Book Review: Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

Isabelle should be blissfully happy – she’s about to win the handsome prince. Except Isabelle isn’t the beautiful girl who lost the glass slipper and captured the prince’s heart. She’s the ugly stepsister who’s cut off her toes to fit into Cinderella’s shoe … which is now filling with blood.

When the prince discovers Isabelle’s deception, she is turned away in shame. It’s no more than she deserves: she is a plain girl in a world that values beauty; a feisty girl in a world that wants her to be pliant.

Isabelle has tried to fit in. To live up to her mother’s expectations. To be like her stepsister. To be sweet. To be pretty. One by one, she has cut away pieces of herself in order to survive a world that doesn’t appreciate a girl like her. And that has made her mean, jealous, and hollow.

Until she gets a chance to alter her destiny and prove what ugly stepsisters have always known: it takes more than heartache to break a girl.

‘Mamam wielded shame like an assassin wields a dagger, driving it straight into her victim’s heart. She would win; she always won. Isabelle knew that. How many times had she cut away parts of herself at her mother’s demand? The part that laughed too loudly. That rode too fast and jumped too high. The part that wished for a second helping, more gravy, a bigger slice of cake.
If I marry the prince, I will be a princess, Isabelle thought. And one day, a queen. And no one will dare call me ugly ever again.’

Stepsister is an absolute treasure of a book and I’m immensely happy to have read an advanced copy of it. This is my first time reading a book by Jennifer Donnelly (although I’ve been meaning to read her Tea Rose series for a while) but after this delightful novel I can say that it certainly won’t be my last.

The writing of this book is absolutely beautiful and all too easy to get lost within. The scenes are painted wonderfully and vividly although in this book the writing goes further than simply painting a picture; it captures the entire unique feel of a fairy tale perfectly. There are dark moments, heart-warming ones and, perhaps most importantly, ones that share a message with the reader. In general I don’t look too much for the messages that a book tries to share – I tend to simply get lost in the story – but in this case it’s hard not to pick up on the morals that it’s trying to share which, being a fairy tale retelling, is quite fitting. The messages that it tries to get across to the reader are important, inspiring and so beautifully written that a couple of times they left me speechless. Honestly the writing in this book was absolutely enthralling and so perfectly fitted to a fairy tale retelling.

A lot of the characters in this novel bewitched me almost as much as the writing. I warmed to Isabelle pretty much immediately and loved her fiery character immensely. Truthfully she’s the sort of central character that I love reading about – fierce, brave and not what she’s expected to be. I also liked the portrayal of her bookish sister and childhood friend, Felix. The version of the ‘fairy godmother’ in this story was interesting and suited the story perfectly. I think my favourite character though was the rather unexpected Chance whose scenes I was always delighted to read. Events around him could get a little far-fetched at times but given who – and what – he is that seemed utterly fitting in my opinion and I absolutely adored seeing what he and his travelling companions were up to. Chance stole my heart, just like this novel did in general.

The story itself was fascinating and a pure delight to get lost within. It felt like everything that a fairy tale should be and Isabelle’s ‘quest’ was exciting to follow her on. I loved the ingenuity of her gifts from Tanaquill and her efforts to regain the pieces of her heart. There were a couple of flashbacks to her past – which I was admittedly hoping for as this story’s set after Cinderella – and each of them was painted so perfectly and quite vital to understanding Isabelle and how she came to be how she was. As I said earlier I also greatly enjoyed each and every one of Chance’s scenes. Fate’s were interesting to read too and I felt that including her and Chance added a rather unique spin to the story.

Altogether I would definitely recommend this book and look forward to reading it again sometime in the future. I’ll definitely pick up some more of Jennifer Donnelly’s books soon too. I’m also deeply hoping that the Epilogue to this book means that some of these characters could get seen again in the future as I’d absolutely adore the opportunity to follow in their footsteps again. Here’s hoping that I’ll get my desire but even if I don’t I’ll be sure to pick up whatever Jennifer Donnelly writes next.

Check Stepsister out on Goodreads here.

I strive to keep my reviews completely spoiler free but if anyone wants to discuss anything about the book in more detail (or just give me an excuse to gush about it) then feel free to contact me in the comment section below.


3 thoughts on “Book Review: Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

  1. I had seen this book about on Instagram but I was unsure what to think about it at first so I’m glad to read a review about it!! 😊
    The premise sounds interesting and like it touches on some thought provoking ideas and the idea surrounding beauty and the influence on people.
    I’m really enjoyed your review and the book will definitely be on my radar now!! 😊 Great review!!! 💛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad that you found it helpful (:
      I generally don’t really look for the meaning behind stories but in this one there were so many messages and they were so beautiful that I felt like I had to mention it in my review. I definitely enjoyed the premise of it and getting to see the Stepsisters from a different viewpoint.
      Aww that’s good to know (: I hope you enjoy it as much as I did if you ever read it. Thank you 🙂 💛💛

      Liked by 1 person

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