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4/5 (134 valutazioni)
295 pagine
3 ore
Dec 26, 2012


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.

Dec 26, 2012

Informazioni sull'autore

Gail Carson Levine's first book for children, Ella Enchanted, was a Newbery Honor Book. Levine's other books include Ever, a New York Times bestseller; Fairest, a Best Book of the Year for Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal, and a New York Times bestseller; Dave at Night, an ALA Notable Book and Best Book for Young Adults; The Wish; The Two Princesses of Bamarre; A Tale of Two Castles; and the six Princess Tales books. She is also the author of the nonfiction books Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly and Writer to Writer: From Think to Ink, as well as the picture books Betsy Who Cried Wolf and Betsy Red Hoodie. Gail Carson Levine and her husband, David, live in a two-centuries-old farmhouse in the Hudson Valley of New York State.

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Top citazioni

  • She wasn’t crying because she loved the king, but because he loved her.

  • Kisses were better than potions.

  • I was an unsightly child. My skin was the weak blue-white of skimmed milk, which wouldn’t have been so bad if my hair had been blond and my lips pale pink. But my lips were as red as a dragon’s tongue and my hair as black as an old frying pan.

  • Why spend money on the ugly sister when no amount of finishing would alter her face?I felt hurt anyway. For a day and a half I hated my family and everyone else. And myself most of all.Then I forgave them. But I didn’t forgive myself.

  • We Ayorthaians are sensitive to beauty, more sensitive than the subjects in other kingdoms, I think. We love a fine voice especially, but we also admire a rosy sunset, a sweet scent, a fetching face. And when we’re not pleased, we’re displeased.

Anteprima del libro

Fairest - Gail Carson Levine



I WAS BORN SINGING. Most babies cry. I sang an aria.

Or so I believe. I have no one to tell me the truth of it. I was abandoned when I was a month old, left at the Featherbed Inn in the Ayorthaian village of Amonta. It was January 12th of the year of Thunder Songs.

The wench who brought me to the inn paid for our chamber in advance and smuggled me in unseen. The next morning she smuggled herself out, leaving me behind.

I know what happened next. Father and Mother—the innkeeper and his wife—have retold the tale on the anniversary of my arrival since I grew old enough to understand the words.

You were left in the Lark chamber, Mother would say. It was the right room for you, my songbird.

It was a chill morning, Father would chime in. Soon you were howling. His shoulders would shake with laughter. I thought you were Imilli.

We would all smile—my younger sister Areida, my two older brothers, Mother, and I. Imilli was our cat—kitten then.

Mother would burst in. I knew straight off you were a babe. I knew you were a singer, too. She’d sing, It was all in your lovely howl.

We’d laugh at that.

She’d shake her head. No. Truly. It was lovely.

My favorite part would come next. Mother would throw back her head and imitate my howl, a high pure note.

Ayortha is a kingdom of singers. In our family and in Amonta, my voice is the finest. Mother often said that if I tried, I could sing the sun down from the sky.

I opened the chamber door, Father would say, continuing the tale, and there you were.

I was in the center of the bed, crying and kicking the air.

I picked you up, Mother would say, and you gurgled such a musical gurgle.

My brother Ollo would break in with his favorite part. Your bottom was wet.

Areida would giggle.

Father and Mother would never mention that the blanket I had arrived in was velvet, edged with gold thread.

The story would go on. Mother carried me into the Sparrow room, where my brothers slept. Father headed for the attic to find Ollo’s old cradle. When he came down, I was lying on Ollo’s small bed while Ollo, who was two years old then, gently poked my cheek.

No one has told me what happened next, but I know. I can imagine the sight I was. Yarry, who was five, would have spoken his mind, as he does to this day. He would have said, in a tone of wonder, She’s so ugly.

Then—they have told me this—he said, Can we keep her, Father?

Father and Mother did, and named me Aza, which means lark in Ayorthaian. They treated me no differently from their own children, and taught me to read music and songs from our treasured leather songbook, kept on its own high table in the entry parlor.

I was an unsightly child. My skin was the weak blue-white of skimmed milk, which wouldn’t have been so bad if my hair had been blond and my lips pale pink. But my lips were as red as a dragon’s tongue and my hair as black as an old frying pan.

