The Stepsister’s Tale

18722882Author: Tracy Barrette
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: Fairytale and/or retelling, More please?, Historical fiction

When it comes down it, while nothing out of the ordinary happens beyond a few liberties taken with Ella’s character, The Stepsister’s Tale remains an unconventional and refreshing story.

A retake on the Cinderella tale, it treads the very same path yet out comes a very different story-in the way that past is prone to, in the hand of history and verbiage. Myths, rumors and truths become tangled irrevocably with no one to care.

Frankly, the way the story is being pitched leaves much to be desired, at least for me. The Stepsister’s Tale doesn’t follow in the same vein of fairytales nor retellings: it’s a slow story of a poor family, a mother who wants the best for her daughters, step or not, yet her life is stuck in a pretend replica of her past; and three girls with whom life doesn’t play fair with.

Jane and her sister struggle day and night, in hiding and outright, to keep their house standing. Farming and rearing animals in secret to make for what little food they can, scrubbing and milking, while their mother goes on not acknowledging the fact that they’re poor, ignoring her daughters’ toil. Life is a struggle as is but then Mama brings home a new husband. Theirs is not a marriage of love, but convenience: a rich man who is need of a noble name for his surviving daughter and a noble woman who is in need of money.

Enters Ella, who is not the most easy person to live with. Having been spoiled by her adoring father, she has no idea how to conduct herself amongst country people who have no time for personal recreation nor care for beauty and grandiose. In a similar predicament are Jane and her sister, constantly criticized for their lack of finesse and lady-like skills.

What I truly liked was that despite being a trying character, even Ella herself wasn’t an evil character. She indeed makes questionable decisions that momentarily earned her a place in my personal Tartarus, but she makes attempts to establish relations, although they go awry. Nor was Mama, despite her seeming lack of care where her daughters were concerned, is redeemed to some extent.

While they don’t directly pertain to Jane herself, there are also troubles going on-the prince now owns the forests, hunting has becomes poaching and the forest people live in fear of starving, displacement, and incarceration. This aspect of the story was a paradigm to what once happened world wide, what happens now-indigenous people being forced out of their homes and livelihood.

The construction and introduction of this particular aspect leads to expectations of solutions, IMO. However, beyond witnessing the hardships, it wasn’t really explored which, while reasonable, was a bit disappointing.

Mostly my love has to do with the narrator, the elder evil Stepsister of Cinderella, Jane. Characters these days are obsessed with angst, emotional drama, kick asses and whatnot-these characters are supposedly kickass. They get boring, can be superficial and there are so. fucking. many. it feels like you’re reading the same book again and again.

On the other hand, characters like Jane and Jem from Numbers are everlasting, fewer in numbers these days and inherently more fabulous, mature and definitely not prone to histrionics. Jane has her head on right, she has no objective in mind, no people to kill, no camp to break out of, no relative to save, no boy/girl to enrapture-all she does everyday is make her way through morning and night, scrounging for food and fire. This doesn’t leave her a lot of time to bemoan her fate.

Bemoaning one’s fate is all good and acceptable but not everyday, every moment because well… that can depress one.

The twist on the prince and fairy godmother was not exceptionally mind bending; but clever and believable. Some changes in the story are subtle while others differ from the original in obvious yet not glaring ways.

There is absolutely no magic bewitching or tricking people until a few whispers at the end. Magic exists only in stories that aren’t passed around at night because who has the time? Fey creatures come in only when the woods sing at night, simultaneously chilly and beautiful with their melodies.

Jane’s romance with a not-so-mysterious guy from the woods never takes central place in the story, never outshines Jane and her sisters’ own story. Consequently, it also doesn’t burn the brightest but to a limit, it was sweet sans declarations of passionate, undying love and slavery. The one major hitch their romance encounters, however, felt very deliberate. Although it wasn’t far out of the realm of possibility and that scene was necessary for their relationship to discover and stretch out the kinks, execution itself was lacking. While I agree that their romance needed it, I think the story could’ve done without it, if that makes sense.

One last quarrel to be had is with the cover. WHAT IS UP WITH IT? It could lead to several misconceptions about the story, from the glamorous dress to the the model’s expression. NO. And Cinderella is quite young in this story, not even fifteen. WHUT?!

Overall, I quite liked The Stepsister’s Tale and I leave you with feels that were provoked in me after finishing the story:

=)))) You should read this booook while I dance because this calls for dancing. Not nobility-style but I-can’t-dance-but-the-music-begs style. =))))

Thank you Harlequin TEEN!

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