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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.

352 pages, Hardcover

First published May 28, 2019

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About the author

Jennifer Donnelly

33 books7,494 followers
Jennifer Donnelly is the author of thirteen novels - Poisoned, Stepsister, Lost in a Book, These Shallow Graves, Sea Spell, Dark Tide, Rogue Wave, Deep Blue, Revolution, A Northern Light, The Tea Rose, The Winter Rose and The Wild Rose - and Humble Pie, a picture book for children. She is a co-author of Fatal Throne, which explores the lives of King Henry VIII's six wives, for which she wrote the part of Anna of Cleves, Henry's fourth wife.

She grew up in New York State, in Lewis and Westchester counties, and attended the University of Rochester where she majored in English Literature and European History.

Jennifer’s first novel, The Tea Rose, an epic historical novel set in London and New York in the late 19th century, was called “exquisite” by Booklist, “so much fun” by the Washington Post, a “guilty pleasure” by People and was named a Top Pick by the Romantic Times. The Rose trilogy continued with The Winter Rose and The Wild Rose.

Her second novel, A Northern Light, set in the Adirondacks of 1906, against the backdrop of an infamous murder, won the Carnegie Medal, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Borders Original Voices Award, and was named a Printz Honor book. Described as “rich and true” by The New York Times, the book was named to the Best Book lists of The Times (London), The Irish Times, The Financial Times, Publishers Weekly, Booklist and the School Library Journal. In 2015, TIME Magazine named it one of the 100 best young adult books of all time.

Revolution was named a Best Book by Amazon, Kirkus, School Library Journal, and the Chicago Public Library, and was nominated for a Carnegie Medal. The audio edition was awarded an Odyssey Honor for Excellence.

In 2014, Jennifer teamed up with Disney to launch the bestselling Waterfire Saga, an epic series about six mermaids on a quest to rid the world of an ancient evil. The first book in the series, Deep Blue, was released in May, 2014; the second, Rogue Wave, launched in January 2015; the third, Dark Tide, came out in October 2015; and the fourth, Sea Spell, is scheduled for release in June 2016.

In November 2015, Jennifer released the historical novel These Shallow Graves, which received starred reviews from Booklist, Publishers Weekly and Shelf Awareness, and was named a Junior Library Guild Selection.

Jennifer worked with Disney again in 2017, when she published Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book, an original story to accompany the blockbuster Beauty and the Beast film. Lost in a Book expands on the classic tale, exploring the growing friendship between Belle and the Beast as well as Belle's ordeal within the pages of Nevermore, a magical book from which she narrowly escapes.

Jennifer returned to historical fiction with Fatal Throne, a book about Henry VIII and his six wives published by Random House/Schwartz & Wade in 2018. For this project, Jennifer joined six other authors (Candace Fleming, M.T. Anderson, Stephanie Hemphill, Deborah Hopkinson, Linda Sue Park, and

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,942 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,962 reviews293k followers
May 21, 2019
Everyone said a girl with a strong will would come to a bad end. Everyone said a girl’s will must be bent to the wishes of those who know what’s best for her.
Isabelle was young, only sixteen; she had not yet learned that Everyone is a fool.

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.
History books say that kings and dukes and generals start wars. Don’t believe it. We start them, you and I. Every time we turn away, keep quiet, stay out of it, behave ourselves.

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.
“Change is a kiss in the dark. A rose in the snow. A wild road on a windy night,” Chance countered.
“Monsters live in the dark. Roses die in the snow. Girls get lost on wild roads,” the crone shot back.

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:
“The feeling that you want to own someone body and soul, spirit them away from everyone else, have them all to yourself forever and ever and ever,” Hugo said dreamily. “It’s called love.”
“No, it’s called kidnapping,” said Tavi.

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Profile Image for chai ♡.
321 reviews153k followers
October 15, 2019
This book: *is a bold, subversive and startingly original reclamation of one of literature's most reviled women which, by recasting Cinderella's evil stepsister as a hero in her own right, illuminates a known story from a new evolving and multifaceted perspective while eking out depth and redemption and seamlessly grafting concepts of self-discovery and identity to an unrepentant celebration of kindness, courage and forgiveness*

Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,195 reviews40.6k followers
February 16, 2021
5 ugliest, wittiest, fantastic, anti-fairy tale, bravest ,strongest, applause to the strength of women, Hell yeah stars!

Retellings crash into art of war doctrines, feminism thesis and here’s an amazing, smartly written fantasy book!

You never thought that you could love this new version of Cinderella story! You already knew the old version of fairy tale before Grimm Brothers rule the stories with their honest reality, the beautiful ones are always kind, good hearted, vulnerable and their faces and appearances are reflections of their genuine hearts! They always get the prince and their HEA! Blah blah blah! So being ugly is equal to being cruel, mean, evil and loser of the stories!

What if all the equations could change and beauty would not be the only requirement to get your happy ending. What about being brave, smart, hard-worker, intelligent, sophisticated, determined, skillful, creative, charismatic, game-changer and help you turn into a real leader!

Isabelle and Tavi are ugly sisters who tried to ruin Ella’s life and now they were punished, abandoned and abused, harassed by their own town people. Are the biased people who judge them because of their appearance uglier or our misled daughters who only obeyed what their Maman told her and felt guilty because of their actions?

Every people has FATE and CHANCE! But do they have to do strictly what their fate lead them or do they have their own free will?

This book is about women’s right to reject to be judged by their appearances and choose to transform themselves whoever they want to be! So this is not a random retelling of popular fairy tale. This is witty, encouraging, enlightening version of storytelling about what women deserve in their lives!

And I loved the final twist which changes all the facts we learned from fairytales. The beautiful, kind hearted queen of the story can turn into a cruel villanelle if she gets jealous!!!!!

Our untraditional heroine Isabelle won my heart with her determination, toughness, honesty, fighting soul! She knows she made mistakes and learns her lesson, accepts who she is and finally she understands she can rule her own fate and chances!!!

“ Most people will fight when there’s some hope of winning, no matter how slim. They are called BRAVE! Only a few will keep fighting when all hope is gone. They are called WARRIORS!
Isabelle was warrior once but she has forgotten it”
This book is wake up call to find yourself and embrace your skills, your inner wolf sleeping inside and tearing you apart if you don’t set your inner wolf free and take any risk, you just accept your fate, let the wolf kill you slowly and painfully!

This part of book below is a great summary of the story and characters’ great fears and challenges :

“This is world the people in it- my mother, Tantine- they sort us. Put us in crates. You are an egg. You are a potato. You are a cabbage. They tell us who we are. What we will do.What we will be.”
“Because they are afraid!Afraid of what we could be” Tavi said.
“But we let them do it!” Hugo said angrily. “ Why?”
Tavi gave him a rueful smile. “ Because we’re afraid of what we could be, too”

So; don’t be afraid who you are! What you’re capable! Embrace yourself! Love yourself! Try to become better version of yourself by finding your life purpose, holding your fate into your hands!!!!

