Gail Carson Levine's Fairest will keep you hooked from beginning to end. Like Ella Enchanted, this book is based on a fairy tale - "Snow White," in this case - and the author demonstrates an uncanny ability to stay true to the original story while introducing new and unexpected elements to make it completely unique and original. Aza, the novel's heroine, is refreshingly imperfect - she's deeply self-concious due to the fact that she's considered ugly by other people, which should resonate well with girls who feel out-of-place and awkward. The antagonist, Ivi, is not the evil queen we would expect, but demonstrates a range of emotions and ability for generosity that breaks the one-dimensional villainess convention, which causes Aza to question whether or not they are really all that different. Overall, Fairest is an excellent retelling full of excitment, humor, romance, and lessons that will leave readers deeply satisfied.
I was excited to read a novel by Gail Carson Levine; but this book turned out to be less than I was hoping for. It make work out better for young girls, but I seriously doubt young adults or adults will find it all that engaging. On a side note I listened to this as an audio book and that was definitely...well...an experience. They used a full casting for the audio book and all of the songs were sung in all of their full operatic glory. I was riding my bike when I started listening to this book and I almost fell off of it when all the sudden music started pelting out in the middle of my audio book....
Aza thinks that she is ugly; she is too big and has different coloring from other people in the kingdom. Her parents run an inn and love her dearly, but they are not her birth parents (they found her on the steps of their inn as a baby). When Aza accompanies a Duchess to the wedding of their new king she feels drawn to the new Queen. The Queen ends up asking Aza to be her lady-in-waiting and from there Aza gets embroiled in a dangerous plot to help Queen Ivy save face.
This book is supposed to be a retelling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. It has some similarities to that story but more differences. If you think Disney took the grim out of Grimms Fairy Tales well then this book is Disney sugar coated with a cherry on top. There is so much happy ever after it is almost sickeningly sweet. The dire circumstances of the heroine are never really dire at all; the book is completely predictable.
Aza makes an unlikely role model for young girls. Aza (who is wed at 16 years old, I might add) is fifteen going on sixteen but has the mentality of a ten year old. Her obsessiveness with her ugliness is really...well...obsessive. She easily tosses morals aside to be beautiful. At the end she says she can't believe how much she has changed throughout the book; when not a few seconds earlier she was *again* whining about her ugliness. At times the author tries to excuse Aza being ugly because she sings so beautifully. Is it a requirement that everyone do one thing outstandingly wonderful to make them a good person?
All of the characters pretty much have this shallow level of depth. All the characters are type-cast. Not one single character does anything surprising.
Is there good in this book? If you read it knowing what to expect it is an okay book. It was actually what I expected, but not what I was hoping for. It is super cute, and super sugary. I as said it is a Disney film with heaps of sweetness added. That is not all a bad thing. The book ends how you expect and all the characters are just so good that you can't help but smile at times. Of course at other times you want to slap them for being so stupid, but I feel that way about Disney films too.
If you love Disney and you love cutsey and you want to be a princess then this book is for you. I think it will probably find appeal with younger girls who still dream of being a fairy princess. I think anyone over ten years of age will have trouble finding much to love here. This book did not make me eager to read more of Levine's books. Maybe if I am in the mood for more brainless sweetness I will check other out. Instead of reading this I would recommend "Princess Ben" by Catherine Murdock; this is also a sweet fairy tale but with more guts and more interesting characters.
Reviewed by The Story Siren for TeensReadToo.com
In a land where beauty means everything, Aza finds herself lacking in every way possible. Her only redeeming quality is the beauty in her voice. If only her singing reflected what others saw when they looked upon her face. She spends most of her time trying to hide her face from the staring eyes of guests at her parent's inn. Singing is the only beauty Aza finds in herself, and she sings often while she is working.
She discovers that she can "throw" her voice and make it appear as though it came from another place in the room! She tries to teach her family her new trick but no one else is successful.
A Duchess passing through the inn on her way to the King's wedding invites Aza to come along as her maid. While at the castle, the new Queen discovers Aza's talent in "throwing" her voice and insists that Aza stay and become a lady in waiting, so that the Queen can use Aza's voice as her own.
When the King is injured, the young Queen is hungry for power and the kingdom is soon threatened to fall apart, as well as Aza along with it.
I have heard great things about Levine as a writer, so when I had a chance to read FAIREST I jumped at it! And I have to say that I wasn't disappointed! I loved the fairy tale setting and the storytelling quality of Levine's writing.
The plot was fast-paced and Aza's growth within the novel is believable. Aza isn't your typical heroine and that made the story so much more enjoyable. I loved that the book tackled the issue of beauty, which is something that I know I struggle with, as well. I know that I'm looking forward to reading more of Ms. Levine's works in the future!
An excellent book! One I own! I read it prior to allowing my "tween" daughter read it and it is abou 300 pages and I read it in two days! It is an EXTREEMLY well crafted story! My 6th grade "reluctant reader" chose to read this after reading Levine's "Two Princesses of Bamarre" and hopes to read others by Levine.
When we think of fairy tale heroines, we usually imagine a beautiful, graceful young woman. Tall, wide, and pasty, Aza was abandoned at an inn when she was only a few days old. The innkeeper's family adopted her and she has lived and worked with them ever since. The inn's guests are rarely kind with their comments about her looks, but even after 15 years of hearing them, Aza is still uncomfortable with her looks.
However, Aza has a special gift: her voice. She is an amazing singer and secretly masters the art of illusing, or ventriloquism. She journeys to the king's castle to witness the marriage of King Ascaro to Queen Ivi, a foreigner. There, her voice captures Ivi's attention. Ivi is determined to remain the fairest in all the land, and blackmails Aza into becoming her lady-in-waiting so she can illuse over her own weak voice.
Aza is unhappy at the castle, where her only source of happiness is the prince Ijori. Ivi owns a magic handheld mirror named Skulni which can make gazers look beautiful, and Aza is obsessed with becoming beautiful through any means, including spells and potions. When her life is in danger due to Ivi's manic selfishness, Aza flees to Gnome Caverns where she learns the truth about herself and must grow to accept her looks and gain self-confidence.
While it's a retelling of Snow White, Gail Carson Levine makes it clear that the moral is that no one should judge their worth by their looks.