The story of Cinderella is one that has been told and re-told in countless versions, across many cultures. Yet, Tracy Barrett still finds a way to put a new twist on this classic tale in The Stepsister’s Tale by having one of the “wicked” stepsisters narrate the book. The roles of the stepsister and Cinderella are seemingly reversed in Barrett’s story. Jane Montjoy lives in a crumbling mansion, her family’s fortune long since squandered by her father, and she struggles to keep enough food on the table for her mother and younger sister, Maude. After her mother remarries and her stepfather dies suddenly, Jane is also left with a stepsister to care for. Ella is spoiled, pampered and selfish, and is at odds with Jane and Maude from the time they meet.
The greatest strengths of The Stepsister’s Tale are Barrett’s descriptions of the Montjoy’s once grand mansion that is falling into ruin around them, as well as the forest and the forest people who befriend Jane. A terrific main character, Jane really sets this novel apart from other fairy tale retellings. She is strong and resourceful and you can feel her struggle to hold it together for the sake of her mother and sister, even when she has reached her lowest point. The book also ends with a satisfying change to the traditional encounter between Cinderella and the prince at the ball, and the ensuing search for the owner of the glass slipper. Highly recommended for fans of fairy tale retellings.