Mother always denied that I was ugly. She said that looking different wasn’t the same as looking amiss, and she called me her one-of-a-kind girl. Still, she promised I’d grow prettier as I grew older. I remember asking her a dozen times a day if I was prettier yet. She would stop whatever she was doing—cleaning a guest’s chamber or bathing Areida—and consider me. Then she’d sing, I think so.

But soon after, one of the inn’s guests would stare, and I’d know the transformation hadn’t really taken place.

If anything, I became uglier. I grew large boned and awkward. My chubby cheeks were fine for a babe, but not for an older child. I resembled a snow maid, with a big sphere of a face and round button eyes.

I ached to be pretty. I wished my fairy godmother would come and make me so. Mother said we all have fairy godmothers, but they rarely reveal themselves. I wished I could see mine. I was sure fairies were supremely beautiful and glorious in every way.

Mother said fairy godmothers only watch from afar and sympathize. I didn’t see the good of a hand-wringing fairy godmother. I needed one who’d fly in and help.

With no hope for fairy intervention, I wished for a magic spell to make me pretty. At night I’d sing nonsense words to myself after Areida had fallen asleep. I thought I might stumble on the right combination of syllables and notes, but I never did.

I attempted to make myself more presentable by pinning my hair up this way or that, or by tying a ribbon around my neck. Once, I sneaked into Father’s workshop and smeared wood stain on my face and arms.

The results were streaky brown skin and a rash that lasted a month.

The inn’s guests were sometimes friendly, but more often they were rude. As bad as the ones who stared were the ones who looked away in embarrassment. Some guests didn’t want me to serve their food, and some didn’t want me to clean their rooms.

We Ayorthaians are sensitive to beauty, more sensitive than the subjects in other kingdoms, I think. We love a fine voice especially, but we also admire a rosy sunset, a sweet scent, a fetching face. And when we’re not pleased, we’re displeased.

I developed the habit of holding my hand in front of my face when guests arrived, a foolish practice, because it raised curiosity and concealed little.

Mother and Father mostly gave me chores that kept me out of sight, helping the laundress or washing dishes. They did so to protect me. But it was common sense, too. I was bad for business.

Sometimes I wondered if they regretted taking me in, and sometimes I wished I’d been abandoned at a farmhouse. The chickens wouldn’t have minded if an ugly maiden fed them. The cows wouldn’t have minded if an ugly maiden cleaned their stalls.

Or would they?


THE ONLY FEATHERBED guests who were comfortable with me were the gnomes. They never stared, never seemed even to notice my appearance.

Gnomes upset the inn’s routine. Ettime, our cook, had to prepare root-vegetable stews for them, the only human food gnomes can eat. But Father was glad to have them anyway. Gnomes, at least the ones who traveled, were wealthy. They tipped generously and paid in advance. Better yet, they often paid double, because husbands and wives took separate rooms, since adult gnomes were too wide to share our beds.

Mother always had me serve them and clean their rooms. One day I was polishing the chest of drawers in the Crane chamber when its occupant returned.

I was singing a cleaning song I’d made up and didn’t hear him. He stood in the doorway as I sang:

"I’m not a Sir, but a serf,

And my enemy’s worse

Than a knight ever cursed.

"My foes are the dirt, the dust,

The filth and decay.

I brandish my mop, my rag,

And my scouring pad.

My enemies flee, or they melt,

Or they die.

But they have friends, and

Their friends have friends,

Who have more friends.

And whatever I try,

The dirt never ends.

"Slime and grime,

Sludge and smudge,

Mud and crud.

Oh, gooey guck.

And gluey muck.

I’m not a Sir, I’m a serf,

And my enemy’s worse

Than a knight ever cursed."

The gnome, whose name was zhamM, said, Oh, my! I turned, startled, and he was waving his hands in the air, applauding the Ayorthaian way. My blotchy blush began, but his arms didn’t come down. I smiled at him.

He smiled back, showing teeth that resembled iron posts. I like your song. It is charming, to be exact. And your voice is more than charming.

zhamM was a frequent guest at the inn, although we had never spoken to each other before. I thought of him as the green gentleman—green because of the emerald buttons on all his tunics, gentleman because he was polite and fussy, with a soft, breathy voice and small gestures. He had curly brown hair, small ears set close to his head, and skin almost as pale as my own.

