352p. Scholastic. May 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781338268461.
Gr 9 Up—Donnelly brilliantly reimagines what happens after the "happily ever" in "Cinderella," from the point of view of Ella's ugly stepsister Isabelle. As in the original Grimms' tale, Isabelle cut off her toes to fit into the glass slipper but failed to win the prince. Her destiny has long been drawn by the ancient female Fates who map each human life. Their charming rival Chance steals Isabelle's map and wagers the oldest Fate that he can change the path of Isabelle's life, thus beginning a chess match with Isabelle as the pawn. Despite Isabelle's best efforts to behave, her anger always wins out, especially after the hypocritical townspeople shun and ridicule her and her smart older sister Tavi for how they treated Ella. Isabelle's lost everything—her beloved horse Nero and the groom's son Felix, with whom she spent her childhood riding and sparring. Tanaquill, the fairy queen, shows herself to Isabelle and says she will grant her greatest wish if Isabelle can "find the lost pieces of her heart." Military history–loving Isabelle must use her wits, courage, and strength to withstand the many hardships she faces as she tries to forge her own way. She learns to value herself and not let others define her or what she can do.
VERDICT This first-rate fairy-tale retelling effectively portrays female strength and determination and will resonate with readers who want to be valued for who they are, not what they look like.

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