Stanley (A Time Apart) refashions Cinderella into a tale of intrigue set during the Middle Ages. The story unfolds from multiple points of view but focuses on Bella, a child of noble birth, who is given to a wet nurse by her grieving father after her mother's death in childbirth, and left there. After spending 13 happy years with this loving foster family and befriending a young prince named Julian (who had the same nurse), Bella is summoned back to her father, who has taken a second wife. Distraught by an unfamiliar household, run by her resentful new stepmother and two stepsisters, Bella grows terribly homesick and eventually learns that her Prince Julian, is in grave danger. She risks her life to warn the prince that there is a plot against him. With touches of magic and romance, the novel has the appeal of a fairy tale, but also offers a generous supply of suspense and a well-researched presentation of Medieval social structures, revealing the chasm that exists between classes and the fragile bridges that form between nobility, merchants and peasants. Stanley also adds a feminist twist: like the Cinderella of old, Bella rises above her circumstances, is aided by a fairy godmother figure and even receives a gift of glass slippers. But unlike Cinderella, she is proactive in seeking out her prince and manages to single-handedly bring about an end to a decades-long war. Ages 10-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Multiple voices recount a fine twist on the Cinderella story from this famed children's author. Infant Isabel, rejected by her father after her mother's death, is fostered by a loving peasant family and befriends Prince Julian, the royal child her foster mother nursed. Both of their lives are cruelly disrupted when Julian is sent as hostage to the court of his father's enemy, and Bella's father demands her return now that he has remarried a widow with two daughters. Alas, Bella is relegated to the kitchen ashes by her newfound family, but she learns something alarming from stepsister Marianne, a lady of the court. Treachery is afoot and Julian is in danger, so intrepid Bella disguises herself as a boy, and with the aid of her mother's sister-also her godmother-an enchanted emerald, and a special pair of glass slippers, she sets off to stop a war and rediscover loyalty, love, and a surprising new identity. Fans of fairy tale retellings will enjoy the fanciful twists in familiar territory, and long remember this engaging heroine, destined for a happily-ever-after life. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2006, HarperCollins, 288p., and PLB Ages 11 to 14.
Diane Stanley, well known for her picture books, writes her first novel. The fantasy has familiar Cinderella elementsglass slippers, magic, royalty, and stepsistersbut the traditional tale fades in the brilliance of Bella's story. Bella's mother dies at her birth and Bella is raised by a kindly farm woman, visited often by Prince Julian, who began life in the same way. Station, situations, and a raging war cannot get in the way of their happily-ever-after. Varying voices and viewpoints capture the fairy-tale voice and allow readers to escape into the story's enchantment. 2006, HarperCollins, Ages 8 to 12.
AGERANGE: Ages 12 to 18.
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, March 2006: In true fairy-tale fashion, Stanley has crafted a story with a king, a castle, an adopted foundling, a treacherous plot, and a marvelous heroine who saves the day. The story shifts from narrator to narrator, allowing readers to piece together the story from a variety of angles. Bella is the daughter of a knight; she is turned out by her father in his grief over his wife’s death and taken by her aunt to be raised in another family. Loved and nurtured by her adopted family, Bella’s world turns upside down when she is 16 and her father sends for her, and she must leave the only family she’s ever known. She becomes a “Cinderella” in an unhappy household with an angry father, an unhappy stepmother whose destitution forced her marriage, and two stepsisters, one a court gadfly and the other sadly mute. Three years later, when Bella learns that her childhood friend Prince Julian, a hostage under truce in the enemy land of Brutanna, may be the victim of his ambitious brother’s treachery, Bella dons a variety of disguises and sets off on a dangerous journey to maintain peace and save her former playmate. A little magic, a lot of adventure, and an unexpected twist with glass slippers lead to a “happy ever after” ending. Reviewer: Michele Winship
March 2008 (Vol. 42, No.2)
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Left by her father, an arrogant and unpleasant knight, to be raised by her wet nurse after her mother's death, Bella is an imaginative and attractive child whose best friend is the wet nurse's previous charge, Prince Julian of Moranmoor. It is not until her father summons her that she is told that the loving people with whom she has spent her childhood are not her true family. She finds his household miserable, her new stepmother unwelcoming, and no place to sleep but the kitchen. Using familiar ingredients including a pair of glass slippers and a magic ring as well as the legend of a Worthy Knight with a halo of heavenly fire, Stanley has brewed a magical elixir that will warm the hearts of readers who like their adventures set in medieval worlds, and who appreciate a bit of a love story as well. Bella is a worthy heroine, capable in the kitchen and courageous enough to journey to a foreign land to warn Prince Julian and attempt to forestall the reopening of the war between Moranmoor and Brutanna. As a bonus, she has inherited her mother's magic touch that comforts all who come in contact with her-a gift that she hardly needs to accomplish her political task but that revives the spirits of a stepsister, still mourning her own father. More than a reworking of the familiar, this is a 21st-century fairy tale, thoroughly enjoyable in its own right.-Kathleen Isaacs, Towson University, MD Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Stanley sets her lovely fairytale in a place like England in a time possibly medieval. She takes her tropes and occasionally her language from Shakespeare and from folklore, most notably Cinderella and the Arthurian legends (with a touch of Jeanne d'Arc), but her story runs in a clear, sparkling new stream. Isabel-Bella-is left motherless at birth, and her coldhearted father, Edward of Burning Wood, casts her aside. A caring aunt sees that she is raised with the family of a blacksmith whose mother was also wet nurse to the young prince Julian. Edward calls Bella back when he remarries, but his new wife, herself once widowed under painful circumstances, has her own daughters to protect. The kingdom's fragile peace is greatly threatened by treachery, and Bella, now 16, must find a way to keep Julian from being sacrificed and a terrible war from breaking out once again. Stanley deftly spins her various threads into a gossamer narrative that shimmers both brightly and darkly, made richer by Ibatoulline's embellishments. Once begun, it will be hard to put down. (Fiction. 10-14)
Read an Excerpt
Bella at Midnight
By Diane Stanley
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Copyright ©2006 Diane Stanley
All right reserved.