Profile Image for Mischenko.
1,014 reviews97 followers
August 4, 2019
I read Jennifer Donnelly's Lost in a Book which is a Beauty and the Beast retelling and I truly loved it, so Stepsister was highly anticipated. There's a special place in my heart for fairy tales, especially Cinderella. To be honest, I haven't read that many Cinderella retellings.

Will my review spoil this book? Not totally...although I do mention the plot and certain themes which lead into the ending.

Stepsister begins right at the end of Cinderella as the prince seeks the girl to fit the slipper. Isabelle and Octavia--the evil stepsisters--will do whatever it takes to get the slipper to fit, even if it requires cutting off parts of their feet. Once everyone notices what the sisters have done, they are shamed and hated throughout the kingdom, and their sister Ella now sits with the prince.

Life is difficult for the sisters, but more so for Isabelle, as she struggles to accept herself and has much to learn about true beauty. I found Isabelle's character relatable, and her actions are nearly justified due to how's she's been treated; her mother tells her she's ugly, etc. She's had rough times, done evil things, and this has left her feeling angry and jealous, but eventually, she wants to find ways to redeem herself and to fight back once she begins to see what's right and important. As for Octavia, she seems like the stronger sister, but is she? She's certainly smart. Her character was more in the background, but I liked this sister relationship compared to the original. Overall, I loved the character development here. Adding in Fate and Chance who are both battling to change Isabelle's outcome was an aspect that made this retelling so unique.

The first parts of this book had me cringing and yet I couldn't put it down. These parts were very dark and unexpected. As the story went on, sadly, I just wasn't as captivated. I liked the short chapters, but it still went a bit slow for me in the middle. Because the majority of the fairy tale itself isn't pretty, it was a little hard for me to love the ending with the way it was written because it wasn't totally fitting. Don't get me wrong: I love redemption and it did end somewhat the way I expected it would because after all, it is a fairy tale retold, but it just didn't feel totally right to me.

With all that said, is it correct to say that I think this is an important book? I think so! Characters struggle with change and one of the biggest is learning how to accept yourself. Beauty isn't everything. This is something I myself have struggled with in life with the American culture and what 'it' considers admirable traits. It's easy to become filled with lies as Isabelle has. Because of this, the book did remind me of Beauty by Robin Mckinley at times. So, I do think this can be an excellent read for all ages, especially younger readers which is obviously intended being that it's YA.

Themes include beauty, forgiveness, loss, redemption, family, and acceptance.

I do love Jennifer Donnelly's writing and can't wait to read more of her books. I also adore the cover of Stepsister. Anyone who enjoys retellings and fantasy should check out this book.

Profile Image for Charlotte May.
696 reviews1,073 followers
October 19, 2020
4.5 ⭐️

Loved this!

“Three horses and one ugly horse-faced girl.” “What they said...it isn’t true.” “Then why do they say it?” “That’s not the question Isabelle, the question is why do you believe them?”

God this book spoke to me! Isabelle and her sister Octavia have always been called ugly, their mother is terrified no one will want to marry them and it’s caused no end of bitterness between them and their step sister Ella.

We all know the story of Cinderella - this one picks up right at the end of the Grimms version where Isabelle and Octavia are forced to maim themselves (chopping off parts of their feet) in order to fit into the glass slipper.

Naturally we know what happens next and Ella is off to the castle.

This is only the beginning of Isabelle’s story. I loved this because it doesn’t sugarcoat Isabelle’s behaviour - she was nasty to Ella, she learns this and is punished for it. Ella is also proven not to be a beautiful saint with no flaws. They are all human and all affected by how other people see them rather than how they see themselves.

“The wolves in the woods have sharp teeth and long claws, but it’s the wolf inside who will tear you apart.”

There are anthropomorphised characters of Fate and Chance, both of whom are trying to control Isabelle’s life and get one over on the other. There is also the fairy godmother but not as you know her.

Personally I found there was so much to love in this. Learning that there is so much more to a person than their looks and being true to yourself is the most important thing.

“The days are hard, yes. But at night I have a candle and quiet and my books...a pretty girl must please the world. But an ugly girl? She’s free to please herself.”


Did not realise this was written by the same author who wrote A Gathering Light, which I loved.

Just treated myself to this one 😊
Profile Image for Jasmine from How Useful It Is.
1,294 reviews342 followers
April 24, 2019
I started reading Stepsister on 4/19/2019 and finished it on 4/23/2019. This fairy tale retelling is an excellent read! I like that it started out with the Cinderella story and expanded further after Cinderella went off to her happily ever after. I love that this story focus on the stepsister’s perspectives of how it all went. I love that the stepsisters are portrayed as intelligent and brave, more tomboy than girly. There are many types of girls and this book hit straight on the nail’s head by including girls who likes to study and girls who likes to do boys stuffs such as playing with swords and strong willed to speak her mind as compared to girls who wear silk dresses and readily agreeable even when she doesn’t want to. Many readers can easily relate to Isabelle because she often feel unsure of herself when she has more and still feel unhappy than those who has less.

This book is told in the third person point of view following Isabelle, 16 as she does what her mom wants, to cut off a few of her toes so that her foot can fit into the glass slipper that the Prince of France brought. Isabelle’s mom told her she’s ugly and she thinks if the Prince marries her she’ll be a Princess and someday will be Queen and no one will dare to call her ugly again. Unfortunately that plan didn’t turn out in their favor and instead backfired. The two stepsisters are Octavia, 17 and Isabelle, 16. Ella is 17. The second view is of Chance. He believes he can change the path for Isabelle after her failed attempt at stealing the Prince from Ella. But Fate is in the way because she already has Isabelle’s life mapped out. She thinks Isabelle is selfish and mean and should keep the path chosen for her. Then there’s the fairy queen who comes to Isabelle’s rescue when Isabelle’s heart asked for help.

Stepsister is very well written and filled with Fate and Chance that make you think about yourself. Fate tests you with negative feelings of self doubt and Chance gives you the opportunity to think again and try again. I love the humor in this book, especially toward the end with the “sweaty dead dog”. I like when Isabelle is mean to Ella to turn around and experience how it feels when someone else is mean to her. I like that this story is not a smooth ride. There are many ups and downs and opportunities to change the course of life. I like Felix and the bits of romance. It’s cute. This book is definitely a plus and I highly recommend everyone to read it!

Pro: fast paced, page turner, humor, stepsisters, fairy tale retelling, adrenaline rush

Con: none

I rate it 5 stars!

