Genre: Fantasy, Adventure, Fiction
Book Jacket Synopsis: “Once upon a time, there was a girl who wanted to be pretty. Aza’s singing is the fairest in all the land, and the most unusual. She can “throw” her voice so it seems to come from anywhere. But singing is only one of the two qualities prized in the Kingdom of Ayortha. Aza doesn’t possess the other: beauty. Not even 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.”
Review: I wanted to love Fairest. Truly, I did. I will forever owe Gail Carson Levine for blessing the world with Ella Enchanted, which is definitely on my top-ten list of all-time favorite books. Given that Publishers Weekly heralded Fairest as “an alluring companion novel that some readers may argue even surpasses Ella Enchanted,” I had very high expectations for this book. Unfortunately, Fairest lacked many of the literary facets that allowed Ella Enchanted to become one of my favorite books. For example, while both books take place in the same world, Levine does a much better job of setting the scenery and immersing the reader in Ayorthian customs and cultures in Ella Enchanted. Additionally, the relationship between Aza and Prince Ijori progresses at an almost improbable rate in Fairest. The characters as a whole felt rather one dimensional and Aza is not as likeable of a heroine as Ella was. While I did sway between a one-star and two-star rating for Fairest, I ultimately went with one star because I did not want to finish the book. Perhaps I would not be so harshly critiquing this book if it weren’t for Levine’s proven ability to write an outstanding novel of this scope with Ella Enchanted. All in all, I think most Ella Enchanted lovers will be very disappointed in Fairest. Even as a standalone novel, it isn’t up to par with other similar fantasy works.