An original retelling of the classic tale of Cinderella, where the evil stepmother takes the stage.
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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:
All the Ever Afters: The Untold Story of Cinderella's Stepmother
Published April 22, 2018 by HarperCollins
Data from Goodreads
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.
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 Pros: What worked for me
- The author was able to keep a really nice balance between the basic framework of the original tale and the new elements to make the story interesting. It was interesting to see a villainous character in the spotlight.
- Agnes (the evil stepmother) was such a unique character and getting her origin story was a real treat for me as a reader! Not only did it feel like the author had produced a fully fleshed-out character, she also had some amazing personality traits that have put her at the top of my list of favourite characters! There were so many moments where I really connected with her, which made me really enjoy reading this book.
The Cons: What I didn’t like
- I was really bothered by Cinderella’s character. In a way it makes sense that if the author was flipping the perspectives, I would dislike characters I had previously liked. But the reason I didn’t like Cinderella wasn’t because the author had decided to make her actually evil – I just found her really irritating. Cinderella’s character was so one-dimensional in comparison to Agnes’ and that struck me as odd and jarring; it felt like the author had put in so much effort to bring Agnes to life but then become lazy when it came to developing Cinderella’s personality.
- I have mixed feelings about the writing style. The prose was beautiful and the shifts between the past and present were executed well. However, the story moved at quite a slow pace and there were times when nothing really happened. The reason I’m mixed is because while I would have wanted a story that cut away those moments, I also understand that it was necessary for setting the scene.
My final thoughts on this novel? It is 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!