***Disclaimer: Many thanks to Scholastic for the amazing and beautiful book mail. I appreciate the opportunity to read and review. Please be assured that my opinions are honest.

Jasmine at www.howusefulitis.wordpress.com for more details
Profile Image for Anne.
3,918 reviews69.3k followers
December 18, 2020
Best Cinderella's Evil Stepsister retelling that I've read so far.


This was an excellent redemption story that didn't shy away from the ugly stuff. I mean, the bitch cut her damn toes off in the first few pages!
WHAT?! <--I was hooked.


The story takes a lot of twists and turns from there, but it's a great tale about finding out who you really are & then learning how to being true to that person. It's about not letting other people decide the role you play in your own life, not letting jealousy eat you alive, and the importance of forgiving yourself and making peace with your past.
Because as it turns out, no one is perfect, and even beautiful fairytale queens can do things they desperately regret.


You know what I really thought was cool?<--I'll tell you anyway.
I was surprised that Donnelly didn't turn Cinderella into the bad guy. I was expecting the she's pretty, so she's obviously gotta be mean version to pop up. It's an easy route to take since everyone already wants to hate the pretty girl, but the author took the harder road and made her likable and just as human as everyone else in the story.


I loved the addition of the Fates and Chance. Taking the ideas of what we are born to and what we can change if we take a different (harder?) path, and then making them into characters in this story was kind of genius. These guys kicked the book off and helped take it in an unexpected direction for a fairytale retelling.


Isabelle's own fairytale love story was also touching and very well done, in my opinion.
I melted a bit...


Isabelle was a bone-deep badass, and occasionally tender, and always very conflicted, and sometimes a big fat asshole, and most of the time a fuck up.
I loved her.
The whole thing was a win for me & I have zero complaints.

Jayne Entwistle - Narrator
Profile Image for Bren fall in love with the sea..
1,574 reviews271 followers
July 17, 2021
“The wolves in the woods have sharp teeth and long claws, but it's the wolf inside who will tear you apart.”
― Jennifer Donnelly, Stepsister

My review:

This one is tough. I spent quite a bit of time reading reviews for this one and it seems most either love it or hate it. I am in the middle.

It's odd with this book. When I started, as mentioned by so many, I was entranced. The beginning was extraordinary and I fell in love with it. Who wouldn't?

And dark retellings can be fun. So, I DID like this. I cannot give it under a three and even if I HAD NOT liked it, I am just in awe that anyone can write so beautifully. I really am.

Here's the thing. There are three things that kept me from really loving it. OK-Four things. But one is just personal choice. I did not connect to it as deeply as I'd have liked. (Although I did cry at the end. Did you?)

So, for one thing it felt....long. I mean it was far from 500 or 600 pages but it was an exhausting read for me. And yes I had to skim some. Reason for that coming up shortly.

Also, Fate and Chance didn't really interest me. I just dug the dark beginning and at first I even dug Chance and Fate but I did not know what huge roles they would play in the shaping of the story and I was just not as interested in them as others might have been.

And there is the last reason. I have tried to find this in reviews by other GR members but could not. Surely SOMEONE felt as I did?


Animal abuse. Animal death. Animal suffering.

I CANNOT believe this is written for children. Frankly? Any child or adult or HUMAN with sensitivity on this issue should be very careful.

Yes, it's a dark fairy tale but I do not like to read about animals in pain.

We have a rooster. We have a bunny. And do not even get me started on the horses. I started skimming as soon as I read that Nero the horse was part of her "heart" and needed to be rescued. I knew what that meant.

So, yes much skimming in the middle. Even if I knew he'd be OK. I do not have any desire to read about horse slaughter houses ever.

The Feminist plot? I loved that. Many have complained that the book pounds the message again and again. I agree but did not mind that. There was much to love about this enchanting and dark story and I did love much about it. I just, in general, LIKED the book as a whole and did not LOVE it. For the reasons mentioned above.

I think on a scale of 1-10, the writing is a 10. The story is at times whimsical. The darkness however is deep. I really do not think one should read it as a kid without taking certain things into consideration.

The strongest points were the beginning which was electric and the last 50 or so pages which were extraordinary. The middle was overly long, I felt.

I adored what was done with the Fairy Godmother. She was terrific.

The ending was deeply rich and beautiful and illuminating and I cried.

This is a book that is not going to be for everybody. But it is a book that, even if I did not love it, I was in AWE of it. Make sense?

I would recommend it but I am not that surprised to see ratings across the board. My rating is 3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Patricia Bejarano.
436 reviews5,400 followers
September 20, 2019
Vaya sorpresa me he llevado con esta historia. Tenía muchísimo hype con este libro y sin duda ha estado a la altura de ese hype. Y lo mejor es que me ha sorprendido, ya que aunque sabía que era la historia de la hermanastra de Cenicienta, no sabía que me iba a resultar tan interesante y que iba a llegar a amar tanto a Isabelle.
Y bueno, esta historia comienza en el momento en el que el príncipe y el gran duque han salido en busca de la chica que ha perdido su zapato de cristal. Cuando llegan a casa Cenicienta, ella está encerrada y no puede probarse ese zapato, y sus hermanastras, por coacción de su madre, hacen una locura. Tavi se corta el talón para entrar en ese zapato e Isabelle, los dedos de su pie. Casi llegan a engañar al príncipe y el gran duque, pero en el último momento descubren la verdad y en fin, que Cenicienta (Ella a partir de ahora) sale de donde estaba encerrada, entra en el zapato y se va con el príncipe a vivir felices para siempre... El caso es que después de este suceso, todo el pueblo sabe lo que esta familia ha hecho a la actual reina y son repudiados por todos. Y en esta historia vamos viendo la historia de Isabelle y de su familia, como la desgracia las empieza a perseguir, muchas veces por los actos que han realizado y otras no, y como su vida va cambiando por completo por culpa de lo que le hicieron a Ella. Además, un gran enemigo está invadiendo Francia y arrasando todo lo que encuentra, cosa a tener en cuenta en este libro. Otros personajes muy importantes son Azar y una de las tres Parcas. Ellos jugarán un papel fundamental en la vida de Isabelle y que creo que dan un toque muy original a la historia, ya que no me esperaba nada su aparición ni su papel.
Sin duda es un libro muy sorprendente, donde vemos un proceso increíble de la protagonista principal, donde vemos por qué se comportaba de cierta manera y como acaba dándose cuenta de lo que de verdad importa en la vida.
Hay una frase en la portada del libro que creo que define perfectamente al libro. La belleza no siempre es bonita. Es mucho más. Y este libro nos lanza un mensaje muy importante a través de un fabuloso cuento de hadas al más puro estilo de los hermanos Grimm, donde nuestra protagonista va a pasar todo tipo de desgracias y sufrimientos.
Es una historia adictiva, los capítulos son muy cortos y eso os tendrá aún más pegados a sus páginas, tiene magia, amor, amistad, acción, guerra y muchísimos valores y sentimientos. También tiene frases preciosas que se os grabarán en el corazón.
Si le tengo que poner una pega es que el final me pareció bastante precipitado. Siento como si la autora quisiera acabar y no se quiso enrollar en algo que a mí me hubiera gustado ver con más detalle, aún así, con el resto no tengo ninguna pega porque ya os digo, me ha sorprendido muchísimo y os lo recomiendo con todo mi ser.
Profile Image for Phoebe Jeziel.
655 reviews37 followers
Want to read
December 25, 2018
Kind of want to read this, but am simutaniously annoyed at how this story is being marketed as if Cinderella wasn’t feminist to begin with.

