Stepsister • 2020 • Fairy tale novelette by Leah Cypess

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis: The story follows Garrin’s perspective of what happens five years after Cinderella’s wedding. Garrin is the half-brother and best friend of prince Charming, now King Ciar. Both fear and love drive Garrin to be absolutely loyal to Ciar, although everyone else believes that he will deceive him. 

King and Queen fail to conceive a child. In secret, Ciar orders Garrin to bring him Cinderella’s stepsister from her refuge. The Queen hates her stepsister for reasons told in the original fairy tale and nearly had her executed. Only the intervention of the King saved her.

One can imagine who outraged Cinderella was when she found out Garrin’s special task.

Review: I always hated the Disney versions of the Grimm brothers’ tales which are far darker and more adult than the adaption. You have to understand that I’m literally living in Grimm’s land – the brothers lived only a couple of miles away from my home. I don’t often read retellings, because very often they are just bad and I don’t get anything from them.

It’s far different with this novelette. First of all, it resembles very well the original style, including the story jumps, the dark atmosphere and actions. Additionally, every character besides Garrin is more or less evil, most prominent cruel Cinderella who turns out to be a witch and egocentric King Ciar. Garrin himself doesn’t have much agency, he is a plaything of his loyalty and the involved players.

The story discusses loyalty as a central topic. Every twist explores another layer in Garrin’s core virtue and engages the reader more. Of course, there is a final twist in the masterfully constructed plot that you won’t see coming with all those layers.

I really want to read more of the author and highly recommend reading this novelette if you care for fairy tale retellings with a darker atmosphere.

Meta: isfdb. Available online at the author’s website. Nominated for the Nebula Award.

This entry was posted in Fantasy, Nebula nomination, Story and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Stepsister • 2020 • Fairy tale novelette by Leah Cypess

  1. Wakizashi says:

    Thanks again for the link, Andreas. I do enjoy good retellings of fairy tales. I agree with you about the Disneyfication of these old folk tales. I wonder how much the Grimms changed or embellished from the original spoken stories they collected. Some of the originals were a lot darker and racier, or so I’ve heard. Particularly the French version of “Little Red Riding Hood”! Here’s a link to some different tellings:

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andreas says:

      Even if it’s a good retelling, I don’t want to read them too often. It’s just not my favorite fantasy subgenre.
      Tge Grimm Brothers started this as a vernacular research with literary footnotes. Their sources were often educated women who filtered out the racier details. They couldn’t have published a version with that original language anyway. Their first and second edition was true to the sources but didn’t sell too well. Starting with later editions, they found their final form oriented to children and with the Christian morale. Without this, the publications probably wouldn’t have survived. But one can still read the original forms and there is a large science around them.
      As for the French stories, they all came from one woman near Kassel with Huguenot origins. There were more French stories initially in the publication but excluded later on because they wanted to have original German stories.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wakizashi says:

        That’s really interesting, thanks Andreas. It sounds like you have done research on it. I can see how the final versions oriented to children has led to them lasting all this time. Especially with having the Christian moral at the end.

        I’d no idea about the French stories originating from one source. That’s deeply interesting, too. I wonder who she was, what kind of life she lived, where she heard the stories, etc. Great stuff!

        Liked by 1 person

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