is another thing I think this book did really well. So often people try to capture the language of fairytales and everything ends up feeling pretentious and false. What this book does is it takes some of the hallmarks of fairytales, such as the rule of three and the idea of fate vs chance but manages to make the language, particularly the dialogue of the characters, feel very real and very accurate to the intended time period (if not the setting - but my French isn’t good enough to read all the dialogue in French!).

There is romance in this story, which I don’t want to dwell on for too long because I think you should experience it for yourself, but let me just say that it is incredibly sweet and I thought it was a nice addition to the story as a whole.

I thought that the sibling relationship between Isabelle and her sister Tavi was well done also, Tavi is a mathematician and a scientist - but somehow this book manages to steer clear of the ‘she’s the girl who’s into maths so she’s the nerd and she’s into nerd things’ kind of feeling - it’s just what she’s interested in. I liked how the relationship between the two girls fluctuated throughout the book - I’ve never had a sister but it certainly felt like an accurate sibling relationship.

Overall, I think this is a really strong story. Maybe too much emphasis is put on one particular cheese - you have to read it to find out - but I still had a great time reading it. It’s a lot of short chapters so would be perfect for someone looking for something quick to read or someone who likes to block out their reading and do just a little each day. While at times it can feel a bit ‘feminism 101’ I think it would be a valuable starting point for wider conversations about beauty and self-worth among young people, particularly young women.

My rating: 4/5 stars

I received a free digital advanced review copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Stepsister published May 15th!
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I really loved this book, a tale of Fate and Chance. Fate believes that your path in life can not be changed while Chance believes it can, they make a bet and choose one of Cinderellas ugly stepsisters Isabelle. Isabelle has believed everything she has been told in live, that she is to ugly, to outspoken and doesn’t act like a lady and will never find a suitable husband. When she unintentionally summons the fairy queen Tanaquill, who helped Cinderella in her time of need. She wishes she was pretty, but the fairy queen tells her she must find the broken pieces of her heart first. 
This is such a beautifully written story, the writing style is so wonderful and easy to read and I have so many wonderful quotes! It is a great story about women and all the things they can be and pretty isn’t everything. I truly recommend this book for everyone to read!
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You need to read this ! This isn’t just a retelling, it’s an amazing, empowering book for women , but for everyone.  Lessons about what really is beautiful in people, morals, heart and ugliness like vanity and selfishness may sound cliche but it is done perfectly with strong real characters and again empowering female roles.

You really need to read this 


Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for a free copy for an honest opinion
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~ I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review ~ 

“Here are things girls die of: hunger, disease, accidents, childbirth, and violence. It takes more than heartache to kill a girl. Girls are tough as rocks.”

This nitty, gritty retelling of Cinderella reveals the aftermath of the original tale through the eyes of Isabella, the “ugly” stepsister who proves that people are never just black-and-white. 

I adored every single page within this book and revelled in each female-empowering moment; Isabella seeks to alter the worlds perception of her and her journey to do so will leave you absolutely captivated by the ‘ugly stepsister’.

I believe largely the main reason as to why I enjoyed it so much, because all the characters are so complex, and therefore so real and relatable. In all honesty, nobody views themselves as ‘pretty’ or ‘attractive’ so it’s refreshing to witness a protagonist who eventually takes pride in her individuality, and in the fact that she doesn’t need to be ‘beautiful’ in order to accomplish anything.
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I loved this book I love fairy tale retellings. I lokes the different take on the Cinderella story I likes the  back story of how Cinderella or ella in this case fell out with her sisters by her sisters getting overlooked because ella was a prettier then them. Brilliant book will recommend loved it.
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This took me a LONG time to get into the story. I contemplated putting it down, but I'm really trying to finish EVERY book this year and actually I'm glad I stuck with it. 

Get past the "woe is me" angle for the first 30% and you will be in for a treat. 

I loved the twist on a classic fairytale where we know what happens at the end, but what happens after the ever after and what happens to the stepsisters? 

This is a good fem fiction novel, which does empower you by the end. Isabelle and Octavia (the two stepsisters) both become quite loveable by the end. 

I do give this 3 out 5, just because it was such a slow burn at the beginning.

Thank you netgalley for my ARC in exchange for an honest review
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