My homegirl survived an abusive household, became queen, snagged herself someone who truly loves her and showed that beauty was always about what’s on the inside.

Plot still sounds interesting enough tho lol.
July 22, 2019

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Fairytale retellings are hard-- ideally, you're taking a story that most people are intimately familiar with and trying to put a spin on it that keeps it fun and fresh, while also reminding people about why they loved the original so much, too. STEPSISTER is interesting, in that it tries to keep to the dark, original retelling. When we first meet Isabelle, our heroine, one of the evil and ugly stepsisters, she is cutting off her toes to fit into the shoe--

Unfortunately, her evil plan is outed by birds that are friends with her sister, Ella. Ella goes off to marry the prince and Isabelle and her sister, Tavi, are left alone, ostracized by the rest of the town for their deeds. Only their mother, who is slowly going mad, will speak to them without anger, and even she is embittered about her daughters' new and lowly state. It seems like Isabelle is doomed to a life of ignominy but Fate and Chance have other plans.

I wasn't sure what to expect with STEPSISTER, but it was much more than I had anticipated. Isabelle is a strong, brave heroine with agency. Her sister, Tavi, is bookish and fiercely intelligent. Neither of them are attractive and both of them have done terrible, selfish things-- but so have the other characters in the book. But neither of them get a free pass because they are ugly. The book is all about beauty, forgiveness, and second chances, and what it means to truly redeem yourself.

I'm giving this book a three-star rating because I did like it, but it didn't wow me. The plot was great and I liked Isabelle's redemption arc, and how the human manifestations of both Fate and Chance were both fighting over her future as she (maybe) decides to go off and save a kingdom. The story just felt a bit "young" for me, especially with all of the unnecessary sidekicks. I don't think it was badly done, but I have a bias against sidekicks-- that's just my preference. I think for those who are tired of impossibly pretty and perfect heroines, STEPSISTER will be a breath of fresh air.

It's a shame my magnificent four-star rating streak has ended, but at least now you now I'm not secretly a bot. Or, if I am, I'm a far more devious bot than you ever imagined. YMMV.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review! 

3 to 3.5 stars
May 12, 2022
A Fairytale that begins with the heroine chopping off a few toes.

This was pretty awesome, it was Cinderella’s ugly Stepsister’s tale from the moment the Prince came doe to door having all the village maidens trying on the glass slipper. The stepmother has one stepdaughter, Tavia chop off part of her heel and our heroine Isabelle chop off a few toes to try to fit the shoe on. Both girls start bleeding into the shoe before they make it into the prince’s carriage though.

The entire village finds out what they did and how they had been treating Ella, so they are outcasts. After a few years go by, Isabelle’s Mother is suffering from dimentia, they have sold off most of their belongings including her horse Nero. They have an old horse Martin left, their home and not much else.

I don’t want to give away spoilers but there are some magical elements that are directing and/or interfering in Isabelle’s life as she looks upon her life and sees how it all went wrong. She remembers being happy as a child and being friends with Elle and the groom Felix, and playing at being a warrior. She wonders how it all changed to jealousy and dresses and balls.

The story is truly a fairytale with a fairy godmother, magic, a prince and princess. There are evil villains and the heroine is actually a heroine and she falls in love. I really enjoyed the book and laughed during parts!

Profile Image for andrea hartmann.
146 reviews186 followers
February 9, 2021
TW: graphic and triggering descriptions of blood and self-harm

Stepsister was brilliant. I wouldn't necessarily call the whole book utter perfection, but the concept was genius, and the overall story was great. I found this take on the Cinderella story extremely unique and unexpected as well as extremely creative. I also liked the slight mythological incorporation, although I'll get into that storyline later on.

Stepsister is a Cinderella retelling, an extremely unique take on the classic fairytale. Rather than following Cinderella in this edition, we follow her stepsister, Isabelle, who is struggling with jealousy, an inferiority complex, and the fact that she has just chopped off her toes to fit into Cinderella's slipper. An outsider may see this story as a weak attempt to make the reader feel sorry for the evil stepsisters. My mom actually saw me reading this and asked how the stepsisters were expected to be likable when they were so horrible in the original story. Surprisingly, they were actually redeemable here. Isabelle and Octavia, the other stepsister, were likable because of their struggles. They lived in a period of time where women were all being pushed down to awful "anything to marry a rich husband" archetypes that they didn't want to be, and being called ugly and presumably unable to succeed right alongside their gorgeous stepsister who was praised for her every move would quite clearly drive me mad as well. I don't condone the way they treated Ella whatsoever, but am I horrible for saying we should cut them a bit of slack.

Despite all the praise I gave it in the introduction, this book definitely had a few flaws that warranted a four-star rating. Some include:

-The boring patches: This book had a lot of portions in which I just thought...hmmm...three stars? I was simply bored at the somewhat inactivity of the plot during those moments and it made the book drag because of it.

-Fate and Chance: This story was not just a retelling of Cinderella...it included a Fate from mythology and some marquis named Chance who for some reason were both super invested in Isabelle's life...and like for what? It had no personal bearings on either of them. The Fate was entirely focused on ruining Isabelle's life because of some stupid life map and the Marquis was so concerned for Isabelle...even though they were not connected whatsoever...both Fate and Chance jusr went out of their way to interfere and work hard for nothing.

Those were pretty much all the problems I had with the book itself, seeing as there were many things I loved. First of all, I thought Isabelle was so unique, with her fierce obsession with war generals and being a general. I had never actually read about a protagonist who had that interest. Secondly, I loved Tavi, or Octavia, the other stepsister. I loved how she was a genius and that she didn't care what other people thought of her or her looks. She was easily my favorite character, likely because I could relate to her so much. Lastly, I LOVED and I mean LOVED the main romance. I think this book was my revelation to the fact that I am a sucker for the "childhood friends-crushes to estraged to newfound trust to lovers". That might just be wish-fulfillment...but Felix and Isabelle were wonderful together. I would like a Felix.

