A breathlessly exciting and utterly satisfying fairy tale.

STEPSISTER

An ugly stepsister gets her own story in this twist on “Cinderella.”

The beautiful and kindhearted Ella’s foot fits perfectly into the prince’s glass slipper, leaving her stepsisters, Isabelle and Octavia de la Paumé, with their cruel mother, ostracized in a village that has branded them as cruel after trying to deny Ella her chance at happily-ever-after. But cruelty often masks a broken heart. Eighteenth-century France is no place for bold girls like Isabelle, who is inspired by great warriors, or for unabashedly brilliant girls like Octavia, who admires great mathematicians and scientists. Isabelle is an unwitting pawn in a wager between Chance and Fate to stop a vicious warlord who is cutting a murderous swath through France, but a fairy queen makes her a tantalizing offer. Donnelly’s (Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book, 2017, etc.) gorgeous prose doesn’t shy away from the visceral: In the horrifying opening scene, which mirrors the Brothers Grimm original, Isabelle cuts off her own toes and Octavia slices off her heel to fit into the glass slipper, and the final battle scene is a corker. Isabelle’s emotional and triumphant journey of self-realization proves that beauty can be found in so much more than just a pretty face. Chance has dark skin and black hair; other main characters default to white.

A breathlessly exciting and utterly satisfying fairy tale. (Fantasy. 12-18)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-26846-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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Riveting, brutal and beautifully told.

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WE WERE LIARS

A devastating tale of greed and secrets springs from the summer that tore Cady’s life apart.

Cady Sinclair’s family uses its inherited wealth to ensure that each successive generation is blond, beautiful and powerful. Reunited each summer by the family patriarch on his private island, his three adult daughters and various grandchildren lead charmed, fairy-tale lives (an idea reinforced by the periodic inclusions of Cady’s reworkings of fairy tales to tell the Sinclair family story). But this is no sanitized, modern Disney fairy tale; this is Cinderella with her stepsisters’ slashed heels in bloody glass slippers. Cady’s fairy-tale retellings are dark, as is the personal tragedy that has led to her examination of the skeletons in the Sinclair castle’s closets; its rent turns out to be extracted in personal sacrifices. Brilliantly, Lockhart resists simply crucifying the Sinclairs, which might make the family’s foreshadowed tragedy predictable or even satisfying. Instead, she humanizes them (and their painful contradictions) by including nostalgic images that showcase the love shared among Cady, her two cousins closest in age, and Gat, the Heathcliff-esque figure she has always loved. Though increasingly disenchanted with the Sinclair legacy of self-absorption, the four believe family redemption is possible—if they have the courage to act. Their sincere hopes and foolish naïveté make the teens’ desperate, grand gesture all that much more tragic.

Riveting, brutal and beautifully told. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-74126-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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The personal and the political intertwine in this engaging series opener.

DEFY THE NIGHT

The only effective treatment for the lethal fever that plagues Kandala is a potion derived from the rare Moonflower.

Medicine is allocated to each sector of the kingdom by the decree of King Harristan, but the supply is limited. Thieves, smugglers, and black marketeers are subject to punishment and execution overseen by the cruel Prince Corrick in his role as the King’s Justice. Like many in Kandala, Tessa Cade loathes the king and his younger brother for ignoring the plight of those who cannot afford treatment. With the help of her close friend Weston, the 18-year-old apothecary’s assistant steals Moonflower petals from the wealthy and makes potions to distribute among the poor. Soon after Wes is caught by the night patrol, Tessa is presented with an opportunity to sneak into the palace. She enters with the intention of taking a sample of the palace’s potent Moonflower elixir only to be captured and brought before Prince Corrick, who, Tessa discovers, might not be as heartless as she originally believed. The slow-burn romance—between an idealist with straightforward moral beliefs and a pragmatist trapped by duty—will keep the pages turning, as will the scheming of the king’s consuls and the rebellion brewing in the background. Tessa and Corrick are cued White; other characters’ skin colors range from beige to deep brown.

The personal and the political intertwine in this engaging series opener. (map, cast of characters) (Fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5476-0466-1

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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