The Stepsister’s Tale by Tracy Barrett

Such a fun reworking of the Cinderella story from the perspective of the “wicked stepsisters’.  Jane and Maude are the sisters of the house, with a father who left them in debt with a house that is crumbling around them and their mother who is, for lack of a better word, oblivious.  Told entirely from Jane’s perspective, the fresh and honest viewpoint of a girl who isn’t prone to fancy, and despite her anger is struggling to move forward and provide for her family while not upsetting “Mama”, who is stuck in the past glories of wealth, balls and positions of favor in society.

When Mama leaves to purchase soap and flour, she returns with a new husband and his incredibly spoiled and beautiful young daughter, Isabella.  The stepfather is believed to be rich and Mama believes their troubles to be over: his cash will repair the house and allow her girls to resume their positions in society.  But nothing is ever that simple. The stepfather is a sham: deep in debt he dies and leaves them in worse shape than they had been.

Slowly the story manages to show the grabs for attention that Ella makes, claiming that her ‘new family’ is cruel to her. Far from the truth: Ella is obsessed with her perceived due, and her obsession with her father’s empty promises keep her removed from the other girls.

With an exploration into the façade of wealth and the evil that lurks beneath the luxury of the palace contrasted with the penury of Jane’s life and the struggles of the people of the woods, this was  a wholly unexpected and thoroughly enjoyable story.  One of several retellings of a Cinderella story that wasn’t my first but certainly one of the more unique, I enjoyed every page.

The Stepsister’s Tale by Tracy Barrett

Title: The Stepsister's Tale
Author: Tracy Barrett
Published by: Harlequin Teen
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 272
Rated: four-stars
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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.

A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

About Tracy Barrett

Tracy Barrett has written more than twenty books for children and young adults. She’s much too interested in too many things to stick to one genre, and has published nonfiction as well as historical fiction, mysteries, fantasy, time travel, myth and fairy-tale retellings, and contemporary realistic novels. She knows more about ancient Greece and Rome and the European Middle Ages than anyone really needs to know, can read lots of dead languages, and used to jump out of airplanes.

Tracy grew up near New York City, and went to college in New England and graduate school in California. She majored in Classics and earned a Ph.D. in Medieval Italian. She was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to study medieval women writers and won the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Work-in-Progress Grant in 2005. She taught Italian and other subjects at Vanderbilt University for almost thirty years. She lives in Tennessee with her 6’7” husband, a rescue cat, and two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

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