In conclusion, this book was delightful. I wouldn't call it my favorite, but it is a lovely, eye-opening read and I would definitely recommend it to you if you enjoy fairytale retellings.
Profile Image for Sara (sarawithoutanH).
481 reviews2,989 followers
June 21, 2019
Guys, you can tell I liked this book because I wrote a legit review!! Just call me meltotheany 💁🏼‍♀️(jk don’t do that, my reviews would be a disgrace to her name)

“Believe that you can make your way. Or don't. Either way, you are right.”

Y’ALL ARE SLEEPING ON THIS BOOK. This seriously might be a new favorite of mine! It reminded me a lot of Ella Enchanted - it could be because they’re both Cinderella retellings, but it’s also because they both have deeper messages and generate a feeling of warmth in me. I’m not huge into fairytale retellings, but this one was so special and unique. This takes place after Ella leaves for her happily ever after and follows one of the ugly stepsisters, specifically the one who cut off her toes in an attempt to fit into the glass slipper.

The story begins immediately after the ugly stepsisters’ fraudulent attempts to win the prince. After Ella becomes queen, everyone in their town turns against them. The sisters, Isabelle and Tavi, are harassed relentlessly for their actions. A constant theme in this book is internal and external ugliness. Who is worse: the sisters who acted out of shameful jealousy or the people who judge them on looks alone?

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

Isabelle is our lead and her character development is just *chef’s kiss* so good. She is That Bitch and she Did That!!! Despite constantly being told that she’s ugly, she discovers that she’s brave and beautiful in her own way. The story examines the meaning of beauty and the idea that girls cannot be fit into a singular box. This whole book truly feels like an ode to the strength of women.

“The wolves in the woods have sharp teeth and long claws, but it's the wolf inside who will tear you apart.”
One of my favorite things about Isabelle is that she’s not naturally kind or selfless. As she tries to find her way after she’s punished for her treatment of Ella, she discovers that goodness is not her default nature. I love a good complex flawed character and I found Isabelle to be incredibly relatable. She transforms in the story but she doesn’t suddenly become a different person. She’s still flawed but she becomes more self-reflective. She finds a way to be better without changing who she is.

“This is world the people in it - my mother, Tantine - they sort us. Put us in crates. You are an egg. You are a potato. You are a cabbage. They tell us who we are. What we will do. What we will be.”
“Because they are afraid! Afraid of what we could be,” Tavi said.
“But we let them do it!” Hugo said angrily. “Why?”
Tavi gave him a rueful smile. “Because we’re afraid of what we could be, too.”

This book is just so good! It was funny and character driven. I filled this review with quotes because I loved so much of the writing. I wanted to include about five more quotes, but I thought that’d be overkill. Please read this!! I highly recommend the audiobook!

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Profile Image for Debbie W..
724 reviews486 followers
May 8, 2021
Why can't "ugly" girls live happily ever after?
Like my sister says, "Antagonists in fairy tales aren't bad; they're just misunderstood!" So true with this story!

I savored:
*this audiobook about "love, courage and conscience";
*how the "ancient adversaries" Fate and Chance were up against "something magical";
*how the characters were so well-developed that I couldn't help but to root for Cinderella's "ugly" stepsisters, Isabelle and Octavia;
*how various problems arose in the plot and how each were met with unique successes;
*the spellbinding descriptions throughout the story, but especially the details about Tanaquil, the Fairy Queen; and,
*the design of this audiobook's cover!

This story sends a powerful message about what beauty really is - intelligence, courage and strength! Thank you, Nancy, for your wonderful review that had me put this audiobook on hold!

Highly recommend!

Profile Image for Charlotte Kersten.
Author 3 books431 followers
February 6, 2022
“Go now, girl. Remake the world."

So What’s It About? (from Goodreads)

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.

What I Thought

As you might remember, I really, really, REALLY liked Damsel – its ugliness and pain, its incandescent fury, its unflinching ability to rip right to the heart of the hideousness of the patriarchy and its abuse of women. I started Stepsister hoping it would scratch that same itch for me – after all, they’re both recent feminist YA fantasies that use classic fairy tale tropes to examine sexism’s impact on young women! Also, the covers look really similar! Honestly, I think my lukewarm reception to Stepsister is partially attributable to the fact that I was comparing it to Damsel the whole time I was reading it.

This is by no means a bad book, but it just…didn’t quite go far enough for me, if that makes sense? The book’s underlying messages are good and important ones, and ones that deserve to be shouted from the rooftops: as women, the things that make us beautiful are our skills, our confidence, the goodness that we offer the world! Chasing after superficial beauty is a futile, never-ending goal designed to keep women trapped in insecurity so they don’t focus on the things that really matter! Women become complicit in perpetuating these standards upon one another, reinforcing the cycles of hatred, insecurity and misery, forcing each other to conform and punishing those who don’t!

I think part of my problem is that the book gets bogged down in Isabelle’s unconvincing redemption arc. There are a few reasons that her transformation never really worked for me. For one thing, I never truly felt like she was all that evil in the first place. We see terrible cruelty in the way that she abuses her stepsister, but strangely these instances are only mentioned a couple of times, and they are drastically different from the way that she behaves throughout the rest of the story, including the beginning when she is allegedly still unredeemed. I wish that Donnelly had gone further in villainizing her in the beginning, so there was more room for growth in the later parts of the story.

There’s another problem with her redemption arc, and this is one that I’m probably only aware of because I recently watched The Good Place: how can Isabelle be redeemed when her principal motivation for finding her heart again is a corrupt one (the fairy promises her that if she finds her heart she will become beautiful)? Of course, what this really means is that a girl who is true to her heart is beautiful no matter what she looks like on the outside, but Isabelle doesn’t realize this until very late in the story! For most of the book she only does good things because she thinks it will literally transform her into a physically beautiful woman. It all falls a bit flat when you take this into consideration.

I also struggled with how the stepmother and other stepsister are handled. Tavi is never really nasty, just deeply self-absorbed, and although she doesn’t undergo the same process of growth as Isabelle she nevertheless begs Ella for forgiveness at the end of the story. Because we never really got to see her internal process, begging Ella for forgiveness sort of felt like it came out of nowhere. I also feel like the stepmother’s role in the story could have been handled very differently. As it is, there are hints of her cruelty and abuse but she spends most of the story in the midst of a psychic break, wandering around and mumbling vaguely before unexpectedly finding some kind of redemption at the end of the story as well:

“Maman stood next to her, beaming at this duke and that countess. She had apologized to Ella, they had reconciled and she now spent her days in the palace gardens talking to royal cabbage heads.”