Shall I leave, Master zhamM? I said. I can finish cleaning later. I hoped he’d say no. I had a question I’d long wished to ask a gnome if the opportunity arose.

No need. I only want to think a moment. To be exact, I can do that as badly with you here as with you gone. He sat carefully on the bench by the fireplace.

How nice he was. I worked slowly. I couldn’t ask my question until he finished thinking.

I was changing his pillowcase and deciding to scrub the washstand again when he stood up.

There, he said. I am finished thinking, perhaps for the month.

Was he jesting? I smiled uneasily, holding his pillow by a corner.

He nodded, reading my expression. Yes, it is a jest. Not so humorous, to be exact.

I gathered my courage and said in a rush, Can you see what’s to come? Some gnomes could.

Hints, glimmers. We never see more.

I didn’t know if a hint or a glimmer would be specific enough. Would you be so kind … would it be too much trouble …

There’s something you’d like to know?

I blurted out, Will I ever be pretty? I hugged the pillow, protecting myself against his answer.



He must have seen my misery, because he added, All humans are ugly, to be exact.

All humans?


I was amazed.

He went on. You are slightly less ugly than most. Your hair is a beautiful color, htun. I’ve never seen a human with htun hair before.

I wasn’t listening. Will I ever be pretty to people?

To humans? He stared over my left shoulder. I thought his expression changed, although his face was so leathery and seamed, so lizardlike, I wasn’t sure.

A minute passed.

Maid Aza … that is your name?

I nodded.

In Gnomic we would call you Maid azacH. He folded his hands across his chest, delivering a pronouncement. In the future, you and I will meet again.

Even I could see far enough into the future to see that. He stayed at the Featherbed once or twice every month.

I smelled my home and saw glow iron. To be exact, we’ll meet again in Gnome Caverns. You will be in danger.

What sort of danger, and how would I get to Gnome Caverns? But I skipped to my main concern. Will I look as I do now?

You will be smaller....

Smaller would be a big improvement! Do your visions always come to pass?

This will come to pass, unless you do something irregular at a crossroad.

I didn’t understand.

There was one more change in you in my vision. Your hair was black, with little htun left.

What’s htun?

Htun looks black to humans. It is the color I like best, deeper than scarlet, more serene than cerulean, gayer than yellow. Your htun hair is the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.

I stared down at the floor, trying not to cry. No one had ever before said that anything about me looked beautiful.

If only humans could see htun.

In the year of Barn Songs, when I was twelve, the duchess of Olixo and her companion, Dame Ethele, stopped at the Featherbed for a night. Father and Mother were thrilled, but also worried. If the duchess liked the inn, she could steer other rich customers to us. If she disliked it, she could get our license revoked by the king.

I was thrilled and worried, too. Thrilled, because I’d never seen a duchess before, and worried, because the duchess had never seen me before. I’d stay out of the way, but if our paths crossed, would she hate the sight of me?

I was serving dinner to a party of gnomes when she arrived, earlier than expected, or I would never have been in the tavern. Father conducted a small plump woman and a large one to the best table. The large woman, who was approximately my own size, had more ribbons and bows on her gown than I’d ever seen collected together. The small one was as richly clad, but more simply.

Neither of them glanced my way. I wondered which was duchess and which was companion. It would have been rude to stare, as I knew better than anyone. I stole glances, however, and soon decided who was who. The large one was Dame Ethele, and the small plump one was the duchess.

How did I know?

Well, the small woman’s expression was petulant, but the big woman smiled. The smiling one had to be the companion. After all, who would pay to have a petulant companion?

I was perplexed by the duchess’s petulance. What did she have to be petulant about? She was a duchess, and she didn’t have a face that made dogs howl.

The duchess didn’t like her dinner. Ettime had prepared her best dish, hart sautéed with spring onions and Ayorthaian fire peppers.

Unfortunately, the duchess detested peppers of every sort, and she expected everyone to know it. Mother apologized and brought out a double helping of chicken pot pie, but the damage was done. The duchess’s frown deepened.

Before she left her table, she told Mother she wanted a mug of hot ostumo delivered to her chamber at nine that night. Not a second before nine, she said in a voice that carried, nor yet a second after, but on the stroke itself—or I shall send it back. And it must be piping hot. Piping! Or I shall send it back.

