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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.