How did that conversation go? “Sorry I enslaved and abused you for years, now that you’re rich will you please be nice to me?” I hope you can see why I struggle with these kinds of resolutions to the story – it all feels a bit pat, a bit simplistic. Maybe that’s just sticking true to the fairy-tale nature of the story, but it ultimately left me wanting more.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Cortney -  The Bookworm Myrtle Beach.
824 reviews108 followers
April 24, 2019
It took me a little while to get into it, but I LOVED THIS BOOK. The message is so important, so relevant, and it had me in tears more than once. The author did such a wonderful job making the point that not every girl is the same, and we shouldn't all JUST want to be liked and pretty... we're so much more than that. This sentiment is beaten into our heads from the day we can understand, and it shouldn't be that way. Not anymore.

Not only is it a beloved story we all grew up knowing, it shows a different side from the "ugly" stepsisters and what happened after Cinderella rode off into the sunset with Prince Charming. I'm a huge fan of fairy tale retellings, and this one was awesome.

Read this book. If you have a daughter, or granddaughter, have them read it too. You won't be disappointed.

Girl power!
Profile Image for Tani.
245 reviews256 followers
August 16, 2020

“Call a girl pretty once, and all she wants, forevermore, is to hear it again.”

Do you remember the original version of Cinderella? Not the fluffy Disney one. The one, in which, stepsisters cut their toes and heels. Let's get to that scene. The first daughter is pale after cutting her heels. The stepmother is scowling at the other daughter while she is cutting her toes. Now look closely at the second daughter. Did you see her concentrated eyes? Yes, you did but there was some-


Did you see regret, sadness or anger? Or did you imagine it? Well, while we're pretty busy figuring it out, Jennifer Donnelly wrote a book. It's called Stepsister. A feminist fuck you reply to the original story. Now, now, I don't want a debate whether the original or the Disney Cinderella was a feminist or not. Cinderella was a feminist character in an unfeminist story. That should sum it up.

This story begins when the original Cinderella ends. Isabelle and Octavia are the ugly stepsisters, who maim their feet to get the Prince but ultimately fail. Stepsister gives a redemption arc to the stepsisters and the stepmother, while giving a new subplot of the Fates and the Chance.

She had just found him, and now she was losing him again. Could the fates be so cruel?

The Chance wagers against the Fates to change the course Isabelle's life. Their schemes and plots adds upheaval to the story. The story dives into the depth of ugly society, cruel prejudice and deception. Meanwhile, the author doesn't try to paint Cinderella in a bad light to excuse the harsh treatment she had received.

“You terrify me, Isabelle. I’ve never met a girl like you. You’re a fighter, fierce as hell. You never quit. You don’t know how. You don’t need anyone. You certainly don’t need me.” He looked up. “I don’t want to marry you, either, Tavi. You’re not scary. You’re just weird.”

A world where strength and intelligence is scorned upon a girl, Isabelle and Octavia are gifted them each. After Cinderella's marriage, the stepsisters face contempt, mockery and hate that would unnerve you. The Chance and the Fates give an interesting dynamic to the story.

There isn't much negative to say about this book except it's a bit predictable and dragged longer. Plus, you really need a good highlighter for the quotes.
Profile Image for Natalie Monroe.
592 reviews3,540 followers
July 16, 2019
3.5 stars

“Change is a kiss in the dark. A rose in the snow. A wild road on a windy night.”

Stepsister is a standard 300-page novel, but I can't help but feel it would've worked better as a novella/short story.

The premise and plot are very simple. Whatever ambiguous morality there is is Disney-like, which means Tavi and Isabella are about as morally grey as Elsa is for accidentally hurting Ana. Villains are villains, and good guys are good guys.

The prose has a strong fairy tale vibe, too. It's difficult to describe. But like, when you're reading Grimm Brothers' tales or Hans Anderson, you're absorbed in the story, but you feel emotionally distant from the characters at the same time. You're not meant to slip into the shoes of Cinderella or the Goose Girl. You experience their stories from the outside.

With that being said, it's immensely quotable.

“Isabelle had a strong will.

She did not know that this was a good thing for a girl to have, because everyone had always told her it was a terrible thing. Everyone said a girl with a strong will would come to a bad end. Everyone said a girl’s will must be bent to the wishes of those who know what’s best for her.

Isabelle was young, only sixteen; she had not yet learned that Everyone was a fool.”

Even though the characters lack moral complexity, I liked that the stepsisters' hatred and cruelty towards Ella was explained. They in a world where beauty is currency; it's understandable that they would envy their beautiful stepsister. They have other strengths. Tavi is clever af, and Isabella is a fierce fighter. Even the stepmother is shown in a sympathetic light rather than a straight-up malicious witch.

Stepsister is on the simplistic side but then again, aren’t all fairy tales?
Profile Image for Kat.
Author 8 books351 followers
August 29, 2022
I’m always on the hunt for a great fairytale retelling and this was a fun twist on a familiar theme! After the events of Cinderella, where the two stepsisters cut apart their feet to try to fit them into the glass slipper for the prince, are revealed as frauds, and Cinderella rides away to her happy ending, whatever happened? This follows the tale of Isabel and her sister and mother, exploring some really great themes of female empowerment, the damage harmful messages can do, and how you have to right past wrongs before you can find your way to your happy ending.

Profile Image for Maja  - BibliophiliaDK ✨.
1,076 reviews633 followers
May 5, 2020

But I did! This book was totally amazing in so many ways - the least of them, that it made me like Cinderella's ugly stepsisters! There were so many plusses to this story that I had not anticipated and perhaps that made me like it even more.

“Don’t you see? A pretty girl must please the world. But an ugly girl? She’s free to please herself.”
- Tavi


Isabelle: I really never thought that I would like an ugly stepsister, but Isabelle was something different. She was brave, obstinate and had spunk in spades which made her both likable and someone to sympathize with. Furthermore, I really liked her arc throughout this story. Oh, and her sister, Tavi? She was just as amazing, only in her own, quirky, nerdy way!

Chance vs. fate: It is the age old question - are our lives predestined for something or can we control our fates? In this book, that question is anthropomorphized through the characters Fate and Chance. They each have a stake in Isabelle's life and each strive to see it pan out in a specific way. I really enjoyed this new take on the predestination question.

Morality: It is not often that I enjoy heavily moralized books, but this is an exception simply because I wholly agree with the morality here - you are the master of your own life.
Profile Image for Hafsah (on hiatus).
69 reviews107 followers
September 29, 2019
"Once upon always and never again. In an ancient city..."
...called Bristol, a girl named Hafsah read a book that changed her life.
A book that shattered her long-standing views on the characters of a beloved fairy tale.
A book that showed her an extra dimension, the full picture, the true story.