After I finished waiting on the gnomes, I was sent to the stable to help another gnome find a belt buckle in one of his trunks. It was a prolonged business. The buckle, naturally, was in the third and final trunk.

I returned to the kitchen while Ettime was preparing the ostumo, a mixture of grain and molasses that was Ayortha’s favorite beverage. She was so flustered by the duchess that she scalded the first pot and had to throw it out.

By five before nine, the second pot was ready. Mother poured it into a mug and placed the mug on a tray.

A crash and a loud oath came from the tavern. Mother turned toward the tavern door. I’d better … She stopped and turned back to the piping! hot mug. She looked appealingly at Ettime.

Not me, Mistress Ingi. I won’t bring anything to that duchess. And I’m no tavern wench.

I wished I was still in the stable. I couldn’t settle a tavern brawl, and the duchess wouldn’t want to see my face looming over her ostumo.

We heard another crash and more swearing. There was no time to get Father or my brothers.

Aza … Mother wet her finger and wiped a smudge off my cheek. She tucked a stray strand of hair into my bonnet. Take the ostumo to the duchess and come—

I can’t!

I’ve no one else. Come right back and tell me what she says. She put the tray with the no-longer-piping!-hot ostumo into my hands.

The clock began to strike nine.

Hurry! Mother snatched up the broom and dustpan and marched into the tavern.

I left the kitchen and started up the stairs, although I wanted to hide in the cellar. It will be over in a moment, I told myself. And answered myself, Yes, the duchess will toss the ostumo in my face. Then she’ll call for her carriage and leave.

Imilli was snoozing on the stairway landing. I scooped him up. I could hold him high so the duchess would see less of me.

She was in our best room, the Peacock chamber. I knocked on the door.


THE DUCHESS OPENED HER door. You’re late. Take it away. I— She saw Imilli. I don’t think she noticed me. Oh, the sweetie. She took him. Aren’t you a sweetie? She gestured at the ostumo. Put it next to the bed. I have sweeties at home. Would you like me to tell you their names?

She was talking to Imilli, but I nodded. She no longer looked petulant. I followed her into the room.

I have ten sweet cats. Their names are Asha, Eshe, Ishi, Osho, Ushu, Yshy, Alka, Elke …

The duchess didn’t seem to have much imagination. I said the next two names in my mind as she spoke them.

… Ilki and Olko. Then there are my sweet kittens. She sat on her bed. Imilli leaned against her chest and purred.

I put the ostumo on the night table and backed away.

I’ve named only two kittens thus far. She looked at me.

I raised my hand in front of my face.

She went on. Do you have any suggestions for the rest? Sit down. There are seven in the litter.

I sat on the stool by the washstand.

Not there. There. She nodded at the chair by the fireplace, where I wouldn’t have dared to sit.

I took it. Perhaps you could name them Anya, Enye, Inyi, Onyo, and Unyo.

Those are possible. What’s this sweetie called?

Imilli, Your Grace.

Ah. Then I will name the rest Amilla and Emille and so on. She tasted her ostumo.

I held my breath.

Her complaining tone was back. It isn’t hot. Moreover, it’s weak. The kitchen will have to do better when I come again. Would you like me to tell you which is my favorite sweetie?

She would come again! I nodded. The duchess told me, and told me which was her second favorite and her third.

Two hours later, wild with worry and curiosity, Mother opened the duchess’s door a crack. There was the duchess, snoring in her bed, Imilli curled up in the crook of her arm.

And there I was, sleeping in the duchess’s chair.

The duchess became a regular guest at the inn. She remained fractious and difficult to please, but she adored Imilli and tolerated me.

In the year of Forest Songs, when I was fourteen, I discovered a new way to sing. I was cleaning the Falcon chamber, which had been occupied by a Kyrrian merchant, Sir Peter of Frell.

