I've written long reviews before. I will keep this one short however. This is a triumphant and gifted fairy tale with some very realistic themes. It's a tale of a woman's triumph over inner demons of outer ugliness, a triumph of the oppressed over the oppressor, a triumph of chance over fate and a triumph that magic can and does exist within the realm of the human heart and human behavior. Isabelle is the ugly stepsister highlighted in a tale of uncommon decency and bravery in the face of daunting odds. It begins with a bloody toe cutting scene and rolls on with notable characters from that point on. I have given this book a four star only because, even for a fairy tale, the rescue of France's Queen and Isabelle's step sister was really quite implausible. But give this book it's due. Grand themes, compelling characters and great magic. Well worth a visit by any potential reader with an eye to the fascination this author packs in all of her books.