Really more of a 3.5 out of 5 but favorite author status grants this the bump up here on GR.
Gail Carson Levine is one of my longest-held favorite auth...moreReally more of a 3.5 out of 5 but favorite author status grants this the bump up here on GR.
Gail Carson Levine is one of my longest-held favorite authors; since I was eleven years old and stumbled across a still-current-favorite (Ella Enchanted) this has been an author that I keep my eye out for her novels. That charming, original and fun version of the Cinderella tale stuck in my brain and for years, Ella and Charmant's were two parts of one of my all-time literary couples. Gail Carson Levine once again returns to her magical and charming fairy-tale world created over ten years ago for another outing Fairest, but this time the retread is of the classic Snow White story. Like Ella, Aza is a strong female character and one easily identitied with for the intended audience. Even for a reader well outside the target audience for this novel, I still found Fairest to be a creative interpretation of an ages-old myth.
While I readily admit to liking Aza, I didn't fall in love with her character or want to be her best friend the way I did with Ella after ripping through that novel. I didn't mind the social awkwardness the girl exhibited routinely throughout - it was entirely believable and even to be expected in a peasant girl thrust into a Court with no knowledge, but her repeated lies wore thin. It's hard to feel true sympathy for a character that backs herself into a corner so very effectively. I wish I could invest into her relationship with the prince of Ayortha as well - it was a bit insta!love for my taste. Ijori comes off as nice enough, but there's very little personality there and no further development as the story progresses.
The magic of the novel, though exceedingly slight, serves as a nice backdrop to the more human problems Lady Aza faces with Ivi, Ijori, and missing her family. I liked that the focus was more on the character of Aza, and less upon her rare and unique magic. But sadly, here we are, at The Bad of the novel. I hate to say this, really I do, but for a society built around song and singing . . . the music portion was by far the weakest part of Fairest. The lyrics were odd, didn't fit, or just jarred as a "song" from the musical land. I wish a little more finesse had been applied to that (and pretty much the only) attribute of the Ayorthan people. Well, besides the birds flying in, out, around the palaces and castles. A little more time, detail spent on fleshing out basic elements of the novel would've added up to a more well-rounded, nicely-executed novel.
This was a drastic improvement over the first in the series of the Five Hundred Kingdoms. Almost none of the problems I had from the first novel were...moreThis was a drastic improvement over the first in the series of the Five Hundred Kingdoms. Almost none of the problems I had from the first novel were in this sequel, and it was vastly more entertaining to read than The Fairy Godmother. Instead of focusing on the "Cinderella" fairytale, the second book is about the Greek legend of the Andromeda sacrifices in a small, poor Kingdom with no Godmother. First on the list of vast improvements is Andromeda herself. Andie is the main character and is actually that, a character instead of a cliche. She's smart, bookish, resourceful, and clever. She's a very engaging character, as were the villains of the story (which surprised me). Second on the list, the conflict and resolution did not seem nearly as rushed as the end of the first book. The entire novel felt more well-planned, thought out and written. It's also much funnier and filled with more fleshed out characters instead of one-dimensional second-rate "personalities". One minor problem I had was that sometimes the actions of a character would make absolutely no sense, as in did nothing to help that character out and were blatant attempts to make the ending work to its predictable Traditional path. That being said, the ending did surprise me in a way that I totally loved and grinned while reading. A much better book than the first and I look forward to the next. (less)