When the message came and I saw it was from Edward, I nearly choked on my plum cake. It could only mean that my sister was dead.
I had not seen her since her wedding day, three long years before. An occasion for rejoicing -- that's what you're imagining, is it not? A beautiful bride, a blushing groom, flowers, and music, and bright new beginnings?
It's a sweet picture, but that is not how it was, not for Catherine, anyway. Oh, she did look a perfect angel in her delicate gown of robin's-egg blue, her hair cascading down her shoulders, shining like the finest gold. And there were flowers aplenty, and music, too, and a sumptuous feast that lasted well into the night. Father wanted nothing but the best for her, you see. But as for the bright new beginnings -- well, that's another story. You'll notice I haven't yet mentioned the groom.
Sir Edward of Burning Wood was an odd man, arrogant and proud. But I thought such traits to be common among the nobility. I knew little of such things, being born to the merchant class. And so I would have taken his peculiar and unfriendly ways as natural to his station in life -- if it hadn't been for the way he looked at me. There was such coldness in those eyes, such a hardness near tohatred, that it positively made me tremble, and I could not help but turn away. I remember thinking, when first he pierced me with that terrible gaze, that Edward of Burning Wood was not altogether right in his mind.
He was no proper husband for my sister, of that I was sure -- and I told Father so.
"Catherine is rich," I said, "and beautiful besides -- she does not need to settle for such a man."
"Settle?" Father said. He was astonished, for he considered it a splendid match. "What can you be thinking? Edward is a knight, and he shall make our Catherine a lady. Just think of it, Maud -- and she only a glass merchant's daughter!"
"A glass merchant's daughter with a fortune, Father, don't forget that." (I knew, and Father knew, and surely even Catherine knew that Edward was marrying her for her money.) "I would far rather she remain a common lass than be raised to the nobility and be miserable all her life!"
"But why should she be miserable?" Father countered. "Can you not see how the man dotes upon her?"
This was true enough; Edward did seem besotted with my sister, for all that he wed her for gain. Yet even in this he was extreme and unnatural -- for his was a wild, possessive, fanatical love. Catherine was flattered by it, of course. Moreover, she thought him handsome and admired his confidence and manly bearing.
And so, as both Father and Catherine seemed so pleased with the arrangement, I resolved to keep my doubts to myself and say no more against the man.
After the wedding -- indeed, the very next day -- it became clear that I had greatly underestimated Edward: he was far, far worse than even I had believed him to be! For once he was in possession of both Catherine and her dowry, he turned his back on us, forbidding my sister to ever see us again!
Can you imagine such a thing? Why, it nearly put poor Father in his grave. Indeed, it was at about that time that his mind began to wander and he became childlike in his ways, as the old are sometimes wont to do. But I believe it was the loss of Catherine that caused him to decline -- that and the guilt he felt over giving her in marriage to such a terrible man.
And perhaps his infirmity was a blessing of sorts, for as I opened Edward's letter now, I took some small comfort from the knowledge that, however dreadful its contents might be, Father was past suffering over it anymore.
I scanned the message quickly, searching it for words such as dead or death -- but they were nowhere in evidence. I am a poor reader, I confess, and tears blurred my sight. Also, Edward's script was cramped and small and difficult to make out. But I struggled through it, word by word, until at last I reached the heart of the letter and -- what joy! -- discovered that my sister was not dead, not in the least! She was about to give birth to her first child -- and I had not even known she was expecting!
I squinted now, concentrating hard in my eagerness to learn what more the letter might tell me. I could not imagine that Edward had written me out of courtesy, even at such a time. And of course I was right; he wanted something. He wanted me to go there -- to that house he had bought with my father's money, to which we had never once been invited -- he wanted me to go there and comfort dear Catherine in her labor! He said he did not like the looks of the midwife.
He is afraid, I thought, afraid for Catherine's life -- for indeed, she was always a delicate creature and had never been strong. Now he feared to lose her, and he was so desperate that he had even stooped to asking me for help.
Well. I would do it for Catherine. I would gladly suffer his haughty pride and sharp tongue for her sake. And a new babe -- oh, how the prospect stirred my spirit! I would go at once!
And so I wrapped up well against the cold, roused the kitchen maid, and bid her keep an eye on Father (lest he wake in the darkness and, in his confusion, miss the chamber pot again). Then I rode off with the messenger in the direction of my sister's house. It was full dark by the time I got there. As I mounted the steps, I heard the bells ring for Compline. The monks would be going to prayer and then to bed. But I knewthere would be no rest for me that night.
Excerpted from Bella at Midnight by Diane Stanley Copyright ©2006 by Diane Stanley. Excerpted by permission.
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