Gail Carson Levine
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Genre: Fairytale, Fantasy
Aza's singing is the fairest in all the land, and the most unusual. She can "throw" her voice so it seems to come fro anywhere. But singing is only one of the two qualities prized in the
. Aza doesn't possess the other: beauty. Not een close. She's hidden in the shadows in her parents' inn, but when she becomes lady-in-waiting to the new queen, she has to step into the light—especially when the queen demands a dangerous favor. A magic mirror, a charming prince, a jealous queen, palace intrigue and an injured king twine into a maze that Aza must penetrate to save herself and her beloved kingdom. Kingdomof Ayortha
Fairest is the companion novel to Levine's Ella Enchanted. It takes place in Areida's home country of Ayortha and stars her older sister. It is loosely based off of Snow White and strongly addresses the issue of beauty and feeling ugly.
This is one of those books that I'd give to my child without fail for the moral hidden within: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it really shouldn't be the most important things. Aza is considered ugly for a human, but to gnomes she is considered prettier than most humans. Her family could care less what she looks like because they love her all the same and are proud to call her daughter even if she is not their family member by blood.
Though the book is not as immersive and enchanting as Ella Enchanted (that's a hard book to follow by anything), the characters and theme of music and beauty in this book is magical in its own right. Not comparing it to Ella Enchanted this book is amazing. It is the most original adaptation of Snow White that I have read, and the singing in it had me singing out my conversations for hours afterwards (much to my family's chagrin).
I find it highly amusing that once again Lucinda is the unwitting villain as she is the one who gives out the magic mirror that causes all the problems. I also remember when I first read this book I was almost just as convinced as Ava that she was part ogress, so when I realized DUH SHE IS PART GNOME I was truly happy for her.
I also love the fact that the idea of illusing was created and put into use, I especially loved how Aza used it in her final song, it helped to wrap up the rest of the novel by bringing together memorable lines from characters throughout the novel.
The fact Ijori always found her beautiful is very important to me as well, in his mind there was never anything wrong with Aza and that's a very important lesson for both Aza and us as the readers.
I recommend this to those who loved Ella Enchanted and wanted to learn more about Ayortha that Prince Char had experienced and Areida had come from. I also recommend this for anyone looking for an original twist on fairytales, as Fairest's twist is very unique. It is also best enjoyable by not comparing it to Ella Enchanted all the time. (You also don't need to read Ella Enchanted to enjoy this book as there is very little overlap).