I received an eARC from the author whom I know in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.
Genre: Fantasy Romance (Retelling) Age Range: Adult Star Rating: 4 stars Series: yes - second book of companion series
Only Anna knows the truth about Cinderella: The pauper turned queen wasn’t the victim, but the bully.
Anna fled when the castle guards came to arrest her mother and sister on Cinderella’s orders. But leaving them in bondage at the Fairy Godmother’s workhouse? Out of the question. Disguised as a young man and taking the name of Ansel, she’ll do whatever it takes to free her family and set the record straight.
Will, a former royal huntsman, was nearly killed for dissenting Cinderella’s rise as queen in the wake of the sudden death of the king and his son. He hatches a plan to take Cinderella down, and encounters Ansel, who wants revenge just as much as he does.
Drawn together by a common goal and burgeoning feelings neither can ignore, Will and Ansel enact a plan to assassinate the queen. But when that goes awry and buried secrets come to light, they’ll have to choose: continue running from their pasts or accept themselves in order to forge a new future together.
Blurb taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
THE UGLY STEPSISTER is a Cinderella/Snow White mash up where Cinderella is the evil queen and the stepsister and the huntsman work together to take her down.
The book is full of staples from those two fairy tales. There are glass slippers, a fairy godmother, poisoned food, sleeping maidens, a ball, and much more. And it’s all rolled together with a unique spin that makes this fairy tale very much not the story you know. It’s a delightful ride, full of surprises, because of that – the “oooo” feeling when you see how part of the fairy tale is going to be used.
It’s a bit longer than SECOND STAR TO THE LEFT, which means you get to spend more time with Anna and Will as they gate-crash a ball and hike across country, all while trying to deal with their growing feelings for one another. (And by “deal with”, I mean have absolutely no idea what to do and how to tell the other, all while their companions look on and tease Will mercilessly.)
There is a big twist in this book that utterly got me. I was not expecting it, and it takes the book towards a very different ending to what I was expecting (the HEA is, of course, a given, but what sort of HEA and what the future for everyone ends up being is very different.)
There is another book to come – an Alice in Wonderland reimagining, and like in SECOND STAR TO THE LEFT, there is a little nod to that book at the end of this one.
Read my reviews of other books by Megan Van Dyke:
Reimagined Fairy Tales (this series):