"Whose map have you stolen this time?" asks the crone. The map of an empress? An emperor? The answer is the map of a young girl named Isabelle and her life is now resting on the toss of a coin between the Fates and Chance. Age old enemies battling to see if a young woman will live or die.
"In the kitchen of a grand mansion a girl sat clutching a knife." Meet Isabelle. "We should have heated the knife for Tavi," says her mother. The prince is waiting in the foyer with his grand vizier and a glass slipper. They want to know whose foot will slip easily into that famous shoe. This mother is willing to ask any price of her daughters to have one of them be the one. Bankrupt and desperate, Maman hands the knife to Isabelle and commands her to cut off enough toes to make the shoe fit.
Tavi and Isabelle are the two ugly stepsisters who tortured Ella, the future queen. When Ella bursts forth to prove her identity, she walks away from the darkness of her old life and with her prince, heads to a future where she will sit at his side on the throne. Tavi, Isabelle and their mother are left to be shunned and assaulted by the villagers. Their house and all its contents disappearing in a fire.
War rages through the countryside. Tavi, Isabelle and Maman are lucky to find shelter with a miserly neighbor. Tavi who dreams of being a scholar and whose mind seeks out knowledge and Maman who loses her mind in the days that follow see no good path ahead. It's Isabelle, whose life map is a plaything for Fate and Chance, who encounters hope in the form of a fox who counsels her to find the three pieces of her heart.
Every human being who has suffered adversity and even more has struggled to cast off the expectations and rigidity of others, will follow Isabelle's torturous journey knowing just how hard it is and hoping with every molecule of their being that she can succeed in becoming the young woman she has felt inside herself. This is a story about taking hold of your own destiny even though Chance and Fate will upend the story on occasion. This is a story about listening to and honoring the you that you feel so clearly inside.
Courage, self-honor, determination, kindness and hope are powerful weapons for any one of us. It's about listening to your own voice and fighting for what is right for you and defining yourself. Usually the story ends with the dashing adventurer wielding the sword with audacity and skill.
Swashbuckling, magical, defiant, and so richly told this is a fractured fairytale that will satisfy. Sometimes you have to break something so you can put it back together even stronger than you ever imagined. More than the traditional romance, this one is a powerhouse.
352 pages 978-1338268461 Ages 12 and up
Recommended by: Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com