by Gail Carson Levine
Target Audience: Middle Grade/YA
Summary: In the kingdom of Ayortha, who is the fairest of them all? Certainly not Aza. She is thoroughly convinced that she is ugly. What she may lack in looks, though, she makes up for with a kind heart, and with something no one else has-a magical voice. Her vocal talents captivate all who hear them, and in Ontio Castle they attract the attention of a handsome prince - and a dangerous new queen.
Type of Adaptation: Retelling
So, we haven’t yet talked about Gail Carson Levine’s utterly masterful Ella Enchanted
, which is really one of the reasons I read fairy tale adaptations at all, because we haven’t gotten to Cinderella yet. It’s coming. I promise. But we’re not there yet.
But this book came later, a companion novel with two crossover characters set in a different country in the same universe, and man was I excited when this book came out. And rereading it was delightful, going back and visiting one of these fairy tale worlds that I love so dearly. And if anyone can improve the fairy tale of Snow White, it’s Gail Carson Levine.
Because here’s what I love about how Levine approaches fairy tales. She takes a common glaring issue of the original story and works it into her narrative. For Cinderella, it’s the question of why Cinderella never tried to defy her stepmother. For Snow White, though, it’s the point that if a girl actually had white skin, black hair, and blood red lips, she’d look pretty hideous, actually.( full review behind the cutCollapse )
I love the way in which the narrative is spun a little differently here, but with all the necessary elements still worked in. Let’s to the checklist.
Make Snow White less of a mindless ninny? Yes, but what I love is that Aza is still noticeably flawed. She longs for beauty, obsesses over it, and it’s not until nearly the end of the novel that she realizes that she has been as vocal a critic about her appearance as anyone else, and that her pursuit of beauty is what caused many of the problems she faced. She’s smart and clever and we like her, but she is still very flawed, which is as it should be because it gave her somewhere to go.
Strengthen the Queen’s motivation? Yes. I love that this Queen isn’t inherently evil. She’s just young and scared and silly, and another villain is feeding off of that and using her. She goes after Aza yes because she’s prettier, but also because she knows the secret, and that puts Ivi in danger. It’s beautifully intricate.
Understand how poison and murder work? Eh, okay. See, again, like in the original, I’m confused about how this went down – was the apple poisoned, enchanted, or did it just get caught in her throat? I really don’t know, and it’s the one part of the novel I wish had been done better. If your windpipe is blocked, then it’s blocked and you suffocate. If it’s only mostly blocked, you don’t lie in a coma for three days. But if it’s poison or an enchantment, then why did it disappear after the apple was dislodged? I am confused about the apple, is my point, which means, sadly, no check.
Fill in the background? I love this world of Levine’s. I love it in Ella Enchanted
, and I love it here. Her range of species is so diverse and well-drawn, and the traditions based around song? Lovely. But my favorite part about this novel? That we don’t
discover who Aza is in the end. Remember, she wasn’t the innkeeper’s biological daughter. Someone left her in that room. But we never find out who. She’s never revealed to be a secret princess or the illegitimate daughter of nobility or anything like that. We’re left not knowing. And I love it.
Beautifully rendered, and lovely to reread.