Monday, September 9, 2019

Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly-- Chance and Fate Face-Off


When Isabelle and her sister Octavia are discovered to have locked up their stepsister and disfigured their feet in order to deceive the Prince, the whole family becomes outcasted.  The stepsister, however, becomes the Queen of France and seemingly lives happily ever after...

But what about those evil stepsisters??  What's happened to them??

Turns out, they're the girls that don't fit the typical girl mold.  Society has never embraced Isabelle's filterless mouth and interests in adventure and battles-- nor Tavi's love of Mathematics and Science.

Now, Chance personified is taking on Fate personified to try to change Isabelle's future.  Will Chance be able to nudge Isabelle into a happier ending??  Will the Fairy Queen's task be something Isabelle can figure out?  Will Isabelle descend into ruin as Fate predicted?

I was pleasantly surprised by this retelling.  I went into it expecting to like it, but what I wasn't expecting was how creative, thoughtful, and spellbinding it would be.

This story is about Ella's stepsisters (Isabelle & Octavia) and their lives after she leaves to become the Queen of France.  The secondary story is about a character named Chance, who breaks into Fate's lair and steals Isabelle's Life Map.  He's convinced he can change her path, but Fate wants to make sure Isabelle lives the life that Fate drew up.  On top of all of that, there is a Fairy Queen who agrees to help Isabelle if she can find the missing pieces of her heart.

It was an intricate story that involves a war, a troop of traveling performers, girls who don't follow the status-quo, and all the familiar elements that we know from the fairy tale.  I thought it was beautifully and smartly done.

My favorite character was Octavia, or Tavi.  All she wanted to do was study Math and Science and be left alone.  Her dry humor and blunt personality endeared her to me.  It was refreshing to have her in the book.

I think the reason this didn't end up being a 5 star read for me was the heavy handed nature of the message.  It was a very obvious feminist take on Cinderella, which is great-- but it also felt like the author didn't trust the reader to figure that out on his/her own.  By the end it felt like I was being hit over the head with the message.  Also, I could've done with a darker retelling (which was what I was expecting) than what this was.

OVERALL: Very creative and detailed take on Cinderella.  This book was a pleasure to read with a really fun adventure to go on.  I would read retellings all day/every day if they all flowed like this one.  I could've done without the heavy handed message though.

Date Published: 5/14/2019
How I got this book: Library
Publisher: Scholastic Press

Add it to your To-Read List!!

My Rating: 4.5/5

Character: Tavi
Book: The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood 

  • I think Tavi would love the Math & Science included in this book.  AND it might help her relate to the emotional side of life.


  1. I actually ended up DNFing this one when I first tried it, but I think I just wasn't in the mood for it. I really want to give it another chance, because it sounds so interesting!

    1. I really liked it. I think it went through some ups and downs with the excitement levels, but overall a very cool retelling!! But I know exactly what you mean about being in the mood!