All the Ever Afters by Danielle Teller is a YA novel that tells the story of Cinderella’s stepmother, Agnes. The story starts with Agnes as a young girl starting as a servant doing the laundry in a small manor house. The book follows her life through Cinderella meeting Prince Charming with a few interspersed journal entries from Agnes after Cinderella marries the prince.
I only picked this one up because I needed to fulfill an untold story prompt for the Trope-ical Readathon. I hadn’t even read the blurb. I was pleasantly surprised. This book takes a very realistic approach to Cinderella, attributing the fantastical elements to gossip and explaining their roots through explainable events. It was also a really interesting take that the stepmother had very similar roots to the typical story of Cinderella, starting as a laundry girl and becoming a lady of the house.
I don’t like going into trigger warnings as they can be seen as spoilers but if you have any triggers, look them up before reading. I was not expecting this to be as gruesome as it was. This is not a fairytale. This is the story of a girl born poor who fights her way to a position of wealth and then is painted the villain in her stepdaughter’s fairytale.
This is a pretty sweeping tale following decades of Agnes’ life. Because of this, it’s very readable and doesn’t feel like the typical retelling. It was obviously well thought-out and crafted so that it makes sense and the pieces come together beautifully. Each well-known character from the classic tale from Cinderella to the fairy Godmother to the Ugly Stepsisters is given a unique history that plays into the classic tale while making it more realistic. It’s just really well done.
That said, there are a few parts where the story really lagged and the language was a little flowery and not in a good way.
In my own ratings, I gave it 3.5 stars. On Goodreads, I was going to give it 3 stars but I went with 4 as it has a fairly low average rating that I don’t think it deserves.