This review is spoiler free.
“The wolves in the woods have sharp teeth and long claws, but it’s the wolf inside who will tear you apart.”
Published: 2019, by Hot Key Books.
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Retellings, Fairy Tales
Contains: Strong Language, Violence, Anger, War, Blood/Gore
‘Stepsister’ tells the story of Isabelle, more notoriously known as one of Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters. After the events of the famous fairy-tale, we follow Isabelle’s quest to find her heart in a world that is full of hatred.
I picked this up at YALC earlier this year, having always been a fan of fantasy retellings. This one sounded interesting to me, so I thought I’d take the plunge and try it. Needless to say, it was far more enjoyable than I expected.
Isabelle is a fearless protagonist from the start, with her character development being the main plot point to the story. Full of clever twists and turns, ‘Stepsister’ follows the anti-hero as she discovers parts of her heart, no longer wanting to be known for her ugliness. However, as Isabelle’s heart grows, as does her reasons for seeking it, creating a wonderfully magical tale. Isabelle as a character is incredibly brave and fearless, making for a brilliant protagonist to read about.
Fellow ugly stepsister, Tavi, was quite possibly my favourite character of the set, often using her intelligence to her advantage. Her dialogue throughout the novel was always more academic than the other females, places her above them and scaring them away. It was brilliant to read their fear, understanding her superiority.
Felix was another character that I couldn’t help but love. His plot development made for an all-round gripping novel with his interactions with Isabelle making me swoon.
However, the other characters fell quite flat to me, hardly caring for their placement within the novel and occasionally getting mixed up with their names and purpose within the story. It’s clear that ‘Stepsister’ is an incredible character driven novel, with Isabelle being the main cog within the works, however, that caused the other character to get quite lost within her shadow.
The novel itself consists of extremely short chapters, which I loved, making progress move more quickly whilst reading. The world itself was as magical as expected, set in France with the perfect balance of magic and realism to keep you entertained. The language was consistently fluent in fairy-tale throughout the story, with numerous lines of jaw-dropping dialogue and beauty.
Overall, this was an enjoyable read. It’s fantastical, gripping and keeps you on your toes.