After I dusted the mantelpiece, I went

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  • (4/5)
    So how much does beauty matter? How much does it matter to sing beautifully in a land in which singing is a major part of the culture and almost as important as talking? Can anyone really fit in when they're markedly different and what would they do to fit in? In this retelling of Snow White we have a girl who isn't especially beautiful and who doesn't like apples, but who catches the eye of a queen who wants to fit in as much as she does and is being mislead by a magic mirror.
  • (5/5)
    My daughter (who is 9 yrs old) read this book from her school library and absolutely loved it. At her prompting, I also read it. I found it completely enthralling.I loved the writing and the storytelling (I read this in one day - could not put it down). I loved the suspense and action. I loved the characters and the twist on the fairytale genre. But most of all, I loved the message it's leaving the girls who read it.For once, we have a kind, good, strong heroine who doesn't just imagine she's not pretty - she actually isn't - at least, according to the world's standards. But unlike other stories with a less attractive lead female, the answer isn't ultimately to "fix" her, nor to see she's "pretty on the inside". (Hate that concept - what is pretty on the inside, anyway??). Instead, it deals with this issue - knowing you don't measure up to society's standard of beauty - with an authentic voice and beautiful truths (without giving too much away, things like your looks don't have to define you, and that there are worse things to be than unpretty and that people love all sorts of looks).I adore the way this story ended, and it's no wonder it is now one of my daughter's favourites. I'd highly recommend it to girls and women alike. An entirely delightful read.
  • (4/5)
    Aza might have the most unusual and loveliest voice in all of Ayortha, a kingdom of singers. But because so many people--including Aza herself--consider her to be ugly, she'll go to foolish lengths in her attempts to magically become pretty in Fairest, a novel by Gail Carson Levine.Oh, fairy tales aren't my go-to type of reading, and I don't reach for many middle grade books to read either. But I once saw and enjoyed the movie Ella Enchanted, based (loosely?) on the Newbery Honor book by the same author. As I used to read more fantasy as a child, it's been my plan for some time to dip back into fantasy fiction of the mythical and magical variety. So, when I happened to come across this novel, I figured, "Hey. Why not?"This fantastical tale turned out to be quite engaging with excellent drops of genius along the way. There's blackmail, betrayal, and some violence, but also endearing kindness and romance in the story, along with Aza's down-to-earth lesson that young people (and, I daresay, grown folks as well) can learn from. The novel didn't leave me with a Chronicles-of-Narnia kind of "wooow," but still, every minute of it was worthwhile to me.So, I'll say this book is my small, happy step back into the mythical and magical side of things.
  • (4/5)
    I bought this book because it was on clearance. I really enjoyed it. I want to read more of Gail Carson Levine's books now. I love fairy tales. Anything with that kind of setting I will most likely enjoy.

    For juveniles it teaches the importance of self-confidence, beauty is only skin deep (and often false), wit and talent is more lasting.
  • (4/5)
    The best part about the book is it has a lot of surprises you never knew were coming…
  • (3/5)
    In a land where beauty and singing are valued above all else, Aza eventually comes to reconcile her unconventional appearance and her magical voice, and learns to accept herself for who she truly is.
  • (4/5)
    I really like this author and I've read a lot of her work. I'm not sure how I felt about them always singing. It got kinda annoying. But it was a very nice, relateable story about looks not being everything. I liked Ivi and how she was very child like, and needed approval and admiration.
  • (4/5)
  • (5/5)
    it was a great book and I didn't want to put it down???????
  • (4/5)
    Narrated by Sarah Naughton and full cast. An enjoyable listen complete with original music composed for the songs that Aza and her countrymen sing (singing is big communication form). It's like listening to a Broadway show!
  • (3/5)

    1 persona l'ha trovata utile

    I really liked the first half of this book. Then it got weird and rushed and ...weird. I think it was trying too hard to be Ella Enchanted, which is unfortunate, because this story had so many good ideas of its own.

    1 persona l'ha trovata utile

  • (4/5)

    It was definitely not of the same calliber as Ella Enchanted, which is one of a kind. But I liked the not so subtle message, and the realness of the problems and feelings. Overall, a good children's book.
  • (4/5)
    I would recommend this book for folks under 16 (after all it is a young adult type of novel) and not for anyone who has read a lot of great literature. But not because of the content.

    I usually think of young adult novels/teen fic novels as classified that way because of content and not because of writing. My recommendation is because of the writing. The style really grated on me. It was choppy. And while I love the idea of a “singing” kingdom. And I love the idea of singing what you are saying, even if it isn’t lyrical, it makes for some hard reading. Contrast the difficulty reading the song content with the almost too facile style of the rest of the novel.

    Besides the writing itself, the plot moved along in fits and spurts. Levine succeeds in having the “aha” of the story elude you. Generally, this is a good thing. But here it was more because there were too many twists and turns to follow–a wee bit on the overly contrived side of plotting.

