Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

Ebook, 352 pages
Fantasy, Fairytale Retelling, Young Adult, Bad-ass Ladies
Rating: 4/5

First thing you should know about me, is that I am a sucker for a good retelling- Where the beast was actually the villain, where Cinderella was actually a cyborg, where the villains weren’t villains, not really anyway, their stories had just been told differently- reel me in, hook line and sinker. So, naturally when a book casts perhaps one of the most hated fairy tale villains as heroines in their own right, I just had to read it.

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

This book started off strong. A 5 star beginning if I ever saw one. It was dark, eerie fairy tale vibes taken straight out of Grimm’s fairy tales. I mean, it does start off with the stepsisters chopping off parts of their foot to fit into a very tiny and fragile glass slipper. Doesn’t get much grimmer than that, am I right?

And of course, that scene is where Ella and Prince Charming get their own very happy ending. “And they lived happily ever after. The end.” As we were told since we were kids. However, this is the beginning of the tale of the two sisters. Cinderella’s evil, wicked, cunning, cruel stepsisters.

Isabella and Octavia (“Tavi”) are left behind with their greedy overbearing mother, who is losing her grip on sanity at a very alarming speed as each day passes. Isabella is consumed with jealousy at the misfortune dealt to her while her stepsister goes frolicking into a good life of marital bliss. She is angry at the world for deeming her unworthy because she is not pretty. She hates the world that over looks her’s and Tavi’s merits and reduces them to a single word- “ugly”.

“They cut away pieces of me,” she whispered in the darkness. “But I handed them the knife.”

On a whole different world, perhaps one so well hidden from Isabella’s reality, a battle between Chance and the Fates commences and the final chess piece, behest to Isabella, is her own life. The path she can forge for herself vs the one that was forged for her.

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

A nice story about finding who you are while the world and everyone around you believes you are something else entirely. A story that is very intimately familiar yet distant and fresh as new spins are put on on a old fairy tale. A tale as old as time yet just as relevant now as ever.

“Every war is different, yet each battle is the same. The enemy is only a distraction. The thing you are fighting against, always, is yourself.”

“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.”

(Had to add this quote. It was just so damn funny.)