This book was called,

I really liked this (more than I expected to actually) and it's because the story felt nostalgically familiar and yet so new and exciting. I LOVED the added concept of maps that track your life; they show your past present and future and when death is near. Each person has a map, and their depicted paths can be erased/altered/redrawn by Fate and Chance- two characters constantly at odds with eachother and whose personality reflects their name. I absolutely loved Chance! In fact all the characters were BRILLIANT, except, I think, the antagonist. He seemed mediocre and was too easily defeated.

This book was similar to Cinderella in the sense that there was still magic, romance, a fairy godmother and all the other characters I thought I knew so well.... And although the writing was a little simplistic, the plot somewhat predictable and the romance childish, these points mirrored the defining aspects of fairy tales. So actually, I found them effective, overall. There were also so many good quotes and lines to live by (because is a fairy tale even a fairy tale of it doesn't have underlying morals to the story?!). Speaking of lessons, I liked Donnelly's take on beauty: beauty can be a burden and constraining, and you can look 'ugly', yet be beautiful. She offered a fresh perspective and conveyed important messages beautifully though metaphors and poetry.
But power is a treacherous thing,
It's bite is sweet, it's kiss can sting,
And, unless I'm much mistaken,
It's never given, always taken.

Each queen was once a girl like you.
Told who to be and what to do.
Not pretty, not pleasing, far too rough.
Lacking, less than, not enough.

Till wounded subjects, anguished dead,
Mattered more than things that others said.
Then, like a flag, her will unfurled.
Go now, girl. Remake the world.
The story itself, is more a continuation than a retelling. We start off from when the 'ugly' stepsisters try on the glass slipper, and we continue with Isabelle as the protagonist. Her life is in danger, her map stolen, she's constantly oppressed by society and war is nigh. Her only hope is to find the find the missing pieces of her heart, whatever they may be, and in doing so, discover who she truly is.

As much as I hated the stepsisters as a child, that's how much I love them now! And that's because we learn of the source of their jealousy- the trials and struggles they faced year upon year although they may have been jealous. The things that shaped them. Through the story though, we see them begin to shape themselves acoording to how they'd like, not as society wills. Hence why their character arcs are fantastic!

Isabelle is strong and skilled. A swordswoman and equastrian. Talented, brutal and brave. But ugly. And jelaous. Like her sister Octavia who is a science genius (she's a nerd, like me hehe, which is probably why I love her so much). Both of them are essentially feminists and are so much more interesting than Ella. Which is why I prefer them to her too. (Walt Disney is turning in his grave). Also, I loved that Jennifer Donnelly ruined Ella's reputation of being perfectly good, kind and beautiful. We're reminded that she's still human, so capable of feeling jealousy and acting on it, thanks to a twist which SHOOK me!

All in all, although this did perhaps feel a bit like a childish read, I thoroughly enjoyed it and would highly recommend this if you love fairy tales!
Profile Image for Ivana - Diary of Difference.
559 reviews709 followers
December 13, 2022
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When you are little, you watch a lot of movies. For us girls, life is filled with princesses and happy ever afters. With castles and knights in shining armours. And it’s always that the beautiful girls get their princes. Only beautiful girls get to be happy.

In this book, we get to really see the reality of what I have said above. It is all true. Only beautiful girls get the happy ever after. But beauty doesn’t always mean pretty.

In a world of prejudice and bullying, Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly shows people, especially girls, that it is okay to be different. It is okay to be brave and follow your dreams. It is okay to be wild and strong willed. The people who truly love you, will always be by your side.

Meet Isabelle – Cinderella’s ugly stepsister. The girl that cuts her toes to get into the glass slipper. For those who didn’t know, the original Cinderella story by the Grimm brothers indeed has a scene where both ugly stepsisters cut their heel and toes, just to fit in the slipper and marry the prince.

‘’The little toe was the hardest. Which didn’t come as a surprise. It’s often the small things that hurt the most – a cold glance, a cutting word, laughter that stops when you enter the room.’’

Isabelle has never really wanted to be evil, but jealousy and mum’s pressure have been doing their own thing. When she gets a second chance in life though, she goes for it. She must complete an impossible task to find her happy ever after. And while doing so, she will find her true self.

‘’Most people will fight when there is some hope for winning, no matter how slim. They are called brave. Only a few will keep fighting when all hope is gone. They are called warriors. Isabelle was a warrior once, though she has forgotten it.’’

Be prepared to feel all emotions, and cheer for Isabelle, when she is fighting against the world. Relive the magic of an amazing retelling and be ready for an unforgettable adventure. What Jennifer has done to bring the Grimm feeling into a powerful story is to be admired. I will admire and cherish this book forever.

I am not a fan of re-reading books, but this will definitely be one book I will always come back to.

‘’Algebra comes from Arabic. From al-jabr, which means ‘’the reunion of broken parts’’. Al-Khwarizmi believed that what’s broken can be made whole again if you just apply the right equation.’’
”If only there was an equation that could do the same for people.”

Thank you to the team at ReadersFirst, for sending me a paperback copy of this book, in exchange for my honest review.

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Profile Image for Maryam Rz..
220 reviews2,650 followers
November 24, 2020
I mean, when you say “a feminist retelling of the darker versions of Cinderella” you should know that now you pretty much own my pocket—and also all the money in it. Seriously. Here. It's all yours! :/

Stepsister takes up where Cinderella's tale ends. We meet Isabelle, the younger of Cinderella's two stepsisters.

Ella is considered beautiful; stepsister Isabelle is not. Isabelle is fearless, brave, and strong-willed. She fences better than any boy, and takes her stallion over jumps that grown men fear to attempt.

It doesn't matter, though; these qualities are not valued in a girl. Others have determined what is beautiful, and Isabelle does not fit their definition. Isabelle must face down the demons that drove her cruel treatment of Ella, challenge her own fate and maybe even redefine the very notion of beauty ...

Cinderella is about a girl who was bullied; Stepsister is about the bully.

We all root for the victims, we want to see them triumph. But what about the bullies? Is there hope for them? Can a mean girl change? Can she find her own happily ever after?

Expected publication: May 14, 2019

“In an ancient city by the sea, three sisters—a maiden, a mother, and a crone—are drawing maps by candlelight. Sombre, with piercing grey eyes, they are the three Fates, and every map is a human life ...”
Profile Image for Amira.
90 reviews56 followers
September 7, 2019
I Love This Book A Lot.

As you can see I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book because when I was a little girl out of all the Disney villains, the 'ugly' stepsisters didn't strike fear or menace in me. Disdain ? Maybe because I wondered how could a person could be so cruel not only to others, but mostly to himself.

I think I got the answer.
'm quite enjoying it.
when they cut parts of their feet to fit the glass slipper, it wasn't that much different from when they had to cut parts of their hearts to fit the requirements of their society.

