Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Growing up, I was more of a Looney Tunes-Hanna Barbera kind of kid. I did adore the Disney Princess but to a lesser extent. I remember a cousin of mine who used to be obsessed with Cinderella when she was little and such an obsession is currently shared by my brother-in-law's niece. I must say, among the Disney Princesses, Cinderella isn't really on top of my list. The story is interesting enough, the quintessential fairytale, it's the characters that I am not quite fond of. But with Gail Carson Levine's retelling, Ella proves to me as the best "Cinderella" I have read/heard of so far.


Summary from Goodreads:

How can a fairy's blessing be such a curse?
At her birth, Ella of Frell was given a foolish fairy's gift—the "gift" of obedience. Ella must obey any order given to her, whether it's hopping on one foot for a day or chopping off her own head!
But strong-willed Ella does not tamely accept her fate. She goes on a quest, encountering ogres, giants, wicked stepsisters, fairy godmothers, and handsome princes, determined to break the curse—and live happily ever after.

Cinderella is a fairy tale, which may mean in lesser context, a story that is far-fetched. But with this retelling, the people and events are more realistic. In fact, I call it a realistic and rational fairy tale. A contradiction in terms, I know. The disney version provided less explanation for their acts. I couldn't , for the life of me, understand why Cinderella just blindly obeys her step mother and sisters. Perhaps its, I don't know, meekness? Here it is because she is afflicted with an obedience curse. I also could not figure out why her father married a mean woman with equally mean daughters. In this book the act was explained as a means of the former to save himself from poverty. Another is why Cinderella's feet is the only ones that fit the glass slippers. Out of all the maidens in the kingdom, surely there are those bound to have the same shoe size as her. Here it was rationalized by saying that she had unusually small feet because she has fairy blood. 

I also liked the characterization of the fairy godmother, Mandy. I think she truly embodied what it is to be a godmother, fairy or not. She has guided Ella and was a source of strength in all the hardships she has to endure in breaking her curse. And not just one who appears for assistance in attending a ball (in this story this job was accomplished by another fairy). And of course I also love Ella. She is strong, spirited, witty, and brave. Not the usual damsel in distress that we would see in fairy tales. 

As far as the plot goes, it's definitely entertaining. Despite having knowledge of the Cinderella story I was quite anxious to keep turn the pages and know what happens next. I also found the progression of the Prince and Ella's romance adorable. I'm glad that it was not a love-at-first-sight kind of thing but a love that grew out of conversations and time spent together.

This is one of the best retelling I've read so far and I recommend it not only to kids but I believe it would also be enjoyed by adults as well.

I wonder if Gail Carson Levine's other fairy tale retelling are as good as Ella Enchanted. I am curious about her Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Princess and the Pea retelling. If any of you have read any of her works do let me know how they fared.


Do check out Iphigene's review at Gathering Books as well. :) 

Comments

  1. I love fairy tale retellings and Ella Enchanted is my favorite Cinderella retelling. I've read Gail Carson Levine's other books but this is still my favorite. Other fairy tale retellings that I love are Beauty by Robin McKinley and The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale.

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  2. @Chachic
    I love fairy tale retellings too! I haven't read that many, mostly anthologies for kids. But retellings abound in movies that is where I mostly get my fix.

    Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairy tale and I haven't read any retelling of it or any McKinley book as well. I have to pump this one up on my list.

    I have a copy of Princess Academy by Shannon Hale but I haven't gotten around it yet. I'm not sure if it's a retelling though. But if I do like it after reading, I'll make sure to get Goose Girl. :)

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