Posted by: Kelley | October 2, 2011

Fairest – Gail Carson Levine

Fairest is a (very, very loose) retelling of Snow White. In fact, it’s so incredibly loosely based on Snow White that I kept forgetting what fairytale it’s supposed to be about. Our heroine is Aza, and she’s the adopted daughter of innkeepers. She was left in their inn when she was a baby, they raised her as a daughter, blah blah.

Now here’s a sort of interesting thing about Fairest: Aza is ugly. That’s quite a departure from other fairy tales, right? …Except that you know from the moment you find out she’s ugly that she’s not going to be ugly at the end of the book. Really, the ugly thing got pretty tedious, cause Aza was always whining about it. Of course Aza has a special skill though – she’s the best singer in the world – and she learns early on how to throw her voice (she calls it illusing). The voice throwing (an impossible skill for humans to perform, apparently?) is the basis for the kinda contrived conflict that comes later. There’s  also a queen who is jealous of anyone prettier than herself, and yet another poorly-written prince whose only real asset seems to be that he’s a prince. Yawn.

A weird thing is the whole singing aspect. The story takes place in Ayortha, which is next to whatever country Ella was from, and Ayorthaians sing everything, in a way that reads like very bad poetry. They run around having composing contests, singing to heal people, and singing randomly in normal conversation. It is weird and unnecessary.

The only things that I noticed that had anything to do with Snow White were the fact that the heroine had very black hair, very white skin, and very red lips (these were also the reasons she was ugly, BTW), and also a mirror that talked was mentioned a few times. Oh, and she did at one point get fed a poison apple, too, but that was so unimportant to the story that I almost missed it. Oh, and there are no dwarves whatsoever.

Despite all of my complaints, I like the way this author writes, and this was a quick, fun, lighthearted read. Retellings of famous stories fascinate me but sadly this wasn’t quite as good as Ella Enchanted.

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Responses

  1. Hmmm, it doesn’t really fit for her to be a singer, does it? Still, Snow White really had no backstory or occupation, so maybe the voice-throwing/singing thing MIGHT have actually been an interesting diversion, but it doesn’t sound like it came across that way. I don’t think I’d want to read very bad poetry as dialogue, but something in your post has me intrigued.

    So, why might the queen might be jealous of an UGLY girl? Did she have to have black hair and white skin and be UGLY? How insulting! Heh..maybe that’s why her original parents abandoned her…Aw, how sad, now I’m glad she’s got an adoptive family who loves her…See what your post did…it got me going all kinds of crazy somewheres in my head!

    I have both Ella and Fairest on my bookshelf, but haven’t tried either of them yet. Maybe I will soon because now I kinda want to. Would you recommend them? And isn’t there a third one in this not-series? One more question, were the dwarves original to the story or added by Disney? Because if they were in the original Grimm or whatever, I agree with you that it seems weird to leave them out.

    (Also, because I just KNOW you were wondering, Gail Carson Levine is a former NaNoWriMo inspirational pep talk leader-type person. Other popular YA authors have been too…like John Green, Katherine Paterson, Meg Cabot, Maureen Johnson, and Tamora Pierce.)

    Oh, and since you like these types of fairytale retellings, I’ve heard really good things about Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley…who was also, well, you know. I have it on my shelf too, I think, if you want to borrow it.

    • Whoah, that’s a lot to get through! Wiki says that the dwarves were part of the Grimm story, so I dunno wtf.

      You should read them both! Kinda childish, and not exactly stellar literature, but I enjoyed them a lot, I think. And there are 2 other books set in the same world as Ella, but they’re not famous fairy tales, they’re made-up ones. Looks like she has remade other real fairy tales though, set in other worlds. I will only agree to discuss National Novel Writing Month with you if we can call it NNWM. I want to read the Spindle’s End!!!!

      • Ahem…ok. NNWM is not nearly as catchy as NaNoWriMo, but since no one else will talk to me about it, we’ll go with your weird, unpronounceable, all-consonant acronym.

        But…I think I might be over it. Having too much fun reading, and blogging, and …tweeting. And, I’m not inspired and have no actual ideas for a novel anyway. Tweeting??? Is that what you call it?

      • yes, Martha.

        Don’t give up though, I’m just teasing you about it.

        Although it does hurt my brain to see NaNoWriMo.

  2. Ok, I sound like a raving, rabid, ravenous lunatic in my uber-long response. I just feel like that when I talk about books and I wanted to chat about it!

    • this blog is the answer.


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