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Reviewed by Liz Konkel for Readers' Favorite
End of Ever After by E.L. Tenenbaum is a Cinderella retelling and the first book in the End of Ever After series. Ella dreamed of being free of her stepmother's control and the King's ball, aimed at seeking his son a wife, seems to be her chance. When her stepmother refuses to let her attend, a fairy godmother appears and sends her off in a magical carriage to be whisked away by a handsome prince's charm. Her life becomes a dream come true.... for the first couple of years. At first her relationship is nearly perfect, then the fairy tale crumbles. After five years, Ella sees the lies underneath the fantasy and discovers a horrifying truth which leads her to uncovering secrets her charming husband kept from her.
E.L. Tenenbaum begins with classic moments from the Cinderella everyone knows before twisting this happily ever after into a new and unique story. Ella's story has classic elements with the obvious characters woven into her life. Her wicked stepmother and stepsisters are cruel and abusive, treating her as a servant. Her fairy godmother allows her to attend the ball which gives her a chance to escape from her life under her stepmother and puts her on the path to her new life. The glass slippers and the prince's search for her is included as part of the idealistic fairy tale dream come true. The charming inclusion of the pumpkin turned carriage and animals turned into horses and footmen provides a lightness to her sneaking away to the various festivities.
Tenenbaum captures the magic and wonder of Cinderella, adding a twist to the story while keeping Ella's kind heart to carry her into the woman who becomes a princess. The biggest theme explored is the idea of happily ever after as this perfect image. Soon Ella realizes she fell in love with a dream and what was on the surface, which was the prince's handsome and charming appearance. The story is reflective in tone which sets up a fallout from the beginning as Ella is looking back at her mistakes and the clues she missed about her seemingly perfect life. As events unravel, the reality of her marriage sets in and she learns life isn't a dream. What she thought and the truth about her husband plays on the use of romanticizing versus the darker reality she discovers. She romanticized this handsome prince as the man who saved her, only to end up in another prison. Her heart is her biggest strength so one sees her become stronger over the course of the story until she finally stands up for herself and for her people.
Tenenbaum shatters the idea of fantasy with the crash of reality by tearing down the daydream and seeing the darkness with Prince Charming. An inspiring read and a twist on Cinderella for the better, End of Ever After is a charming fairy tale re-imagined that shatters the perfect dream and brings reality into the typical romanticized telling with a darker twist that asks what follows happily ever after.