Review: The Ugly Stepsister by Aya Ling

the ugly stepsister -aya lingWhen 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?

4 Drink Me Potions

Thank you Xpresso Book Tours and Giselle for the copy in exchange for an honest review

Now, who doesn’t love a good fairy tale retelling? I sure love ’em, and it’s clear that author Aya Ling does too (and that’s not just because I read her exact words describing this in the Acknowledgements –which yes, I do read too). She provided a beautiful backdrop in Cinderella land for The Ugly Stepsister.

The story jumps right to it. Our protagonist Kat is terribly shy with boys and loves to just hide in her room with a good book in hand rather than party it up like the other girls at school. Now why does that sound so familiar?

Oh right. That’s ’cause I can totally relate to that when I was around that age. As I’m sure many other readers out there can also relate to that sentiment.

Anyway, there was an immediate understanding and bond with Kat which made me like her all the more. Soon after, she falls into a completely crazy world of fairy land, but nothing seems to be working right. How does one find a fairy godmother? What’s with all these corsets? And what? The other stepsister is NOT ugly? How can that be? Kat has a lot on her hands to get the story going so that the prince would fall for Cinderella in this tale. Oh, and not to mention, all these crazy antics are pure hilarious entertainment for the goblins that had cursed Kat to this fate.

I loved a whole lot of this book. Kat had to go through a lot to first just even understand how this old historical-like kingdom system worked. And then to do it all alone, with barely any help from the goblin intermediate that would pop up in her room at night occasionally to just ask for progress. She was strong and through it all, it pushed her out of her comfort zone. Talking to hot guys? Check. Facing down lords and other royalty while trying to not completely make a fool of herself? Check. Having to live with a horrible mother who only cared to find Kat a suitor? Check.

It was slow towards the middle, I will admit. I felt Ling didn’t have to drag the plot out so much with all the horrid parties Kat had to attend in order to “find an appropriate suitor”. And man, her awful sister! Did I want to strangle that girl sometimes? And this was coming from the point of view as the sister and NOT as Cinderella? That says a lot how much I hated her.

But overall, the story brought out a lot of greatness. Kat was an amazing girl. She fought hard for things in this kingdom that mattered only in her “normal” modern day life. It didn’t matter that she kept telling herself at night that these people were only just characters in a book. She was living it and these people mattered to her regardless. Haven’t you ever felt that way about characters in a book before?

And the romance . Oh my goodness. Prince Edward was swoon-worthy (of course!). What kind of Cinderella retelling would it be without a gorgeous prince? But he wasn’t just a face. He cared about things that other high ranking nobles didn’t. His cousin was just as amazing, choosing a profession that helped the common people. It’s always good in a book to enjoy the PERSONALITIES of the hot guys the protagonist is vying for.

Alas, the ending melted me. It absolutely did. I won’t say much beyond that so it wouldn’t ruin a thing, but it did make sense from a writing point. I loved it; it was ingenious of course. But it was definitely bittersweet as well.

Overall Recommendation:
The Ugly Stepsister is not just some fairy tale retelling. There are so many of those already, aren’t there? It’s a beautiful twist of possibly the greatest classic fairy tale, and it contains such remarkable elements. With immense detail into what life would be like in Cinderella’s kingdom, and a protagonist with such strong convictions to get home, this story leaves you cheering for Kat to finish the fairy tale story and crying with her when things go so horribly wrong. I love fairy tale retellings and this definitely made it to the list of books I thoroughly enjoyed.

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