    The reason why I think it’s worth recommending to younger folk is that the message is very clear: beauty has nothing to do with what you look like or how great your talents are. I like that and for that reason alone, I'm giving it 4 stars. Our society puts a ridiculous amount of pressure on girls, at younger ages than ever before, to be beautiful and supremely talented. I like that in this tale, the girl is ugly and has immense talent, and even that can’t make everything right for her. It’s only once she starts to understand herself, be comfortable in her own skin, that things seem to fall into place. And that is a true life message.

    If I read anything else from this author, I am reasonably certain it will only be as a “mommy preview” before my daughter reads it. There are too many great reads out there to bother with mediocre writing.

    (Unless, of course, I’m feeling brain dead and want some low-class chick lit–I’m not very demanding about much with that style of .)
  • (4/5)
    This is a wonderful audiobook production, full cast with all original music. This is important to note because Aza and the everyone in the kingdom of Ayortha are all singers, and singing is a major form of communicating there. This is a creative and completely different retelling of Snow White, and it was just a delightful experience all around.
  • (4/5)
    A new spin on Snow White in which the heroine, Aza, has unique talents with her voice, but is considered ugly by almost everyone she meets. In order to make money for her family's inn, she becomes a lady-in-waiting to the queen, where she becomes tangled in magic and palace intrigue.This is set in the same world and time as Levine's Ella Enchanted, one of my old favorites, and contains some references to characters from that. Aza's home country of Ayortha is famous for its singing culture, and everyone, from king to peasant, often breaks into song to express their feelings. I really enjoyed how Levine explores this country-wide love of music and how it would affect the people's everyday lives and customs. Aza's insecurity about her looks and how it drives her actions makes her a good foil for the beautiful Queen Ivy, but her inner monologues about this dragged a bit for me. The ending/epilogue seemed a little longer than necessary too. Still, fans of Ella Enchanted should definitely check it out!
  • (5/5)
    Thoroughly enjoyable book! Aza considers herself ugly, but she can sing beautifully. Because of her singing (and a trick she calls illusing), she finds herself (a commoner, the daughter of an innkeeper) a lady-in-waiting to the new queen of Ayortha.

    I don't want to give anything else away, so I'll stop there. Loved the book!
  • (4/5)
    In the spirit of Ella Enchanted, a more thorough version of the story of Snow White. Delightful and fun to read.
  • (4/5)
    I kind of love this, and I think it's crazy amusing that while a friend of mine has been trying to get me to read Ella Enchanted I somehow randomly stumbled into reading the sequel, but it was nice. I loved the focus on music so much. So much. So much singing and poetry in this story made my heart sing.

