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Fairest Hardcover – September 19, 2006

4.2 out of 5 stars 215 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. 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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From Booklist

*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 Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 590L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 326 pages
  • Publisher: HarperColl; First Edition edition (September 19, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060734086
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060734084
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.9 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (215 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #405,094 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Nancy E. Merrill on September 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Aza ins't just plain; she's plain ugly. In a land where song, grace, and beauty are prized, Aza's large stature, not just in height but also breadth, are deemed appalling and overshadow her amazing abilities in singing. Abandoned at the Featherbed Inn as a newborn, she is lovingly raised by her foster family. But their love can't overcome the low self-esteem Aza develops because of how other people treat her. When an unexpected chance to travel to court for a royal wedding comes, Aza is hesitant but goes to help her family. There, she is "befriended" by the new queen, Ivi, who is selfish and self-absorbed. Soon after the wedding, the king is severely injured and Ivi is claimed ruler in his place. Forcing Aza to use her unusual ability to project her voice for her own gains, the queen quickly becomes a dictator that threatens Aza's honor, her tenuous relationship with Prince Ijori (the king's nephew and heir), and the country in general. Can Aza overcome her own lack of self-assurance to save herself and her land?

Very loosely based on Snow White, _Fairest_ is filled with all of the insightful and humorous writing that made _Ella Enchanted_ so delightful and is sure to quickly become a hit with readers of all ages.

Also recommended: Uglies, Pretties, Specials, Ella Enchanted, the Septemus Heap series, books by Shannon Hale
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Format: Paperback
Just as Gail Carson Levine's award-winning Ella Enchanted tackled the story of Cinderella, giving the story depth and meaning whilst simultaneously treating the reader to one of the best heroines and most realistic romances in all of Young Adult literature, "Fairest" purports to retell the fairytale of Snow White with a few twists.

Aza was abandoned as an infant at the Featherbed Inn and adopted by the innkeeper and his wife. Though loved by her family, Aza is ashamed of her weight and perceived ugliness, particularly since the kingdom of Ayortha is one that prizes beauty and song above all other virtues. Shunned by many of the guests, Aza enjoys solitude and occasionally the company of the gnomes that sometimes stay at the inn, including one that prophesies that in the future they'll meet again underground at a time when Aza will be in grave danger.

A change in the routine of life comes when a noblewoman in need of a lady's maid convinces Aza to attend the marriage of King Oscaro and his young commoner wife Ivi. Through a sequence of events, Aza finds herself in way over her head when she's made lady-in-waiting to the new Queen Ivi, who wants to exploit her talent of throwing her voice (what Aza calls "illusing") in order to make it appear as though she herself is a gifted singer.

What follows is a fairly loose retelling of "Snow White", with several good ideas on adapting fairytale to fit Aza's personal story, including a more sympathetic wicked queen, a unique interpretation of the magic mirror, gnomes in place of the seven dwarfs, and even a funny twist on the poisoned apple (it turns out Aza doesn't like apples all that much).
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Format: Hardcover
Aza is so ugly that she was abandoned as a baby. Fortunately, the innkeepers who found her on their doorstep took her in as their daughter. Teasing and stares aside, she has grown into a beloved member of her family.

Aza's life changes when a special talent catches the new queen's eye. Asked to be the queen's lady-in-waiting, Aza is thrilled--until she learns the price she must pay. Trapped in a deal she dare not break, Aza will face love and danger, and a chance to gain the beauty she always wished she had. In order to find her way, Aza will risk everything she has, and more.

Levine has created a fresh interpretation to the Snow White story. Set in the world of ELLA ENCHANTED, FAIREST introduces us to a young heroine who is forced to rely on her talents and wit where other girls would use their pretty faces. Aza is strong, yet fallible, as she embarks on an adventure beyond anything she ever imagined. Her character is wonderfully realized within Levine's vivid world.

FAIREST provides girls and young women a strong message of self-worth. As they say, beauty is skin (or voice) deep. It is a person's character that counts, and girls are perfectly capable of handling their own problems--or accepting help when they need it. Aza does both in this story. She learns to stand up for herself and what's right, but she also finds out when it's wise to let others help.

As great as this novel is, the ending is wrapped up a little too neat. The villain of the story doesn't seem to get the sort of punishment that they seem to deserve, although this is an issue discussed at one point. Some other loose ends are left dangling at the end of the book, but perhaps this is a lead-in to more modern fairy tales.

I highly recommend this book for girls aged eight and up.
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Format: Hardcover
To begin with, I loved "Ella Enchanted". It was a magical book. So it is with much disappointment that I write this review.

I really wanted to love this book. But I couldn't even stomach it most of the time. First of all, there was the obsession that the main character had with her looks. Every other sentence has something about her being "ugly". Either she's saying it to herself or someone else is saying it about her because it's understood that she's not good looking. The main character, on the other hand, is well known for having a beautiful voice. All the sentences that don't harp on her (bad) looks go into detail about her beautiful voice. (It makes one wonder what would happen to a character in that world who - HORRORS - doesn't have a beautiful voice or a great face.)

The Prince Charming of the book is also quite unlikable. Well, the reader is supposed to like him, but I found it difficult to like a hero who so readily turns his back on his 'beloved' - even when it means she will be imprisoned. And, then, when he sends her a letter asking her to forgive him, the heroine does it so easily that it's almost offensive to the reader that we're expected to just go along with it. I couldn't help but think that Ella of Frell would have kicked his rear end.

When I wasn't annoyed and turned off by the horrible characters, I was irritated by the inclusion of a song every two seconds. And they weren't even GOOD songs. So, I found myself skimming through most of the songs and that accounts for - at least - 50% of the book.

In short: If you must read, please get it from a library. I actually bought mine from a used bookstore at half off and I regret even spending that much.
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