by: Gail Carson Levine
At birth, Ella is inadvertently cursed by an imprudent young fairy named Lucinda, who bestows on her the "gift" of obedience. Anything anyone tells her to do, Ella must obey. When her beloved mother dies, leaving her in the care of a mostly absent and avaricious father, and later, a loathsome stepmother and two treacherous stepsisters, Ella's life and well-being seem to be in grave peril. But her intelligence and saucy nature keep her in good stead as she sets out on a quest for freedom and self-discovery as she tries to track down Lucinda to undo the curse, fending off ogres, befriending elves, and falling in love with a prince along the way.
If you've read my review of Fairest on this blog, you'll know that I am in love with that book. The way I found that book was through Ella Enchanted, which was my favorite book in maybe third grade. The way I found this book was through the Movie verson of it (you know, the one with Anne Hathaway). It was my absolute favorite movie for a long time and I must have watched it at least a thousand times. I then realized that it was a book and read it...and then I kind of started despising the movie because they got it ALL WRONG (my very first experience with the very important life lesson, the book is ALWAYS better). This long anecdote was just to say that I have a pretty long history with this book, and it would be a shame if my blog didn't include a review of it. So let's begin.
Intelligent and Sarcastic Heroine: CHECK
I always loved Ella. She's really funny even when her life is horrible. She finds a way to be playful and adventurous and entirely herself, despite losing her mom and having terrible step-sisters and almost losing the love of her life. I mean, she doesn't make smart decisions (like when she goes to the ball to see Char, even though its risky), but that's part of the charm of this book. Despite being a die-hard Aza fan, I might have to say that Ella is my favorite of the two. She's sassier and more sarcastic, which is just awesome to read. I also loved that she was so stubborn because of her curse, rather than being docile because of it. It added wonderful depth to her and made her seem more genuine.
Funny and Brave Hero: CHECK
and before Ijori, there was Char (which I have never officially decided how to say, sometimes I say it like 'Shar' and sometimes and say it like the beginning of 'Charles'. Which, I'll admit is a bit confusing, even to me). Either way he's a really awesome CHARacter...(see what I did there? ;) ). I will say that if I were to choose between Char and Ijori, I would pick Ijori. But Char also has his merits. He physically saves Ella from dangers, such as trolls, quite a few times. He's funny and appreciates that Ella is witty (which is adorable). I'm not afraid to say that my third-grade-self was a little in love with him, if that tells you anything. Yet he's not without faults and he shares them openly with Ella. That part has always stuck with me, because I think that if you are going to be in love with someone you have to be willing to open up about your faults. That way that person can make you aware every time you are about to make the same mistakes again and, therefore, can help you become a better version of yourself. I love that he understood that.
Extraordinary Supporting Characters: CHECK
Mandy: A spin on the traditional Cinderella fairygod mother, because this one can't do anything to help! Well, except give good advice and NOT use magic to trick a crazy fairy. Of course, I'm kidding. I love Mandy, it just always frustrated me as a child that she refused to use magic, which I guess is the point of the story. Anyway, she did give really great advice and tried to help Ella as much as possible (and be as sassy as possible while doing it). She found a way to get Ella to the ball, which is the reason this story has a happy ending. And she was there for Ella when she needed someone after losing her mom.
Lucinda: crazy CrAzY cRaZy CRAZY lady. But I will say that I felt bad for her after her squirrel/orphan experiment.
Hattie and Olive: No sympathy. no sympathy for them (welllll, maybe a little for Olive..). But Hattie is manipulative and hateful. She's jealous of Ella and uses Ella's curse for her own benefit (and never apologizes).
Areida: I first loved her in this book then I read Fairest and loved her even more. She is just sweet and kind and friendly.
Original Plot and Unique Setting: CHECK
Yes. YES. yep. mmhmmm. A brilliant retelling of Cinderella. The great thing is that it takes the basics of the original story, the evil stepmother and stepsisters, the fateful ball, and glass slippers. But Gail Carson Levine added in a manipulative and negligent dad, a curse that makes everything ten times more difficult and more interesting, and new layer to the original ball. Cinderella was always one of my least favorite stories, but with great writing and a lot of skill Gail Carson Levine managed to turn into one of my favorites and into a story of depth.
Excellent Plot: CHECK
The speed and pacing of this book is practically perfect. Things are always happening, but there is also enough time for interesting introspection about what is going on in Ella's life. And I love that the book is always leading to a very conclusive and satisfying end.
“It is helpful to know the proper way to behave, so one can decide whether or not to be proper.”
"Everyone must know I shan't marry the prince."
"I suppose I'm confessing another fault: pride. I don't want him to know that I love if my affections are not returned"
"Instead of making me docile, Lucinda's curse made a rebel of me. Or perhaps I was that way naturally."
"Our free hands met. His felt warm and comforting and unsettling and bewildering--all at once.”