    Not to be out done, by just how much I love the actions of the King, toward Ivy, by the end. And how myths and stories and wishes are played with.
  • (5/5)
    Fairest is a new spin on Snow White done by Gail Carson Levine (author of Ella Enchanted). It takes place in a country where singing is a major part of the customs. The protagonist, Aza, is a remarkable singer, but is deemed ugly by society and herself. I've read bad reviews on this book, and many of them I believe are not accurate in how they viewed the book. This book is directed to middle school aged kids. It is a fairy tale, I.e. a place where people can fall in love quickly, people can sing as much as they want, etc. Certain aspects may not seem realistic because this is not a realistic fiction novel. Having said that, I loved this book. I first read it when I was in 6th or 7th grade and adored it. I had already read Ella Enchanted, an I was ecstatic to find another book set in the same world. Aza is a very easy character to relate to. Everyone has worried at some point about fitting in, being proclaimed a beauty by society, considered a love life impossible, etc. Yet, even with all the odds against her, Aza remains a pure hearted, caring person. Her relationship with the prince is adorable and sweet. They truly seem to bring out the best in each other. For all of those reasons and more, I have gone back to Fairest again and again throughout the years, and it has a spot on my shelf of books never to get rid of.
  • (3/5)
    Aza is not pretty, but she has a great singing voice and a kind heart. She is invited to the castle to witness the king's wedding, but he is injured shortly after the ceremony. Now Aza must navigate castle intrigue from the new queen, build her relationship with the crown prince, and try to heal the king.
  • (4/5)
    Bear with me if this ends up being a somewhat rambling review. I both read and listened to Fairest by Gail Carson Levine over the course of a weekend car trip.Fairest is a tween fantasy inspired by Snow White but that connection only becomes obvious in the final third of the story. Aza is a foundling, raised by innkeepers of the Feather Bed. In the kingdom of Ayortha, beauty in voice and body are prized above all else. While Aza can sing better than anyone she knows, she is too tall, too wide, too plain of face and too clumsy. As she hones her singing skills, she learns how to throw her voice, or as she calls it, illuse.Aza's self-esteem therefore isn't great. It gets put the ultimate test, though, when circumstances beyond her control take her to castle for a royal wedding. When the king is injured, leaving his new queen in charge, Aza finds her stay extended for the foreseeable future.Queen Ivi, the young commoner with unusual beauty but a terrible singing voice, stands in for the wicked stepmother queen. Aza with her hair too black, her skin to pale and her lips too red, stands in for Snow White. Ivi's, though, isn't driven by an insane desire to be the "fairest one of all" even if that's what's expected of her. Her actions are driven more by her immaturity and homesickness, making her both a more interesting and more dangerous character.As Ayortha prizes singing, there's frequent mention of singing, including characters randomly breaking out in song mid sentence when the mood strikes. In the print form, these moments of song are rendered as short lines of poetry — the longest one taking maybe three quarters of a page. In the Full Cast Audio version, these songs can add upwards of five minutes to a page that would otherwise take a minute or two to read. As I was reading it on my own at night and listening to it in the car, these inflated areas were more noticeable than they would otherwise be.
  • (4/5)
    Enjoyable book. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys fairy tale retellings.
  • (3/5)
    Not quite as good as Ella Enchanted, but still a quick, enjoyable JF fairy tale story.
  • (2/5)
    Poorly done. I struggled to finish it. A great disappointment compared to Ella Enchanted and some of her other books. I did like the gnome, widyeH zhamM.
  • (3/5)
    Summary: Aza, adopted daughter of an innkeeper, was never a pretty child. Too tall, too large, and too plain, but there was one thing about her that was beautiful: her voice. Not only can she sing beautifully - a boon in the country of Ayortha, where music is such an important part of a life - but she can also throw her voice with perfect mimicry. When she is taken to the capital to attend the King's wedding, she is taken up as a lady-in-waiting to the new Queen, on one condition: that she use her talents to help the Queen pretend to sing, for although she is young and beautiful, she has a weak voice. Aza has no choice but to accept, but when the King is injured, the Queen's true colors begin to show: vain and impetuous, headstrong and with a jealous temper. Aza must do something to help save her kingdom, but if she speaks up, her part in the deception will be revealed... putting herself and everyone she loves in danger.Review: I love retellings of fairy tales, and as the rash of recent movies might suggest, Snow White offers a plethora of source material. I appreciated a lot of the things that Fairest did with the original - the contrast between physical and vocal beauty, especially - but in the final analysis, I like my retellings darker than this. Obviously, given the age level of this book (mid-grade to very early YA, I'd say), it was never going to be as dark as Tender Morsels, for example, and that's fine. But although it's well-written, and held my attention well enough, the whole thing was just a little juvenile for my tastes. The writing was a little too simplistic for me, the constant breaking in to song got on my nerves (a good thing I didn't listen to the audiobook version, I think!), the romance storyline felt perfunctory and didn't really grab me, and the end was very much "everyone lived happily ever after," but not in a satisfying way. The one thing I really, really did like was the one note that seemed more mature than its surroundings, and that was the treatment of Aza's appearance. For all that most of the ending was overly facile, Aza does not a) instantly become beautiful as a reward for a job well done, or b) have a moment of realization that she's beautiful on the inside and that's all that matters. Instead, Levine opts for a more subtle message of self-acceptance and self-confidence, and one that I think was very well done. I just wish the rest of the book had had some of that same level of maturity. 3 out of 5 stars.Recommendation: This one would be good for pre-teen girls who like fairy tales, or older readers who want something light and easy, but for those who want their retellings with an edge to them, better to look elsewhere.
