Monday, June 16, 2014

Review: The Stepsister's Tale

THE STEPSISTER'S TALE
Tracy Barrett
Young Adult/Fairy Tale Retelling
272 pages
HarlequinTEEN
Available June 24th
Source: ARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
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.


MY THOUGHTS
The Stepsister's Tale is a joy of a retelling, twisting and turning the original story of Cinderella until we're left with no choice but to root for those who have previously been villains while hoping the beloved heroes of legends past get their comeuppance. What's so entertaining about this story in particular is the shift in focus from the fairytale romance to the family unit, allowing us greater access to the changing dynamics caused by the addition of new members and the loss of others. While the classic elements of the original tale have their place in this story, it's our viewpoint that's different, our time with Jane and Maude giving us a story more real and less sugarcoated, with characters who play their typical roles in a delightfully atypical fashion.

Jane, the eldest of the “wicked” stepsisters, is a young woman who has our unwavering support from the very beginning, forced to live with a mother whose delusions of grandeur seem only to increase the deeper their once-beautiful home and sterling reputation fall into disrepair. She holds their home together even as the woodwork crumbles beneath her fingers, ensuring her younger sister and mother (as well as all their livestock) are cared for to the best of her ability, and she manages to still hold her head up high even as her mother continues her harmful game of pretend. While she's noble and largely selfless, she's not irritatingly perfect in a way that makes us cringe after a quick internal examination reveals our own character flaws, she instead makes mistakes and gets into sisterly spats with both Maude and Isabella, but all of her imperfections only further endear her to us because they elevate her beyond the black and white ink of her story and into flesh and blood.

There's a mild romance between Jane and a boy from the woods named Will, but it's an extraordinarily subtle thread that simply brings a smile to our faces when Jane grants herself a few selfish moments to spend time with someone who views her differently than both her mother and sisters. Like all the other pieces of this Cinderella story, the happily ever after charmingly deviates from the happily ever after of so many little girls' imaginings, the focus on family and the various relationships between the girls remaining in the limelight even when the prince makes his play. Ms. Barrett has written a quick and enormously entertaining story with The Stepsister's Tale, perfect for picking up after a long day for all the sweet comfort it provides despite the darker moments and the challenges the girls face.

Rating: 4/5
 

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This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

38 comments:

  1. Love the idea of twisting up such a beloved and well known story! And this sounds like it definitely is a cute story with some darker moments and the idea of twisting heroes and villains is awesome:)

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    1. You will like this one Danny, I know it:)

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  2. So happy to hear that this has romance and family. I like how different this sounds from other retellings I've read and so good to see that you enjoyed :) Eeep! I'm glad that Jane isn't 100% selfless, but grants herself a few moments of selfishness with Will :) I'm glad that for such a short book, this managed to leave a big impression on you, Jenny. Lovely review :)

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    1. YES! I was rooting for Jane throughout, and she definitely deserved those moments with Will:) Hope you get a chance to read this Siiri!

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  3. Oh I love how the author decided to spin a different sort of story with this book. Its always great to get a different perspective and also crazy when you find yourself rooting for characters you never thought you would have been. Thanks for putting this book on my radar Jenny!

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    1. Yes, our dear little Cinderella was a bit different from the original, but I loved how everything played out:)

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  4. I always love a good twist in a retelling, since I'm a huuuuge fan of Wicked by Gregory Maguire!
    I wasn't particularly interested in this book before, but your post in the blog tour and your review have really picked my curiosity now!
    Great review, Jenny!

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    1. YAY! Mission accomplished:) This was just a really quick, fun read Pili!

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  5. Great review! I haven't had much luck with retellings, but this one sounds right up my alley. The focus on the family dynamic sounds pretty intriguing as well….definitely adding this one to my TBR list.

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    1. I loved the emphasis on family over romance in this one Christina. And that's saying a lot since I'm such a huge fan of romance. Highly recommend:)

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  6. This one I have on my library wishlist. I think I would like it. I know it isn't out yet but I did ask my gal at the library (it is on order--yeah) :)

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    1. I think you would like it too Felicia, it's a one-sit read for sure:)

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  7. Ooooh. This sounds like an intriguing retelling. I'm going to have to check this one out.

