The Stepsister's Tale
by Tracy Barrett
Read: June 24 - July 1, 2014
Published: June 24, 2014 by Harlequin Teen
Source: Goodreads First Reads - thank you HQT!
Category: YA, fairytale retelling, Cinderella
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | The Book Depository
What really happened after the clock struck midnight?
Jane Montjoy is tired of being a lady. She's tired of pretending to live up to the standards of her mother's noble family-especially now that the family's wealth is gone and their stately mansion has fallen to ruin. It's hard enough that she must tend to the animals and find a way to feed her mother and her little sister each day. Jane's burden only gets worse after her mother returns from a trip to town with a new stepfather and stepsister in tow. Despite the family's struggle to prepare for the long winter ahead, Jane's stepfather remains determined to give his beautiful but spoiled child her every desire.
When her stepfather suddenly dies, leaving nothing but debts and a bereaved daughter behind, it seems to Jane that her family is destined for eternal unhappiness. But a mysterious boy from the woods and an invitation to a royal ball are certain to change her fate...
From the handsome prince to the evil stepsister, nothing is quite as it seems in Tracy Barrett's stunning retelling of the classic Cinderella tale.
I love fairytale retellings, especially when they look at the original story a little differently. This is Cinderella from the perspective of the ugly stepsister, called Jane in this telling. Only it's not the same story at all. Jane lives with there mother and sister Maude in their family's manor house. But the once stunning estate has fallen into extreme disrepair. They have no servants and must do all the work to survive themselves, although their mother pretends not to notice the realities of their situation. They live in a few rooms on the first floor as the staircase to the second level has begun to rot away, and their clothing is old and frequently mended. Then Jane's mother gets remarried to an old family friend, with the hopes of increasing the family's wealth. Only that doesn't work out how she planned either. The man soon dies leaving her with no money and a spoiled stepdaughter who is used to fine things.
It is Jane who works hard to hold the family together, and this is her story more than any others. Although it is mostly a story about family and finding your own place in the world, when you feel like you no longer fit where you're supposed to be. How does a once fine family fit into the world around them? Are they really better than the friendly laborers who live in the woods, especially when no one in their own class will acknowledge them anymore? Appearances can be deceiving, and facing reality can be tough, but also rewarding. I like that message, especially watching Jane struggle through the pull between what her mother wants of her, what she needs to do to survive, and what she wants of her own life.
Unfortunately, nothing much happens in this book. The characters nearly starve a few times. But most of the plot elements are centered around fracturing the original fairytale, in scattered details. I liked the idea of finding out the "real story" behind the one we all know, but this book was painfully slow in places and just did not hold my interest. It does have a romance as a smaller side plot, but that failed to draw me to this book either. There is nothing I greatly disliked about this book (except for the cover), there was just nothing that I loved either.
Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone