ARC: All the Ever Afters

In the vein of Wicked, The Woodcutter, and Boy, Snow, Bird, a luminous reimagining of a classic tale, told from the perspective of Agnes, Cinderella’s “evil” stepmother.

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, who knows all too well about hardship, privately records the true story. . . .

A peasant born into serfdom, Agnes is separated from her family and forced into servitude as a laundress’s apprentice when she is only ten years old. Using her wits and ingenuity, she escapes her tyrannical matron and makes her way toward a hopeful future. When teenaged Agnes is seduced by an older man and becomes pregnant, she is transformed by love for her child. Once again left penniless, Agnes has no choice but to return to servitude at the manor she thought she had left behind. Her new position is nursemaid to Ella, an otherworldly infant. She struggles to love the child who in time becomes her stepdaughter and, eventually, the celebrated princess who embodies everyone’s unattainable fantasies. The story of their relationship reveals that nothing is what it seems, that beauty is not always desirable, and that love can take on many guises.

Lyrically told, emotionally evocative, and brilliantly perceptive, All the Ever Afters explores the hidden complexities that lie beneath classic tales of good and evil, all the while showing us that how we confront adversity reveals a more profound, and ultimately more important, truth than the ideal of “happily ever after.”

5 stars *****

I acquired this ARC through a friend and love everything about it, all the way down to the way the cover feels. I actually read the whole book on my last day of vacation during plane rides and layovers. It all starts with this whimsical cover that makes me think scrolls, and men on horseback making proclamations as of crowd criers of old. Come one come all to the Queen’s ball for her son join me in watching him fall in love with a great beauty and fall in love her as he does.

All the Ever Afters is not the typical fairy tale retelling. It takes the modern version of Cinderella and the Grimm’s fairy tale and throws them in the blender to give you an unforgettable narrative that shows how a legend can grow. I love stories like this that tell the not so typical fairy tale, think Wicked or Bear and the Nightingale. Ella is portrayed as a flightful girl, one with no interest in managing her life or forming any useful skills. Agnes, the “evil” stepmother, is a beautiful woman who lived a life of service as a laundress’s apprentice and then running an ale house. Left in dire straits after events beyond her control she becomes the wet-nurse to Ella. Agnes tries to bond with Ella but never can manage and prefers the company of her own accomplished daughters, who are not the evil beauties you have been told about in the past. Ella and her stepsisters have their moments of both love and hate. Ella marries and we all know the story from there …….or do we?

Never is the truth as black and white as we like to see it; rumors and time can make the simplest stories into monstrous actions. Join Agnes in this not very fantasy or fairy tale story and cheer for the “true” story that needs to be told. I read this story imagining that Agnes is telling me the “truth” of Cinderella after everyone had made up their minds and it just made my plane trip fly by. This book hits shelves on May 22, 2018 and personally I hope to see similar books from the Danielle Teller in the future.

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