Fairest, by Gail Carson Levine (10 & up)
Aza doesn’t feel beautiful. With her fair, pale skin, blood red lips, dark hair and big bones, she attracts stares when people look at her and eyes averted in embarrassment when they don’t. Some patrons of her family’s inn don’t even want her serving their food or cleaning their rooms. Aza does have one thing that sets her above the rest of the people in her kingdom of Ayortha — a beautiful singing voice. Her family says that she was singing as a babe. This is a great asset to have in a kingdom like Ayortha where any everyday activity can inspire a song and even weddings are performed in song, but what Aza really would like is to be beautiful, to be admired when looked at, to be the kind of beauty that would inspire a song herself. A chance encounter with a visiting duchess and a journey as her companion to the kingdom’s castle for the wedding of the king and his new queen may just get Aza her wish, or it could thrust her into court intrigue and place her in one of the most dangerous situations of her life.
Gail Carson Levine creates another winner of a story in this novel that is based on the tail of Snow White. Aza is a rich character with a depth of feelings and thought. The background given for the lead up to the fairytale that we are all familiar with creates a rich foundation for the action that is to follow. Levine manages to make every character central to the story sympathetic in some way; even the queen, who has her own frailties. A wonderful strong girl character story for those enjoy fairy tales and would like to imagine more to the story or for those who long for fairy tales to be about something beyond just being pretty while you wait to be rescued. Aza’s independence and ability to hold her own throughout the story is an inspiration to free thinking girls everywhere.
Fairest, by Gail Carson Levine; Harper Trophy, 2006; $6.99; ages 10 & up