School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—As this Cinderella backstory unfolds, wealthy London socialite Lady Tremaine, a widow with two young daughters, is swept off her feet by Sir Richard, a dashing visitor from Many Kingdoms. However, Lady Tremaine no sooner sets foot in Sir Richard's home when her story begins to sour. It is obvious Sir Richard married her for her money and expects her to provide childcare, keep house, and cook. Eventually, after years of a bitter existence, the gentle woman devolves into the legendary wicked stepmother. This latest in Disney's YA "Villains" series explores how Cinderella's stepmother was forced by fairy fate into the stereotyped role. After the lengthy backstory concludes, the tale, which reads more like middle grade than YA, quickly wraps up and the potentially intriguing plot is abandoned in a rush to the apparently happy ending. The fairies, who deliberately force Lady Tremaine to become a wicked stepmother, exhibit no remorse or sympathy for the woman, and the stepsisters' years of abuse and neglect are smoothed away with a closet full of new dresses. VERDICT A unique premise fails to live up to its potential. Purchase if you have dedicated Disney princess fans; otherwise look for better fairy tale rewrites by Robin McKinley, Gail Carson Levine, and others.—Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor Sch. Dist., Lancaster, PA
How did Cinderella’s stepmother come to be so wicked?
She may have been self-focused, but at least she wasn’t always so cruel. Lady Tremaine, mother of two spoiled daughters, is a lonely widow hoping for a bit of happiness. Unfortunately, when Sir Richard appears at her friend’s house party, she’s swept off her feet and fails to heed the frantic warnings of her dedicated, elderly lady’s maid. Had she ever bothered to read the book of fairy tales her late husband purchased years before, she might have recognized the perils of assuming the role of stepmother. Entranced by Sir Richard, she agrees to a hasty marriage and a move to the Many Kingdoms, where he reverts to his true, domineering nature and she and her daughters become virtual prisoners in his home. Although the Odd Sisters—clever, manipulative witches—try to intervene on her behalf, it seems her fate is already written; she becomes as cruel and demented as the story described. However, Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother and her sister, Nanny, have plans to rescue Lady Tremaine’s daughters as they develop much-needed, rehabilitative insights into the family’s dynamics. Mostly told from the Lady’s shallow, self-centered perspective, this is an entertaining retelling of the Disney “Cinderella” story from a different viewpoint, with references to the rest of the series woven throughout. Characters follow a White default.
For princess fans and lovers of fairy tales. (Fiction. 12-16)