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  8. I know quite a few readers are excited about this one, but I remained rather skeptical. I'm thrilled to see, however, that this wound up focusing on family dynamics and the characterizations in more depth, as those are the type of tales that draw me in. I'll definitely be adding this to my TBR and hopefully picking it up very soon. Lovely review, Jenny!(:

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    1. I loved all the various familial relationships in this story Keertana, it was just a hugely satisfying read all the way around for me:)

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  9. I usually enjoy unique reinventions of fairy tales, and the fact that this puts the focus on the family rather than the romance is actually exciting to me. I'm so glad you enjoyed this one, Jenny! :)

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    1. I hope you get a chance to read it soon Kim! Loved the relationship between the girls:)

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  10. I read this book last week, Jenny and I really enjoyed the twist the author took this popular fairy tale. It was so refreshing and the characters were so well-written. I especially liked how they were neither too evil nor too good, but they were somewhere in between in the grey area.
    The interpersonal relationships were also complex and intriguingly written.
    The one thing I didn't particularly care for was the romance. I just wanted something a little more significant.
    I'm glad you enjoyed this as much as I did, Jenny. Beautiful review!

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    1. WOO HOO Nick! I will definitely be reading more from Tracy, she writes the kind of characters I love, though I wouldn't have minded more romance too ;-)

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  11. I like how this one focus on the female relationships and the deviation of your typical HEA. I will pick this one up for those reasons alone.

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  12. You have me excited to read this one now Jenny, I love that this took on a totally new and different twist on an old classic tale.

    Fantastic review once again!!

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  13. I love this book! Wonderful review! It was just such a fun read. I blew through it in an afternoon and loved every second.

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  14. A retelling of Cinderella in which the bad guys are the good guys. Hmm and it's good. That's it this is on my list now.
    Thanks Jenny

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  15. Very interesting. I never thought of reading the stepsisters point of view or rather what they have been through. Thanks for sharing.

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  16. I have recently read Alias Hook and never in my life I though I'd enjoy and cheer for Hook but I did. So yeah I can understand you here completely. I haven't heard of this one but I'm really curious about it now. Great review, Jenny :)

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  17. Ohh I do want to read from her POV!

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  18. I am glad you liked this one, I read another not so promising review, but I kind of like getting the perspective of the stepsisters. I will have to give this a whirl.

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  19. I do like retellings so right there it makes me want to read it. I love alternate POVs as well. Oh yea.. you have me curious about these sisters... especially Jane. Another book goes on the wishlist!

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  20. Wow this does sound like a wonderful retelling. I love hearing it from a different characters perspective. We don't see enough of that type of retelling at all. Atypical sounds like just what I need

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  21. I always enjoy when authors flip fairy tales on their heads. I mean, could both the stepsisters really be *that* bad?

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  22. I likehow this one takes the original story everyone knows and loves and than completely makes it her own and it ends up being really good! haha—plus this one sounds like there's a bit of darkness in it which i love :)
    Lily

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  23. Oh Yay!! I love this twist on the tale! I have this one to read and was hoping it was good!! That you loved it so much makes me so happy! I know I will enjoy it!!

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  24. I must read this! I got pretty excited while reading your review. Cinderella was my favorite growing up, but not because of the prince. I loved how she pretty much got to give her step-mom and sisters the middle finger. So I'd love to read this twist on it.

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  25. I hadn't heard of this, and wouldn't have picked it up by the blurb, but your review has me really curious. I like that the family dynamic was portrayed as well.

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  26. While I love the original Cinderella story and don't really enjoy re-tellings, I love the fact that this focuses on the family dynamic rather than the romance of Cinderella. I think that is such a unique take on a re-telling, and it definitely has me intrigued as to how everything will play out in the eyes of a step-sister and not Cinderella. Glad you enjoyed this, Jenny! Fab review! :D

    ~ Maida
    Literary Love Affair 

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  27. This sounds fantastic. I'm always up for a fairy tale retelling, but I find myself particularly fond of the retellings that put a new spin on a previously background character or villain. Ask me how much I love Maleficent! Ask me! ;) Great review, Jenny!

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  28. oooh! Yay for this review. I'm supposed to be getting a copy of this from GR first reads, though it hasn't shown up yet. I'll believe it when it arrives..anyway, I love that this is a revision of a classic fairytale. I absolutely love getting a different perspective from what we usually see. Themes of family and a subtle romance also are appealing! I'm excited about this one.

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