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The Stepsister's Tale Hardcover – June 24, 2014
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Highly imaginative as well as insightful, this outstanding revision has the power to entrance and provoke thought.
— Kirkus ★ Starred review
Barrett's writing shines with an ethereal otherworldliness that enhances the fairy tale origins.
—School Library Journal
Barrett cleverly upends traditional notions of happily ever after—rather than Cinderella’s usual trajectory of rising from the ashes to marry a prince, salvation comes through hard work, realizing the futility of clinging to a long-dead illusion of nobility, and embracing a “lowered” station in life that truly allows them to live.
— PW ★ Starred review
A brilliant and innovative retelling.
— Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray)
Dazzling and enchanting, The Stepsister’s Tale is a finely tuned story that breathes new life into the classic Cinderella tale. Tracy Barrett shines as a marvelous storyteller due to her smooth prose, lively characters and perfectly dramatic plot. Jane is a splendid narrator and possesses all the right qualities for a star heroine. With a sweet romance and hints of the fantastical, this is an inventive must-read!
— RT (Romance Time) Book Reviews
Clever plotting and character development are complemented by rich descriptive passages, and by flipping the tale around, the familiar becomes an unpredictable read.
— Booklist Online
The author tweaks the well-known story artfully so the new version jibes with the well-known story, making the new vantage point totally plausible.
— School Library Monthly
Barrett has transformed a rather mean-spirited old tale into a girl-empowering story that is both gritty and uplifting, a work of romantic realism for the under-fifteen set.
— Chapter 16
About the Author
Tracy Barrett writes both fiction and nonfiction set in the ancient and medieval past, as well as contemporary novels, for middle-grade and young-adult audiences. Her titles include the popular Sherlock Files series, as well as the award-winning Anna of Byzantium, Dark of the Moon (starred review, Kirkus), King of Ithaka (starred review, SLJ), and others. She loves traveling, and speaking to groups of students, teachers, and librarians.
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Without giving away too much of the plot, I can say that I loved the main character, Jane, who works so hard to keep her mother and sister (and, later, her stepfather and stepsister) from starving--they may live in a grand house, but it's falling down around their ears and there's little food to be had. Despite all the hardships they face, Jane keeps fighting to make things work out.
And work out things do, though not the way you might expect...
The story is a light read, easy to inhale in an afternoon with a cup (or three) of tea. I highly recommend it to lovers of Cinderella retellings and fairy tales in general.
The novel follows a general path of Cinderella, though many of the details are turned on their heads. The stepsisters aren't evil, just hard-working and want a little help. The mother isn't evil, either--maybe she's a little out of her mind, actually. The prince is not the kind of man a self-respecting girl wants to marry. The ball isn't glittering and immaculate. And even our Cinderella isn't the cinder maid left out from the ball out of spite. Happily ever after just may not include a royal wedding. I thought it was such fun wondering how Tracey Barrett was going to make things work out, because I knew I couldn't just expect the ending the fairy tale gives. From the first page you can tell this isn't that kind of book.
And what worked really well for me, too, is that the story is slow and rather uncomplicated. There aren't bunches of bells and whistles added to the retelling to make it different, instead making it simply a look at the story from a new perspective, one we never thought we'd sympathize with. It is slower in plot, but it worked for me because there's a lot of development of the world and life of the family, weaving smaller interactions and moments into the larger story. Jane is a no-nonsense kind of girl who gets things done and takes care of people without them asking.
Jane and Maude's mother is obsessed with their lost wealth and fallen status, insisting that they are ladies and should act as such, even though the girls know they're far from the stations they were born into. Isabella (our Cinderella) believes she's above the girls because of their appearance and manners. Their neighbors believe the Montjoys all think they're above the common people because they formerly had wealth. But the story shows time and time again that those born into wealth and power aren't better than those born with nothing and that the prejudices people form based on these circumstances are flawed.
AND, the romance is adorable. And every word that means cute and sweet. It's one of those with moments that made my heart beat faster and left my face with the stupidest grin. It's all the more endearing for its innocence and its optimism. All books need this romance, because I don't often find myself reacting to scenes like I did here.
If you like (or can stand, at least) stories that take a while to work into the action, The Stepsister's Tale is really a lovely retelling. It's simple in form and in execution, but all the lovelier for it, allowing the story and themes to speak for themselves. It retains a fairy tale tone, even as it comes and contradicts its source over and over. I really enjoyed reading it, all the way through.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.