Rad Reads for Teens

Friday, December 01, 2006

Fairest by Gail Carson Levine

Aza, the adopted daughter of innkeepers, lives in the Kingdom of Ayortha where beauty and singing are idolized. She has a beautiful voice, but it is in the body of one with skin the color of "skimmed milk," lips that are "as red as a dragon's tongue" and hair that is "as black as an old frying pan." She and her family focus on her talented singing as she works in her family's tavern and inn.

One day, two things happen that will have a major impact on her life. She discovers she has an even greater talent in her voice, the ability to "throw" it anywhere so it appears that it isn't coming from her. She calls this "illusing" and keeps it a secret. Next, she is invited to the Ayorthan court by a visiting duchess, where the King is about to be married to a commoner from a neighboring kingdom.

Reluctantly, Aza goes with the duchess and is soon in situations she is ill-prepared for. She has mixed feelings for the new Queen, who makes her a lady-in-waiting but also makes her illuse the Queen's singing voice so no one will know the she can't sing. Aza also falls in love with the Prince, but doesn't have the confidence that the Prince could return those feelings to someone who looks like she does. And wait until she discovers that the Queen isn't as pretty as she appears! Potions and a magic mirror will contribute to Aza being chased from the castle and threatened with death.

This fast-paced fairy tale retelling has elements from Sleeping Beauty as well as Snow White, with a touch of Cyrano de Bergerac thrown in for good measure. For all readers who enjoy fairy tale retellings, high adventure, young romance or just a really good story.


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