The book staggered under one major inconsistency: the main character is horribly ugly, but the prince falls in love with her very quickly anyway. Hopelessly romantic? But I call it an inconsistency because Aza was not only unlovely, but almost unlovable. Aza had none of these - she was whiny, miserable, thoughtless, and full of self-loathing throughout the entire book. Her amazing voice and ability to compose music are impressive to him I suppose, and her "ability to make him laugh" was apparently important
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Synopsis[ edit ] Aza, the adopted daughter of innkeepers in Ayortha, has always hated her appearance. Besides being skilled at singing, Aza can also flawlessly mimic people and throw her voice without moving her mouth, a form of ventriloquism she calls "illusing".
Still, Aza is flattered when a frequent visitor to the inn, a gnome named Zhamm, tells Aza that her hair is the most beautiful he has ever seen. While her hair looks black to humans, it is the lovely color htun, a dark purplish color, to gnomes.
The incident does not deter her desire to be beautiful, which leads Aza to drink a beauty potion created by Skulni, the mysterious, evil creature living in a magic mirror given to Ivi as a wedding gift from the fairy Lucinda. Aza becomes beautiful, but still remains self-conscious about herself. In exile, Aza is welcomed by the gnomes ; Zhamm provides her with food, shelter, and a sense of heritage.
He is surprised by her appearance and then tells her about how she now almost has no htun left in her hair. He assures her that while she is certainly not part ogre, he believes one of her ancestors was a gnome, explaining her strange appearance and htun hair also the point that she can see htun if he holds her hand. After Aza has spent some time with the gnomes, Ivi appears, disguised as a gnome, and tricks Aza into eating a poisoned apple.
Aza awakens back in Gnome Caverns with a newfound respect for herself. To her surprise, Ijori is also there, and he apologizes for not defending and believing her. Aza marries Ijori, King Oscaro finally recovers, and Ivi turns from her evil ways. The King decides to abdicate in favor of his nephew, since he still loves Ivi but does not trust her with having access to power, and retires with Ivi to the southern castle.
Aza becomes queen of Ayortha, alongside her husband, now King Ijori. She bears three children, all of whom greatly resemble their father but have htun hair and can illuse just like their mother.
Though she does not learn who her biological parents were, Zhamm manages to find out that they are distant relatives through a mutual great-great-great grandmother. Aza lives happily ever after along the family that raised her and truly loved her. Characters[ edit ] Aza — A sixteen-year-old girl from Ayortha, who was adopted by an innkeeper when she was left in the lark chamber of his inn as a one month-year old infant. She is the main protagonist of the story. When Aza was found, she was covered in a velvet blanket with gold trim, leading her family to suspect she is of noble or royal origin.
She is insecure about her appearance and is convinced she is hideous and ugly, but has a beautiful speaking and singing voice to compensate. She was suspected to be part ogre , but is actually part gnome.
She can illuse , or throw and send her voice from anywhere without moving her lips, and is also an extremely talented mimic of both speaking and singing voices. She ultimately falls madly in love with and marries Prince Ijori, becomes Queen of Ayortha and has three children, all three of which inherit her gnome ancestry. She blackmails Aza into becoming her singing voice in order to preserve her own reputation.
She is self-absorbed, as well as simple-minded, insecure, and concerned with beauty. Although typically selfish and uncaring, Ivi occasionally demonstrates concern for others, staying with her injured husband every night, and helping Aza find fashions which better suit her.
She is sent to the southern castle at the end of the book for being too cold-hearted and power-hungry. Ijori is two years older than Aza. He first meets Aza in the receiving line at the royal wedding, and is later partnered with her in a song composing game, which they win. Throughout the course of the story, he becomes good friends with Aza, and eventually romantically kisses her, but he doubts her when she is accused of being part-ogre and plotting against the kingdom.
He soon regains his faith in her, and when she lies dying in Gnome Caverns after eating the poisoned apple from Ivi, and the apple getting stuck in her throat. He revives her by hitting her on the back and dislodging the apple in her throat. He becomes friends with Aza and welcomes her into his home at Gnome Caverns when she is in hiding.
He is a judge and can read into the future to a certain extent, predicting the danger that Aza will find herself in. He teaches Aza about Gnome culture and helps her uncover her heritage; He figures at the end that he is Azas distant cousin. Skulni — The main antagonist of the book. Those who use the potions of the mirror can become beautiful or take on disguises, but the price they pay is that, at their death, they become trapped in the mirror until Lucinda gives the mirror again, while Skulni takes a holiday.
When not in the mirror, Skulni travels under the name "Master Ikulni. He is ultimately defeated by Aza; after she smashes the mirror, he is never heard of again. During a centaur show, the king was badly injured and left partially paralyzed and bed-ridden.
Becomes very good friends of Ella of Frell, alluding to Ella Enchanted. Fairy Lucinda - Gift giving fairy. Gave Queen Ivi gifts. Moreover, Levine adds an ironic twist: Aza, like Snow White, has white skin, red lips and black hair - but unlike Snow White, this does not make her beautiful in prevailing Ayorthaian standards; on the contrary, she considers herself ugly and is so considered by nearly everybody except for Prince Ijori.
Themes[ edit ] Fairest explores the themes of self-image, self-acceptance, and societies beauty constructs within the framework of a fairy tale setting. Aza is described as unattractive—ugly even, and one can see the effects this label has on Aza. Her self-conscious demeanor and self-loathing are evident in her voice as a character. Throughout the text we watch her begin to improve and respect herself, especially when Prince Ijori shows that he loves Aza despite her looks.
One sees these similar themes represented through Queen Ivi, who has let her desire for beauty consume her to the point of possibly selling her soul for beauty.
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Chapter One I was born singing. Most babies cry. I sang an aria. Or so I believe. I have no one to tell me the truth of it. I was abandoned when I was a month old, left at the Featherbed Inn in the Ayorthaian village of Amonta. It was January 12th of the year of Thunder Songs.
Gail Carson Levine
Her father, whose childhood in the Hebrew Orphan Asylum of New York provided inspiration for her story Dave at Night , owned a commercial art studio, and her mother was a teacher who wrote plays for her students to perform. Her older sister, Rani, her senior by five years, became a painter. Reflecting on her experiences, Levine says "those years were some of my happiest. I was learning to write.
To me, the next biggie after “Cinderella” is “Snow White.”