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Fairest
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on April 20, 2018
My husband and I have been reading aloud to our 12 year old daughter since she was an infant. This was, hands down, the worst book ever! Ella Enchanted was rather cute. This was just painful from page one to the pathetic ending where the main character finally switched from self-loathing to self-respect based on the fact a prince asked her to marry him. Ugh! Really? The fact that half of the book is written in song format only adds to the awfulness of the experience. The author is no song writer. I can’t understand what anyone finds remotely appealing about this sadly written recreation of a fairytale. If you want to teach the lesson to your female child that they will see themselves as lovely and dignified only after Prince Charming comes along, this is your book. Also, if you like books where there are huge holes in the story line, this is written just for you.
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on May 6, 2013
I enjoyed this book so much! The characters and settings were well-drawn and memorable. At its peak moments, it reminded me of the best of Ursula LeGuin, with insight into the habits of thought of several different cultures.

And yet ...

The pacing of the story was quite uneven. Some sections were fascinating because the author gave them enough space to include descriptive details. Others - the castle library episode, the discovery of the magic mirror, the whole story of the Fairy Lucinda (who didn't seem to belong to this book at all) were sketchy and rushed. I felt as if I was reading the "theatrical version" and would rather have read the "extended version." (Fans of the "Lord of the Rings" movies will know what I mean.)

The story was marred by the inclusion of elements of "Snow White" that just didn't fit into the interesting world the author created. Reading the early draft packaged at the end of the book, I realized that the author had begun "Fairest" with a different slant and couldn't bring herself to discard some elements that had once been central to it. Maybe the author and her editor were too close to the story to realize that the whole Fairy Lucinda element had almost entirely disappeared in successive edits -- until suddenly at the end of the book, it was terribly important.

So I give this book one four and a half points "to be exact" (as one wonderful character would say) -- rounded up to five, and I know I will read it again.
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on December 13, 2013
I listened to the full cast audio book. I will be honest in saying that I spaced out during lots of the singing. The singers were very dramatic and sometimes difficult to understand. Besides that, I absolutely loved the book!

I loved the way prince Igori fell in love with Asa for the right reasons and in spite of her appearance. I also liked the way Asa didn't suddenly love herself completely once Igori confessed his feelings. She knew it would take some time for her to accept herself, but she was willing to try, and that seemed like a realistic response from her.

This is my second Gail Carson Levine book that I've listened to and I really like her work. Her books are clean and have a good message tucked inside. They are especially good for young girls, ages 9 and up.

BONUS: If you buy the Kindle version, you can get the Audible version for $1.49.
One person found this helpful
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on October 10, 2012
This retelling of Snow White is much more interesting than the original.
It's characters are "fleshed out" wonderfully and the setting is not some afterthought or cardboard cut out scenery but one truely having it's own character, supporting the characters & giving them bouancy.
I love that no one is presented as having been born either good or evil,but that the choices the characters make form what they become...and while humanity and forgiveness are not the norm in the fairy tales of old,
G.C. Levine's stories are delicately sprinkled with them, leading us to remember not to be too judgemental as we all are victums of our own bad choices. It's how we deal with our choices that determines whether
our story will be a success or a cautionary tale to others!
I must thank G.C. Levine for reminding all your female readers that lovely isn't what you see in the mirror, it's who you are as a person. Yes, bless you, character and integrity do matter, but they are not always easily developed <which is why many people do not posess them>.
Beauty is forged in the fire of the trials of life ;)
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on January 5, 2016
I love this book. It has a good message and a interesting heroine. It is great to see a story about someone who is not considered the beauty at the ball and who is dealing with body hate from others as well as themselves. I struggled with this issue myself when I was growing up and so I really connected to the main character. This book tell you that, even if you aren't considered beautiful or handsome, people will still love you and you can still get your chance at happily ever after. It also shows that you have to accept yourself as what you are and work with what you got. Take me for example. I may not ever be a supermodel but I have some great feature so I learned to show those off rather than the ones I don't like.
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on December 8, 2016
I love Gail Carson Levine. I fell in love with Ella Enchanted, but when I read Fairest I felt a deep connection to the story. As a singer and as a girl who has struggled with self esteem, this is the perfect book to remind myself that often I am my own worst critic.

