Thank you to Edelweiss and the publishers for this eARC in exchange for my honest review.
I am such a fan of retellings of classic fairy tales and stories. I’ve read quite a few that have featured Cinderella but I’m always searching for a new take on this classic and I was really excited to give this one a shot! Here is my review:
Summary (Goodreads): We all know the story of Cinderella. Or do we?
As rumors about the cruel upbringing of beautiful newlywed Princess Cinderella roil the kingdom, her stepmother, Agnes, a woman who knows all too well about hardship, privately records the true story. But what unfolds is not the princess’s history. The tale Agnes recounts is her own.
A peasant born into serfdom, Agnes is separated from her family and forced into servitude as a laundress’s apprentice at Aviceford Manor when she is just ten years old. Alone, friendless, and burdened with a grueling workload, Agnes carves a place for herself in this cold place that is home to Sir Emont Vis-de-Loup, a melancholic and capricious drunkard.
Using her wits and ingenuity, Agnes eventually escapes and makes her way toward a hopeful future, serving as a housemaid for the powerful Abbess Elfilda. But life once again holds unexpected, sometimes heartbreaking twists that lead Agnes back to Aviceford Manor, where she becomes nursemaid to Ella, Emont’s sensitive, otherworldly daughter. Though she cares for Ella, Agnes struggles to love this child, who in time becomes her stepdaughter and, ultimately, the celebrated princess who embodies all our unattainable fantasies.
Review: This was quite an interesting story, told from the perspective of Cinderella’s stepmother – a voice I had never heard from until now. And I’m really glad I did!
The author really changed the story of Cinderella but still managed to keep the basic framework recognizable for fans of the original tale. It was interesting having the villainous character take the spotlight, and have her turn out to not be a villain after all. The author created a very unique character in Agnes, and watching her grow up and learn about the harsh realities of life and still make something of herself is admirable. There were so many moments where I really connected with her, which made me really enjoy reading this book. Unlike in the classic tale, Agnes was a fully-fleshed out character in this tale, as were her daughters. If anything, it was Cinderella’s character that bothered me the most; I really found her annoying and the fact that she became queen (which I know is inevitable – but still!) just seemed unfair because, well, she didn’t deserve it! As you can tell, I became quite invested in the lives of the characters – and that’s always a good sign!
In terms of the writing style, I had mixed feelings about it. The prose was beautiful and lyrical and I really liked the shifts between the past and present that gave us a fuller picture of the events that transpired. However, the story moved at quite a slow pace and there were times when nothing really happened. I would say that this story might have benefited from being cut a little shorter at some points, but I also feel that if this novel was shortened, it wouldn’t create as nice of a picture or setting as it does now.
Regardless, I found this novel to be a very unique variation to a classic story that changed my perception of a character that was always portrayed as “evil”. I enjoyed reading this book and felt very drawn to the main character. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to reading more by this author. For now, I’m giving it a solid 3/5 stars!
Happy reading ~