The Ugly Stepsister, by Aya Ling


When Kat accidentally rips apart an old picture book, she’s magically transported into the world of Cinderella–as Katriona, one of the ugly stepsisters! Life turns upside down now that she’s a highborn lady and must learn how to survive the social season, including how to get through the door in a huge metal hoop skirt. To get back, she’ll have to complete the story, right to the end of happily ever after. But the odds are huge: the other stepsister is drop-dead gorgeous, the fairy godmother is nowhere to be found, and the prince, despite being insanely hot, openly dislikes balls. Can she ever return to the modern world?

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.


Aya is from Taiwan, where she struggles daily to contain her obsession with mouthwatering and unhealthy foods. Often she will devour a good book instead. Her favorite books include martial arts romances, fairy tale retellings, high fantasy, cozy mysteries, and manga. Her latest release is a Cinderella retelling in which a modern day girl ends up in the fairy tale world as the ugly stepsister.


About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degrees in Computer Systems and Applications and Applied Human Behavior. View all posts by Mark Gardner

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