“Stepsister” by Jennifer Donnelly

Thanks to Hot Key Books and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

This book has been getting some really rave reviews so I was more than ready to hop right onto that hype train. The story has an interesting premise, it’s a sequel to Cinderella that follows the ‘ugly’ stepsisters after the events of the original story.

The book opens with Isabelle, the main character, chopping off her toes to try and squeeze them into the famous glass slipper. Pretty metal really. From there, we learn more about the sisters’ background and what caused them to turn bitter and cruel.

Running alongside Isabelle’s story we have the characters of Fate, one of THE Fates, who has mapped out Isabelle’s life, and Chance, the personification of…well Chance really, the chance to change your destiny. These two characters go head-to-head to try and gain control of Isabelle’s destiny.

This book is unashamedly feminist and some quotes were like a punch to the gut. If you’ve ever been the ‘ugly’ girl, you’ll know how true this experience is.

“People will not forget. An ugly girl is too great an offence”

“Ah, child, the world is made for men. An ugly girl can never be forgiven”

The female relationships in the book are particularly strong and I really liked pretty much all of the main characters which is rare for me. They are nuanced and we see them grow significantly over the course of the story. You know characters are well-written when one of your favourites in a horse.

Things lost their momentum a bit towards the end and the conclusion felt a little rushed. Maybe less cabbage picking and more battle strategy would have helped with the pacing.

Overall, a thought provoking feminist read that also manages to be imaginative and great fun.

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