Perfect balance of family fairy tale and new twists

The Stepsister's Tale - Tracy Barrett

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My Initial Reaction... 
I LOVED this retelling of the classic Cinderella story. The Stepsister's Tale was the perfect balance of the familiar and new! A quick, fun read, I gobbled it up in just one day!

The Characters... 
What I loved most about The Stepsister's Tale was the characters! The story is told from the point of view of the eldest stepsister, Jane Montjoy, and she's nothing like the stepsister that you've come to expect. Her father abandoned her sister Maude, her mother, and Jane -- drinking away their wealth and then dying leaving them with nothing but an aristocratic name. They live in this big house, with a mother who clings to memories rather than reality and Jane has the task of trying to put food on the table and kindling in the fireplace. She doesn't have the resources or energy to worry about being the lady her mother still thinks her daughters should be. She runs around barefooted and in rags, focused on taking care of what has to be done. You can't help but admire the way she cares for her little sister and, when the time comes, her spoiled new step-sister Isabella. 

Maude is a sweet little girl and, like her sister, is more focused on survival than being a lady. When her mother comes home with a new father and sister for her, she feels awkward and uncomfortable. The two girls are very close in age and there's some childhood squabbles. And some misunderstandings that get thrown way out of proportion as things tend to when in situations of increased stress. Isabella (called Ella for short... you see where that's going right?) comes off very bratty - she's been spoiled and she's understandably not too happy with her sudden change of living situations. She's come from the city and suddenly she's living in a broken down home where she's expected to do things she doesn't know how to do. I admit to being very frustrated with her attitude at times and at other times really feeling for her - especially when (as you knew would happen because this is Cinderella after all) her father dies. 

I loved seeing the three girls dealing with situations thrust upon them by their parents and with the struggle to survive with no money and no resources through the harsh winter. They start getting to know neighbors and I loved Jane's interactions with them. It was a really great spin on the story. 

The Story... 
In describing the characters, I've pretty much outlined the story for The Stepsister's Tale already - it's your classic Cinderella story, with a really creative adjustment to the characters and their situation. Misunderstandings not mistreatment lead to problems between the Cinderella and her stepsisters. Hardship and the struggle to survive gives the story a whole different life. 

For me, what made the retelling so great was the way it managed to hold on to so much of what you'd expect in the Cinderella story. And those of you - like me - familiar with the original Grimm won't be disappointed. The Stepsister's Tale has some really great ways of alluding to that original telling of the story, before Disney reshaped it. 

I also really loved that there's a new romance built into this story - you do have the Cinderella & the Prince story (although that's QUITE a bit different - in pretty great ways that I LOVED), but since we're looking at everything form Jane's point of view, we also get her romance - and it was a fun feeling cheering the ugly, wicked stepsister to her HEA. 

Concluding Sentiments... 
If you enjoy fairy tale retellings, I really recommend The Stepsister's Tale. Honestly, I'm not as a big a fan of retellings as some people, but I loved this - so really if you just like a good story about hardship, family, sisterhood, and love, this is a good read too!