  • (2/5)
    My Kindle freezes = I read an actual book. I have a small mountain of Read-Soon books by my bed, so when communication failed with my device I pulled this off the stack. Aza, the first-person character, is different from everyone around her. As an infant she was abandoned in an inn, and adopted by the innkeepers who have loved her as their own. But there is no getting around the fact that she is ugly in a land that prizes beauty only slightly less than they value song. Song Aza has – her voice is the loveliest in her village. Beauty she does not, to the extent that strangers stare at her and whisper to each other behind their hands: she is too wide, and too tall, and too large overall, and her coloring is wrong, and so on; whether a disinterested party would see her as outright ugly or merely different from those around her is a question that crossed my mind. I love fairy tale adaptations and fairy tale-esque stories. While this has assorted elements of classic tales – the magic mirror, the handsome prince and the good king with the wicked queen, the common girl raised to great heights, etc. – it is itself, unique. With she added a little later strong overtones of Snow White. Which apparently this really is an adaptation of. Despite the book title and the mirror, I didn't see it till three-quarters of the way in. It took a minute to get used to the singing; for everyone to sing random sentences, all the time, was just too odd at first. But, as with a good musical, after a little while it began to seem a shame that everyone doesn't sing more often. It's notable that the only person up to no good in this book is the one who doesn't sing. The names and created language of the book took more getting used to: vowel sound-consonant-vowel sound, rinse and repeat for additional syllables, from the prince's dog to the main character; it added up to something I found to more resemble baby talk than a language, but I'm hardly an expert. And then, smack in the middle of it all, the castle cook: Frying Pan. (Who irritatingly always spoke of herself in the third person.) That was bizarre. Overall, it was sweet and insubstantial but a little off somehow. Aza seems to drift along with events like a wood chip in the current, easily led and not prone to doing much to make her life or her position better until it's almost too late. The king is a nice fellow, and beloved – that's pleasant. Ivi, his queen, is not nice; she starts out vain and stupid and utterly self-centered, and never changes. Prince Izori must be a nice fellow – he has a dog who loves him – and Aza falls thoroughly in love with him in record time. That little romance (it's surely not a spoiler to say there's a bit of romance there?) is not entirely believable; Levine just doesn't sell it. Or I wasn't buying. I liked Aza's family more than I did her, and I liked djaaM the gnome as well. The gnomes were a bit of all right. I did like that one of the reasons the ogres were as dangerous as they were was their skill as sirens. I loved some of the songs – but I hated the ones in the invented language. I wish there had been more to love; I had expected there to be. But ... the cover is utterly lovely.
  • (4/5)
    Really enjoyed this book. I read a lot of juvenile fiction, especially fantasy type novels, and this was definitely one of the better ones. The story line flowed, the characters kept my interest and the tale was well rounded.
  • (5/5)
    It´s amazing how the author manages to surprise the reader telling such a known story. Like classic tales it even achieves the task of teaching the reader-young adult positive values. It´s worth the reading, an easy and nice one.
  • (3/5)
    A country girl moves to the city and is befriended by the prince and the queen, one of whom isn't what they seem. Fairy tale bits mixed in.I wanted to like this more than I did. But between the constant emphasis on looks and the silly way that people would sing instead of speaking, I had trouble even finishing it. I like musicals, but it just doesn't have the same effect on paper.I did like the original world Levine created (singing aside), and I was especially interested in some of the nonhuman characters. It might have been more interesting if it had been used with its own story instead of trying to twist it to fit the fairy tale retelling.
  • (3/5)
    Since Ella Enchanted is one of my favorite children’s books of all time, I had high hopes for this companion novel. Unfortunately, Fairest was a bit of a let down. The main character, Aza, is obsessed with becoming beautiful. I can understand and sympathize with her feelings, but it seems like beauty is all Aza thinks about 24/7, and it gets a bit annoying. Also, Aza doesn’t possess the kind of inner strength that I tend to associate with Levine’s heroines. Perhaps I am being too harsh because Ella of Ella Enchanted exhibits the perfect mix of strength and vulnerability, but I would have liked to see Aza stand up for herself and what’s right more often than she does. In addition, the romance happened so quickly that it felt forced. But, despite all the ways in which Fairest fell short of my expectations, I still enjoyed the magical, fairytale setting, lyrical prose, and underlying themes of the importance of inner beauty and the fickleness of popularity. Overall, it was a good story, but definitely not Levine’s best. For a wonderful novel set in the same world as Fairest, read Ella Enchanted; it’s ten times better.