Book Review : Fairest by Gail Carson Levine
Aza was abandoned as an infant at the Featherbed Inn and adopted by the owners. Though Aza is kind, generous and a great singer with a unique talent, she is shunned by others because of her appearance. Her black hair, bright red lips, pale skin and giant physique have caused Aza to withdraw from society, their stares and cruel comments. In Ayorthaia they prize beauty and sing for every occasion.
The Duchess of Olixo’s traveling companion falls ill and decides to take Aza as her companion to the wedding of the King. While staying at the castle Aza becomes embroiled in politics when her singing is overheard by the new queen, who chooses to make Aza into her lady-in-waiting. Aza becomes friends with the Prince, Ijori, is hated for her association with Queen Ivi, imprisoned, escapes and that is just the beginning of life at court.
Adult Point of View
Fairest is written in the same lighthearted, fun-loving style of Ella Enchanted. In this telling of the fairy tale of Snow White the queen is more shallow than wicked, the prince is charming with his overly large ears, the dwarfs are gnomes and the maiden with dark hair and red lips doesn’t even like apples. There are many charming details and it is set in the same world as Ella Enchanted. References include the Kyrrian merchant, Sir Peter, the persuasive powers of ogres, the Fairy Lucinda’s harmful wedding gift (the magic mirror) and Aza’s sister, Areida, is the friend of Ella.
There are a few weak points in the story. I am rather annoyed with novels that describe the protagonist as ugly. It feels like authors are capitalizing on girl’s fears that they will never be beautiful compared to others. All of Aza’s insecurities are derived from her appearance, but I was tired of hearing how unbecoming the young girl felt. (Her life is even spared when she has become beautiful from a magic potion, because he admires her appearance.) In the end she came to accept her appearance and her husband, Ijori adored her. Next, though Ijori really was charming, he was also weak willed to not immediately know that Queen Ivi was lying. Finally, the entire premise that the kingdom was the importance of singing in their lives, but it seemed silly that everyone is singing all of the time, over mundane matters to grand occasions.
I found Fairest to be enjoyable and appropriate for 10 years old and up.
3 out of 5 stars
– the Mother
The Teen read the description of the novel and put it down as she commented, “It looks like another one of THOSE books that says the heroine isn’t pretty and then they put a pretty girl on the front!” Then she started laughing. She was not interested in reviewing this particular novel.