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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

MICHELLE'S REVIEW: The Stepsister's Tale by Tracy Barrett

Title: The Stepsister's Tale
Author: Tracy Barrett
Format Acquired: eARC
Publication Date: June 24, 2014
Publishing House: Harlequin Teen
ISBN: 9780373211210
Source of Copy: Netgalley


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 the royal ball are certain to change her fate...

(Image, summary and information courtesy of Goodreads)


While her mother may still have her delusions of grandeur, Jane Montjoy knows that her crumbling estate is now reduced to a has-been. Jane and her sister Maud milk the cow, mend and repair their own now too-tight dresses, and clean the place up to the best of their abilities while their mother pretends that servants are still doing the work for them. But Jane's mother remarries and not too soon, her new husband dies, leaving debt and his own daughter to the care of the Montjoys. 

Jane Montjoy and her sister Maude are used to a life of scrubbing floors, and making do with what meager things they have. I like both sisters because while others might moan and complain about having to have a difficult childhood amidst a once-glorious setting, they both take it all in stride and try to survive a day at a time. Their mother, however, is unaccustomed to the hard life, having been born to affluent parents and a place in society. While I surmised that the mother is embarrassed of having to stoop down from her pedestal to do anything around the house, I really felt bad for the sisters for having a mother who instead of contributing anything to their survival, only thought that they might have a better life if she remarried.

And thus, we meet Ella - and she is not the angel we all pictured in our heads when we were five years old. This Ella is selfish and a total brat, but I'm guessing that this is stemming from the fact that she is uprooted and suddenly has to call a bunch of strangers her family. Ella, who knows nothing but to make herself look pretty and presentable to society, has to share an apple with other members of the family, because as it turns out, her father is good at keeping up airs. I won't go into the details anymore, as this is a retelling of Cinderella, but I did like how Barrett handled a slew of characters who had minds and personalities of their own. It's quite uncanny how very humanlike they are, as they exhibit flaws and traits that both endear and irk the reader - a huge factor, I think, why this retelling worked out so well. 

Forget Grimm's version of Cinderella. Forget Disney's version as well. Barrett's version is much, much better, and it satisfactorily fills in the holes that any skeptical audience of the other versions poked at.


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