Beauty comes from within, and things are not always what they seem. If you're looking for a love story that's far more satisfying than the normal fairytale sort, you've found it. But Aza's story isn't just one of love. It's one of self-discovery and acceptance.

This is the book to buy for your young daughters entering middle and high school and feeling all the insecurity that comes with the struggle for popularity and being well-liked. Aza can teach them how to learn to love themselves. Thank you, Gail!
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VINE VOICEon September 6, 2008
I remember the first time I ever read "Ella Enchanted". I thought "This is the greatest book I've ever read and Gail Carson Levine will never top it". In fact, I began reading "Fairest" with lowered expectations--that were quickly shattered by a story that may in some ways be better than "Ella Enchanted".

The story is loosely based on the tale of Snow White. The heroine Aza has all of the features of Snow White--black (actually htun) hair, white skin, red lips--while never actually possessing the famed beauty. I saw Robin McKinly do a similar thing with Sleeping Beauty in "Spindle's End" and I think it's a great tongue-in-cheek commentary on fairy tale beauty. However, Aza does have a marvelous singing voice and a special skill in throwing that voice.

I became more and more captivated as the story progresses. Levine has grown stronger in her writing, and this is the finest prose I have sing from her. Her characters are deeper and darker, while still possessing those irrisistable quirks. Aza is instantaneously likeable, even though she did annoy me at times with her prattling--which is ironically why she was so three-dimensional. The country and culture of Ayortha is richly done, and I enjoyed the sly references to Ella's story. Most of all, Levine has taken one of my favorite fairy tales and disected it to its very heart and theme.

I adored "Fairest". I fully believe it is the finest thing Levine has yet done.
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VINE VOICEon September 17, 2007
I'm 30 years-old and loved this book. A wonderful version of Snow White complete with Levine's own personal style and touches. Levine writes so fluidly and gives so much humor to her heroines. I love how everything in her "make-believe world" still makes sense even though it isn't like our world. It's not hard to follow without Levine having to "talk down" to her readers. I loved that this book took place in the same world as Ella Enchanted!

Why only 4 stars? Although I really liked Aza and her character development, I was a bit disappointed in the development of the Prince. We never really got to know him. The relationship between Aza and the Prince never seemed to evolve, it just happened--Nothing like Ella and Prince Charmont. I just didn't fall in love with him, myself, like I did with Prince Charmont.

Other than that, I completely loved it. I've already lent it out to friends and family telling them, "you have to read this!"
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on December 18, 2012
Fairest is a book with an "ugly" heroine in a land where beauty and vocal prowess are the two most important things a girl can have. Although Aza (the protagonist) possess amazing musical ability, she is an outsider because of her looks.

This book was amazing to me because Aza wasn't "beautiful." She lives in a world where beauty leads to love and acceptance and ugliness leads to being ostracized and pitied. Her struggles with her desire for beauty mirror those of women and girls today.

As an "ugly" person, this book was especially touching to me. I've never really believed that love and confidence could exist for someone like me because there wasn't really anyone too look to as an example of inner beauty winning out over outer beauty (i.e. even "ugly" people in movies/books tend to turn into something physically beautiful by the end of the story, e.g. the ugly duckling, the princess diaries). Aza is a character I can look up to even though I am no longer a child. This story helps give me hope, I wish I'd had this book as a child.
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on November 4, 2015
Ella Enchanted was my favorite when I was a girl. I recently bought it and this for my daughter to read someday. Although nothing can quite capture the 'magic' of the former this book is a delightful read with an interesting story loosely based on Snow White. The fantasy created by Levine in Ayorthya is rich in customs that are amusing and Lady Aza is an interesting heroine who's special talent for signing allows her to save the kingdom and win a prince's heart. It also makes a bit of a social point, that pursuit of beauty can be extremely harmful.
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