From School Library Journal
Grade 6 Up–In a world in which elegance, beauty, and singing ability are revered, Aza is bulky, awkward, and homely. Her saving grace is that she can sing and has a gift of voice manipulation that she calls illusing. Through a chance meeting at her familys inn, a duchess invites Aza to act as her companion and accompany her to the palace to attend the kings wedding. When the beautiful new queen discovers Azas gift for throwing her voice and for mimicry, she sees a way of protecting her reputation and disguising her own lack of talent. Pressured by the womans threats upon her family, Aza deceives the court into believing that Ivi is a gifted singer. When the ruse is discovered, Aza is forced to flee the castle in order to save her life. Through her adventures, she discovers her own strength of character, learns about her true heritage, and decides that her physical appearance is not worthy of the stress and worry she has wasted on it. The plot is fast-paced, and Azas growth and maturity are well crafted and believable. Readers will enjoy the fairy-tale setting while identifying with the real-life problems of living in an appearance-obsessed society. A distinguished addition to any collection.–Melissa Christy Buron, Epps Island Elementary, Houston, TX
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*Starred Review* Gr. 7-10. Larger than most humans in Ayortha, 15-year-old Aza feels like "an ugly ox . . . a blemish." But in a kingdom devoted to song, Aza's voice is more beautiful and powerful than most; she can mimic any voice and throw the sound. At the king's wedding, Aza is blackmailed by the new queen, a poor singer, into a Cyrano de Bergerac arrangement: when the queen sings in public, Aza secretly provides the sound. As the queen's treachery deepens, Aza is astonished when the handsome prince initiates a friendship. In subtle details, Levine slowly reveals that the roots of the richly imagined story are cleverly tangled in the fairy tale "Sleeping Beauty." The telling, in Aza's voice, is sophisticated, and readers may initially feel like foreign travelers who lack cultural context. But once connections become clear, they'll sink into the fairy-tale romance, the remarkable characters, and the wild, magical adventures. They will also recognize the questions about self-image and moral choices and experience the vicarious, heart-pounding thrill when Aza discovers love and confidence: "I strode away, feeling a thousand feet tall, and glad to be for the first time in my life. Kisses were better than potions." For a slightly older audience than Levine's Ella Enchanted
(1997), this book makes a natural partner to Donna Jo Napoli's fractured fairy-tale novels, such as Beast
(2000). Gillian EngbergCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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