Review Detail

Young Adult Fiction 2338
A Neat Twist on Cinderella
Overall rating
Writing Style
What I Liked:
As one can surmise from the title, Barrett’s retelling is from the perspective of one of the so-called ugly stepsisters to Cinderella. This alone isn’t especially new; such postmodern spins have been done before. Still, I think that Barrett took it a couple of steps further than anything I’ve personally encountered before. She twisted the traditional elements of the fairy tale around really nicely to make the stepsisters the protagonists.

Isabella, the Cinderella, seems at first to be a monstrous brat, beloved of her father and disdainful of her new home and family members. Barrett could easily have left the story there, but takes the time to show another side to Isabella. She’s not the antagonist of the retold fairy tale, which I think is my favorite thing. In this version, the stepsiblings can learn to be friends. The end result sends wonderfully empowering messages.

Jane and her younger sister, Maude, work really hard to keep the family together, as their house crumbles around them. Their mother lives in delusions of grandeur, unable to accept the straits into which the family has fallen. Jane and Maude do everything around the house: cleaning, cooking, searching for food, and taking care of what livestock remains. The fact that they do so much of the hard work makes them much more sympathetic than usual.

What Left Me Wanting More:
Though I liked the concept a lot, the execution definitely left me whelmed. Despite its brevity, The Stepsister’s Tale felt long. Jane and Maude aren’t particularly interesting people I didn’t find and none of the characters felt real to me. I especially found Jane’s romance tedious with its constant repetition. Indeed, Jane’s relationship with Isabella is much the same. Everyone is constantly misunderstanding everyone else, talking about it, and then talking about it some more. I just was not invested at all.

The Final Verdict:
The Stepsister’s Tale is worth a read if, like me, you cannot get enough of comparing the way different authors put their own spin on a fairy tale. However, if you do not like slower-paced books, you will probably want to pass on this one.
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