Saturday, September 5, 2015

Review: The Ugly Stepsister by Aya Ling

The Ugly Stepsister by Aya Ling
Release Date: June 12, 2015
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

When Kat accidentally rips apart an old picture book, she's magically transported into the world of Cinderella--as Katriona, one of the ugly stepsisters! Life turns upside down now that she’s a highborn lady and must learn how to survive the social season, including how to get through the door in a huge metal hoop skirt. To get back, she'll have to complete the story, right to the end of happily ever after. But the odds are huge: the other stepsister is drop-dead gorgeous, the fairy godmother is nowhere to be found, and the prince, despite being insanely hot, openly dislikes balls. Can she ever return to the modern world?

Let me start off by saying that I love fairytale retellings with a passion, even if not all of them I've read have been great.  I've read some that were nearly exact duplicates of the original stories, and those tend to bore me, because if they're an exact replica then, well, I feel like I've already read them.  The Ugly Stepsister was unique in every way and it captured my heart from the very first page.

Kat has accidentally been transported into the Cinderella story, and everything has gone horribly awry because Cinderella doesn't seem to be who she's supposed to be, although she's still sweet and kind, and the prince is falling for the wrong girl. It's up to her to get things back on track in the story, which is no easy feat when she can't even locate the fairy godmother.

This story was completely unique!  I loved Kat as a character.  In her own world, before getting sucked into the book, Kat was timid and shy and could never even speak to a boy without getting red in the face and stammering.  I loved how circumstances forced her out of this comfort zone where she had to speak to men, speak out on injustice, and learn confidence.  This change didn't take place the moment she entered the book, though, but gradually.  This made the change all the more profound to me because we got to watch it happen as readers. Her strength and bravery and sarcasm were all things I loved about her.  She made a perfect heroine.

All of the secondary characters were very well-crafted, including the other stepsister and the mother.  In most retellings they're just depicted as being mean, period.  In this story, there is some small motivation that explains some of the behavior, although it doesn't excuse it.

Then there's the prince.  Sigh, swoon.  This is why he's called Prince Charming... because he was.  I loved Edward from the beginning, and I love that the author didn't just make him a handsome face who happens to be a major catalyst in the Cinderella story.  He had depth and strength, he was funny at times, and so sensitive.  And he had a touch of bad boy in him that he'd pull out every now and then when he needed to.  He was an excellent character come to life for me.

The author did an amazing job retelling a long-loved story and making it uniquely her own.  I forgot I was reading a retelling in fact, because the author owned this story due to her portrayal of the original characters, and her inclusion of some new ones that enriched it all.  If I had any complaints, it would be an element in the ending that left me with some questions, but it wasn't enough to ruin the story, or the ending, for me. I flew through the pages of this book so fast, laughed, oohed, ahhed, and generally just fell in love with this book.  If you enjoy retellings, you have to pick this up. I'll be looking for more stories by this author, as she was a skilled storyteller that pulled me right in.

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