I absolutely loved The Ugly Stepsister, by Aya Ling.
Kat is a female protagonist that takes ahold of the story and pushes it along through the power of her will. She’s not a damsel in distress. She doesn’t allow the story to happen to her, but shapes the story as she marches towards the end, forgetting stereotypes and what a ‘proper’ lady should do. And she’s flawed. She makes mistakes. She falls on her bum. She asks for help when the odds are insurmountable.
Another awesome aspect of this light romance is that Kat isn’t supposed to be gorgeous. It’s easy to write a love story when pretty people think they might want to hook up with other pretty people. Perceived beauty has been a demarcation of a person’s status for as long as people cared to gossip about such things. Kat catches the eye of the prince with sheer will and personality.
Sex is not even a theme in this story. In a world of little girls dressing up to emulate the latest titillation, there has been a trend to over-sexualize childhood ideas and fairy tales are no different. The Ugly Stepsister adheres to a propriety that’s been out of favor in recent years, and it’s refreshing to not have to wade through sexy-this or sexy-that.
The story, while a retelling of Cinderella, has it’s own voice and its own uniqueness. The author uses what we know and expect of Cinderella, and molds our expectations to trick us into complacency, only to twist the tale a little bit more. As a unique story, the only other book I can even think to compare it to would be Household Gods, by Judith Tarr.
I read half the book in one sitting, and gave serious thought to just finishing it and calling in sick. I ended up stopping, dragging myself through the workday knowing that the reward of finishing this delightful tale awaited me. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants a light fairy tale with romance with threads of girl power.