Xing Xing is a potter's daughter who lives in a cave with her stepmother and sister. She helps care for her sister whose feet are being bound. When all of their money is spent, desperation seizes her stepmother as she races to find a husband for her daughter. She involves Xing Xing in her various plots by using her to try to get ahead. They receive important news that the Emperor will be at the cave festival, and the stepmother realizes this is her chance to get a very wealthy husband for her daughter. If Xing Xing wants to attend the festival she must do it in a way her stepmother will not find out. She will try to prove that she is not the worthless lazy one that her stepmother keeps saying she is.
It was interesting to read a retelling of some of the earlier written accounts of the Cinderella tale. Napoli sets her retelling of the Chinese tales in the Ming era, and incorporates elements of several different traditional Chinese Cinderella tales into her version of the story. It is a nice blend of tales and history presented in a decent retelling of these tales.
This was not my favorite book by Napoli, but I did like comparing elements of this tale to other versions of Cinderella I have read. The characters in this book were the stereotypical Cinderella characters, and I do not think that anything new was added to the understanding of them. Typically, Napoli develops her characters more, and will often provide new insight into the traditional fairy tale characters.
People who like retellings of fairy tales or the Cinderella tale will enjoy this book.