- Age Range: 10 and up
- Grade Level: 5 and up
- Audio CD: 1 pages
- Publisher: Full Cast Audio; 1 edition (November 1, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1934180084
- ISBN-13: 978-1934180082
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 5.2 x 0.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (222 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #941,015 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Fairest Audio CD – Audiobook, CD
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From School Library Journal
Grade 6 Up— In Gail Carson Levine's adventure fantasy (HarperCollins, 2006), Aza, the large, unattractive daughter of an inn keeper, gets the opportunity to go to the castle and witness the king's marriage to a beautiful, princess. While considered so ugly that she holds her hand in front of her face so that others will not see her, Aza has a perfect voice, truly an asset in this kingdom where music is considered the finest form of communication. The new queen has no singing talent, and convinces the girl, who can throw her voice, to help her deceive the court. When the ruse is discovered, Aza must flee. Through a series of adventures, Aza realizes that looks are not important and finds romance. Viewers are transported to a magical land of ogres, gnomes, and lyrical kingdoms. The performance by Sarah Naughton and a full cast is excellent. Listeners will be dazzled by this entertaining production.—Jeana Actkinson, Bridgeport, Bridgeport High School, TX
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
*Starred Review* In the Kingdom of Ayortha, where fine singing is the main method of communication, 15-year-old Aza is blessed with a beautiful singing voice. However, she believes she is ugly. This is an imaginative and altered Snow White story, complete with a jealous queen, handsome prince, and clever and kind gnomes. Aza is able to mimic voices and throw sound, and so she is coerced to throw her voice at the wedding of Ivi, who plots to overthrow the kingdom. A huge cast voices more than 20 characters, who speak and sing music composed by Todd Hobin. The magnificent performers employ different vocal registers and accents. Sarah Naughton plays the part of Aza with versatility and ease, and Alice Morigi is appropriately haughty as the Duchess of Olixo. Occasional touches of humor (the cook’s “Omelette Song” and Ivi’s high-pitched rendition of “Healing Song”) contrast with more serious moments, such as the sweet love song of Prince Ijori (played by Adam Wahlberg). Speaking and singing weave in and out of the production; solos, duets, and choruses comprise many musical numbers, which range from simple lute arrangements to a majestic liturgical church service. This outstanding audio—a magical fairy tale romance—will capture listeners’ hearts. Grades 7-10. --Lolly Gepson --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
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
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. In a world where "thin is in" and looks count, this is a super way to reinforce the importance of valuing the individual. Everyone has something special to offer, as long as we're willing to get to know them.
Reviewed by Christina Wantz Fixemer
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). Aza's task lies in clearing her name, securing the safety of the kingdom, and being reunited with her love Prince Ijori.
The book is clearly meant to provide commentary on our appearance-obsessed society, but unfortunately it's not handled particularly well. It spends more time on how Aza simply wants to be pretty, rather than the pain of the hurtful comments that are directed at her and the psychological effect such things have on a young mind. There's a difference between being self-conscious about one's looks and excessive *worrying* about one's looks (generally described as "vanity.") Aza falls into the latter category, as she's constantly looking into mirrors to check her reflection, worrying about her clothing, and has formed the habit of putting her hand over her face so that people can't see her. Wouldn't this just attract more attention to herself? (The moral is also somewhat undermined when she is spared by the "huntsman" ordered to kill her because he finds her so beautiful (thanks to a magic potion she took earlier). So...beauty really *is* important. Without it, she'd be dead).
The importance placed on beauty in Ayortha also creates problems further on in the story. We're supposed to be concerned when Ivi is takes over the palace and begins to meddle with the way things are run, but we're never really given a reason to care about the wellbeing of Ayortha. Apparently it's full of people who ostracize Aza just because she doesn't fit into the social norms, as according to her: "As bad as the ones who stared were the ones who looked away in embarrassment. Some guests didn't want me to serve their food, and some didn't want me to clean their rooms." If this is the way Aythorians treat "ugly" children, then their kingdom can get invaded by Huns and burnt to the ground for all I care.
Perhaps it's unfair to hold up "Fairest" again "Ella Enchanted," but really, the comparison is inevitable when one considers the differences between the two heroines. Ella burst off the page with liveliness, good humor and zest for adventure, whereas Aza is significantly more sedate and less confident. Nothing wrong with that of course, but Aza turns out to be one of those girls that will just Not. Stop. Crying. She cries when she's happy. She cries when she's sad. She cries when she's embarrassed, or frightened, or nervous. At a crucial point of the story, when she should be (and when her counterpart Ella certainly *would* be) looking around for weapons or an escape, she simply sits and cries some more. I'm afraid I got fed up with her well before her happily ever after rolls around (did she cry for that too?)
There is plenty of fun to be had considering that "Fairest" is set in the same universe as "Ella", and as such there are several references to the earlier book. Aza is the little sister of Areida, who was Ella's best friend at finishing school, and there are mentions of Ella, her father Sir Peter, and Lucinda the fairy (who is behind most of the trouble in this book too!) But unlike the previous book, which shed light on several fantasy idioms and poked gentle fun at the clichés of a fairytale realm, there are several awkward or unwieldy plot devices here that come across as unintentionally funny.
For instance, Ayorthia is a singing kingdom, which means that its people "sing" their declarations of love to each other, get together for communal sing-a-longs, and even (as in Aza's case) sing when they're in mortal peril. Sure, it's all in keeping with their culture, but on trying to picture it in your mind, it just seems silly. In another example, King Oscaro is hit on the head with an iron ring and for some reason looses the ability to speak (I'm guessing he's concussed, but wouldn't it have just been easier to say he'd had a stroke?) and later Aza bites into the infamous apple, chokes on her mouthful and...goes into a coma? Say what? The book is full of awkward, strange plot contrivances like these (such as Aza trying to squeeze through a window instead of looking for a door, Aza "grinning" at a man who's just tried to kill her, and a kiss/declaration of love that is abruptly cut short by the couple simply walking away from each other for no apparent reason) that grate on the imagination and make it difficult to really "believe" in what's going on.
Perhaps I'm being too harsh. Like all of Levine's books, "Fairest" is told in a bright, breezy, imminently readable tone and is certainly entertaining while it lasts. Despite her cry-baby tendencies, Aza's first-person account of her life is sincere and sympathetic, and the world that Levine has created for her characters is just as colourful and charming as it was in "Ella." Had I been able to use half-stars in these reviews, I would have put "Fairest" at two and a half stars, but since I can't, I scaled it back to two simply because I know Levine can do better than this. I adored "Ella Enchanted," and recommend it to anyone who cares to listen to me, but this follow-up book pales in comparison. Aza is a bit too dim-witted for her own good, and the reason I haven't mentioned much about her romance with Prince Ijari is simply because there isn't all that much to say. I laughed and cried alongside Ella, but all I wanted to do here was hand Aza a tissue and tell her to stop her endless moping.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I think most of my disappointment in this book was because it wasn't as good as Ella Enchanted. Aza wasn't as likable.Read more