Wow this book was perfection. I laughed, held my breath, cried a bit, and cheered. Donnelly did such a wonderful job with this book I can’t wait to read more from her.
“Stepsister” follows what happens after Cinderella (Ella) is locked away and her two stepsisters remove parts of their feet (Tavi cutting away her heel and Isabelle her toes) and are found out by a bird singing in a tree. What follows is the two girls and their mother are shunned by their village while Ella is carried off to be married and become Queen of France. Isabelle though still has a chance to change things for herself, her family, and even France, if she can remember the girl who played pirates, fenced, and rode her horse with no fear.
I loved Isabelle. Donnelly made her feel so read. A young girl who is considered ugly and doesn’t care for dresses or tying up her hair in elaborate hairstyles. She read about soldiers, generals, and conquerors and her heart yearned for more. In the time and place she is born though, she’s a woman and a woman is only meant to be a wife and mother. We have Isabelle’s life also being fought over a bit by three people (Fate, Chance, and an Old Magic). I loved the interplay between all of these parties and how even though they all have different goals in the end, Isabelle still manages her own path.
Tavi was my second favorite. I wanted to read more about the experiments she was trying and loved her fighting with Hugo (a neighbor’s son who is baffled and scared by both of them for being such weird women).
Donnelly manages to imbue romance in this, but it’s not the point in the story. In the end, the love story is about Isabelle and what she has denied herself for so long. I want to talk so much more about this book but it would spoiling for other readers.
I loved the writing and found myself highlighting so many passages. The flow was actually very good too. The chapters were pretty short, but Donnelly impacts so much in the story you don’t realize how much you have read until you get to the end. At least I didn’t.
“She did not know that this was a good thing for a girl to have, because everyone had always told her it was a terrible thing. Everyone said a girl with a strong will would come to a bad end. Everyone said a girl’s will must be bent to the wishes of those who know what’s best for her.”
This book is all about a girl/young woman being forced into something that she doesn’t want. To realize to squash parts of yourself every single day to fit in makes you stronger in a way you don’t even realize when you decide you have had enough.
“But an ugly girl? Ah, child, the world is made for men. An ugly girl can never be forgiven.”
Disgusted noise made but yeah, it’s gross how many people judge by looks. You can be beautiful and have the ugliest soul around I have found.
“Isabelle swallowed hard. Deep inside her, the wolf, asleep under her heart for so long, opened his eyes. She hefted her sword and stared the man down. “I say, en garde.”
Kick his ass Isabelle!
“The feeling that you want to own someone body and soul, spirit them away from everyone else, have them all to yourself forever and ever and ever,” Hugo said dreamily. “It’s called love.” “No, it’s called kidnapping,” said Tavi.
Y’all don’t even know how much I laughed and loved Tavi. I want a story starring her!
The setting of this book is a France in a different time and place (Fate, Chance, and a Fairy Queen are running around in this book and somehow that seems reasonable).
The ending made me want to stand up and cheer. Or go out and fight a scoundrel with just a sword and a shield.