Just Ella

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Just Ella
Author Margaret Peterson Haddix
Country USA
Language English
Genre Romance, Speculative fiction
Publisher Simon & Schuster
Publication date
Media type Print Hardback and Paperback
ISBN 0-689-82186-7
OCLC 39335853
LC Class PZ7.H1164 Ou 1999

Just Ella is a novel written by Margaret Peterson Haddix and published in 1999 by Simon & Schuster. The story is a retelling of Cinderella with a feminist twist and a different version of the happily-ever-after ending. The plot revolves around Ella, a beautiful girl struggling to find the true meaning of happiness. A companion novel, Palace of Mirrors, was released in 2008.


Fifteen-year-old Ella Brown of Fridesia is forced into servitude to her stepmother, Lucille, and stepsisters, Corimunde and Griselda, after her father dies. She manages to attend the royal ball by wearing her mother's wedding dress and glass slippers she won in a wager. Although Prince Charming was enamored, Ella ran from the ball at midnight, dropping a slipper. The prince finally found her through the shoe fitting. Now she is living at the palace being prepared for the wedding and life as a princess.

For the most part, she finds life at the palace to be dull and laments the fact that noble women have virtually no power whatsoever. She despises Madame Bisset, who is in charge of her training, but makes friends with Mary, a 10- or 11-year-old servant girl, and Jed Reston, who is standing in for his father (who had a stroke) as her history teacher. Jed treats her like a normal person. However, they have a falling out when she thinks that he is using her to try and realize his dream of a camp for refugees of the Sualan war.

Increasingly dissatisfied with her life at the palace, she brings up the possibility of breaking the engagement. When she does not back down from her request, she is thrown in the dungeon in an attempt to change her mind. Instead, she digs her way out through the hole that is used as a toilet and makes her way to Jed's refugee camp trying to travel incognito, now a reality. Jed then proposes to her, but she tells him to wait six months, so that she has time to sort things out, and ask again. She works at the camp as a doctor and then camp leader when Jed's father dies and Jed has to return to the castle. He writes from the palace saying that right after her escape the prince's people went straight to Lucille's house and took Corimunde to marry the prince. He also mentions that he does not want his father's position and may escape like she did. The book ends with Ella wondering about her future and the true meaning of beauty.


  • Ella Brown (also called Princess Cynthiana Eleanora or Cinders-Ella) - 15-year-old protagonist of the story. She is a form of Peronella. Ella is described as being very beautiful, free-spirited, witty, and smart.
  • Jed Reston - The son of Lord Reston, and next in line to become the official castle priest. He first appears when taking over Ella's history lesson after his father has a stroke. Jed is very philosophical and often ponders life. He also falls in love with Ella. Like the Prince, he finds Ella very beautiful, but he can see her humor, courage, intelligence, and perseverance.
  • Mary - 10- or 11-year-old castle servant. Mary ran for help when Lord Reston fell ill during Ella’s history lesson. She and Ella become good friends and Mary assists Ella in escaping the castle. Also, Mary is a very loyal friend who always tells Ella the truth, except when she is asked about the death of her father. Mary states that he was killed in a tournament, but in reality he was beheaded for having an affair with the queen. Mary is somewhat insecure, as she feels that she is not pretty.
  • Prince Charming - Handsome, selfish prince of Fridesia. Ella is chosen as his wife because of her beauty. When Ella falls out of love with him, he acts violently toward her. At the end of the book he is married to Ella’s stepsister, Corimunde.
  • Lucille - Ella’s selfish, cruel, and demeaning stepmother. She tricks Ella's father into thinking she loves his hobby; books. However, her true nature is revealed after their marriage, which breaks his heart. After Ella’s father dies, she immediately becomes hostile toward Ella and makes Ella her personal slave. When Ella is proposed to by the prince, Lucille tries unsuccessfully to flatter her. She has two daughters, Corimunde (who later marries the Prince) and Griselda. Both girls are exact versions of Lucille, only much heavier and not clever or sly at all. If Ella does something wrong she is sent to bed without dinner by Lucille.
  • Ella's Father - Ella's father. He taught Ella to read and he himself is a huge fan of books. He travels to many places to find various types of books. Ella's father was killed before the book started by trying to cross the Sualan border for books and was mistaken for a spy.
  • Madame Bisset - Madame Bisset tries to train Ella to become an elegant princess. Madame Bisset struggles training Ella because Ella has no respect for her.

Companion book[edit]

Palace of Mirrors, also authored by Margaret Peterson Haddix, was published in 2008 by Simon & Schuster as a companion book to Just Ella."Library of Congress". Retrieved 2010-01-21. "School Library Journal". Retrieved 2010-01-21. 

The plot revolves around Cecelia, a girl who believes she is the true princess of Suala, and her quest to claim the throne. However, Cecelia discovers that the pretender princess Desmia is only one of many - Cecelia, Desmia, and eleven other girls were raised individually by royal knights who all believed they were protecting the "true princess" in secret. In truth, after the king died, the queen had adopted thirteen orphaned girls after her own daughter was a stillborn. The girls were separated shortly before the queen's death, entrusted to the royal knights. Desmia's guardian learned the truth early on and placed Desmia on the throne while holding power for himself; he turned on his former comrades when Cecelia and the other girls attempted to claim the throne. Once the conspiracy is exposed, the thirteen girls rule Suala together, each focusing on her specialty. Ella makes a brief appearance in the book as she accompanies Jed to peace talks between Suala and Fridesia.


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