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)