Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine

>> Monday, February 21, 2011

TITLE: Ella Enchanted
AUTHOR: Gail Carson Levine

COPYRIGHT: 1997
PAGES: 288
PUBLISHER: Harper Teen

SETTING: Fantasy world
TYPE: YA fiction
SERIES: No

REASON FOR READING: I can't remember where I heard about this.

That fool of a fairy Lucinda did not intend to lay a curse on me. She meant to bestow a gift. When I cried inconsolably through my first hour of life, my tears were her inspiration. Shaking her head sympathetically at Mother, the fairy touched my nose. ""My gift is obedience. Ella will always be obedient. Now stop crying, child."" I stopped.

So begins this richly entertaining story of Ella of Frell, who wants nothing more than to be free of Lucinda's gift and feel that she belongs to herself. For how can she truly belong to herself if she knows that at any time, anyone can order her to hop on one foot, cut off her hand, or betray her kingdom--and she'll have to obey?

Against a bold tapestry of princes, ogres, giants, wicked stepsisters, and fairy godmothers, Ella's spirited account of her quest to break the curse is a funny, poignant, and enchanting tale about an unforgettable heroine who is determined to be herself.
Ella of Frell had the misfortune of having an idiot of a fairy attend her birth. Seeing that baby Ella wouldn't stop crying, the very short-sighted Lucinda gave her the gift of obedience. If ordered to do something, Ella would have no choice but to obey. This meant that if her parents told her to stop crying, she would. But Lucinda placed no restrictions on this compulsion to obey, which makes Ella's life very, very dangerous.

This is a wonderfully charming book. Other than Ella's determination that someday, somehow, she'll get rid of the curse, there's not much of a plot, other than the fact that the events that happen are based on the Cinderella story. The book is still entertaining, and I had lots of fun exploring the world in which Ella lives. It has a lovely fairy tale feel to it, a kind of Brothers Grimm atmosphere. There are clever elves, sweet and gentle giants, murderous ogres, a smitten prince charming and all sorts of other characters who are recognisable but to whom Carson Levine has given a little twist.

That said, I liked it, but not loved it. The main reason was that it felt a bit too childish, with characters who were slightly too cartoonish to my taste. They did fit perfectly in a fairy tale, but it also meant I didn't connect with the story a much as I would have liked to. If I'd read it as a teen, though, I think I would have loved it.

MY GRADE: A B.

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