I wouldn't exactly call this a retelling as it mostly kept the Ella storyline the same so for me it felt like an expansion of the story which I never thought I needed till I read it.

Ps. I thank everyone on goodreads who helped me figure out how to insert a gif. As you can see I
Profile Image for h o l l i s .
2,403 reviews1,850 followers
July 6, 2019
Holy shit, guys, this book is flying under the radar right now but it shouldn't be!!

History books say that kings and dukes and generals start wars. Don't believe it. We start them, you and I. Every time we turn away, keep quiet, stay out it, behave ourselves.

I was completely unprepared for how quickly, and how hard, I would fall in love with STEPSISTER. This book immediately opens up with a warning about how this is a darker take on the well-known tale and it is definitely that. But it's not close your eyes and hide under the cover scary; it's just hammering home the stark truths and unpleasant realities of societal expectations, a woman's fate in this world (and our own), and the bleakness of war. And I mean there's also the fact that the stepsisters lop off pieces of themselves in order to win a prince, which, hey, fun times!

"Ella is the beauty. You and I are the ugly stepsister. And so the world reduces us, all three of us, to our lowest common denominator."

This is the story of what comes after Cinderella, Ella in this story, gets her prince. What befalls the ugly stepsisters and the wicked stepmother. In this case, it's being shunned. It's being ridiculed. It's shame and regret. It's accepting their choices and living with themselves.. or trying to. It's about a wish to be pretty, thinking it'll solve all your problems, because discovering and facing the truth of oneself is so much harder.

How many times had she cut away parts of herself at her mother's demand? The part that laughed too loudly. That rode too fast and jumped too high. The part that wished for a second helping.

Donnelly's writing captivated me. It bowled me over. There were passages that made me want to cheer because of the beautiful feminist observations, parts that made me laugh because wow the second stepsister was freaking hilarious, and also parts that made me cry -- embarrassingly one of them had to do with mice. But I own that.

"I have that feeling."
"What feeling?"
"The feeling that you want to own someone body and soul, spirit them away from everyone else, have them all to yourself forever and ever and ever. It's called love."
"No, it's called kidnapping."

The elements of this story are familiar because we've heard, or watched, the tale. But never from this perspective, never in this way, and there was a freshness, a realness, to this retelling that just.. got me. Strength and shame and beauty and wonder and forgiveness. Intelligence and cleverness and agony -- physical and of spirit -- and heartbreak. It seemed to flow effortlessly and honestly the only thing keeping this from being five stars is the big fancy HEA. I don't think it was a wrong choice but maybe it was a little too right, if that makes sense? I would've liked half a step back, I think.

"I wanted books. I wanted math and science. I got corsets and gowns and high heeled silk slippers. It made me sad [..]. And then it made me angry. So no, I can't make myself likeable. I've tried. Over and over. It doesn't work. If I don't like who I am, why should you?"

I didn't have much in the way of expectations when I picked this up; I had heard of it but not been endlessly beat about the head with hype. And it definitely deserves some. Totally recommend.

4.5 stars

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **


This review can also be found at A Take From Two Cities.
Profile Image for Jacob Proffitt.
2,937 reviews1,547 followers
June 19, 2019
I got bored. Which meant I started picking at things like how it's simultaneously real-world (set in France) but with metaphorical characters (like the Fates and Chance as anthropomorphic personifications) and it takes a better author than this one to pull that off. And how all the really nasty villains are women. And how a pack of mean girls in a rural French village feels like the author is trying too hard.

All the asides, flashbacks, and authorial intrusion with heavy-handed metaphor slowed the pace down to such a crawl that I eventually hit a pause and found myself griping at Melissa who always responds to that impertinence by asking "so why are you still reading this?" To which the answer is almost always "huh. Yeah, I guess I'm done, now."

I'm going ahead with one-star for a rating, but want to make explicit that this is likely a personal response and idiosyncratic. Your response will almost certainly vary.
Profile Image for Sara.
1,080 reviews361 followers
September 6, 2019
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 3.5 stars.

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.
Profile Image for Lamaleluna.
286 reviews1,132 followers
January 17, 2021
Saben que amo los Retellings y tengo una obsesión particular con los Retellings de Cenicienta 🤣

Hacia tiempo que tenía ganas de leer Hermanastra y sinceramente fue un libro que si bien no creo que me marque demasiado lo disfruté bastante.

Muestra protagonista, Isabelle, es una de las Hermanastras de Cenicienta (llamada Ella en este libro). Siempre fue llamada mala y fea y los insultos se intensifican cuando Ella se casa con el príncipe y deja toda su vida atrás. El libro nos va a contar como Isabelle debe buscar quién es ella en realidad y qué es lo que realmente desea porque se da cuenta que la vida de vestidos y palacios nunca fue su sueño.

Me gustó que esté basado en la versión de los hermanos Grimm de Cenicienta, que es mucho más cruel que la versión de Disney por supuesto. Las Hermanastras se cortan los dedos y el talón del pie para que les entre el zapato de cristal. Así es como comienza esta historia y así es como Isabella se da cuenta que en realidad no le interesa estar casada con un príncipe que apenas conoce.

A su vez, el marqués de Azar hará una apuesta con las parcas y les querrá demostrar que no todo está escrito en los mapas, que una persona puede cambiar su camino por voluntad propia. Y para demostrarlo eligierá a la fea Isabella, cuyas esperanzas de ser feliz parecen haber llegado a su fin.
Ma reina de las hadas también se verá involucrada y le concederá su deseo a Isabelle solo si logra recomponer su corazón.

El libro se Lee muy rápido, los capítulos son muy cortos, de una carilla o dos. El libro es atrapante y me gustó. Algunas cosas ya me las veía venir desde un principio y el final fue muy de cuento de hadas, pero bueno.. era de esperar 🤣

Yo leyendo Hermanastra: 🥰☺️😌😞😍
Profile Image for Pine tree leaf stick.
183 reviews303 followers
August 24, 2020
So. I really enjoyed this. I sped through this thing while I was struggling through Six of Crows.
I like retellings a lot it seems. I liked how this book made the stepsisters seem more like...uh...people. The movies portrayed the "ugly stepsisters" as stupid, ugly girls who you're supposed to hate, but this book took them and made me actually feel something for them. The movie never shows anything beyond Cinderella's wedding. I mean. Why would it? It's called Cinderella. Not "Cinderella and also what happens to her ugly stepsisters after." Anyways. It was good. Pretty light read, I think. I stayed up until almost eleven finishing it. We could go into all the important themes this book shows, but this isn't English class and I'm not interested in tearing apart the deeper meaning of it.

*sigh* I'm not very good at writing reviews, am I? It's always just ranting or fangirling.
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