Next up: “Ella Enchanted” by Gail Carson Levine.
A beloved book from my childhood. Retelling of the fairy tale ‘Cinderella’. Never watch the movie that was ‘based’ (ha!) on this book, it’s a lie.
Like I said, this is a retelling of the fairy tale ‘Cinderella’. Kind of the biggest change is that Ella, the main character, is cursed to always be obedient. If someone gives her an order, she is compelled to obey it, no matter what it happens to be. This curse (though the fairy who bequeathed it would argue that it is a blessing), lends a lot of tension and danger to Ella’s life. When her mother dies and her father remarries, Ella is at the mercy of her stepmother and stepsisters, who waste no time in exploiting the curse, though they don’t really understand what it is. When Ella meets and befriends the prince of her realm, things become even more urgent, because Ella wants to be free, wants his friendship, yet she recognizes how dangerous she is to him. Anyone could order her to hurt him, and she would have no choice.
The book is the story of Ella’s struggle against the curse, her struggle to have a life of her own, and her strength of character.
I absolutely adored this book from the first time I read it. It is a fantastic combination of things that I loved at the time (most of which I still love to this day) – fairy tale retellings, friends falling in love, rebel young women. I love how the flat, one-dimensional characters of the fairy tale were fleshed out in this story. I really liked Ella, Mandy, Char, Areida…
I’m sure there are metaphors to be analyzed, about obedience and the pressure society puts on young women to grow into what’s expected of them, but I never really overtly picked up on it when I was younger. I’d never been one to conform, so it just kind of seemed natural that Ella wouldn’t either. Still, some of that message is present in the story. ‘To thine own self be true’ and all that. It is a good message, well done. Ella is really a good and true character, very human in her desires and occasional selfishness, but also heroic in her morals and actions.
There were one or two books Levine wrote in the same world, but I was bitterly disappointed in them. They just didn’t have the same magic, and the characters weren’t as compelling. ‘Ella Enchanted’ is a must-read, the others are… not.