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Publisher's Summary

Once upon a time, there was a girl who wanted to be pretty....

Aza's singing is the fairest in all the land - and the most unusual. She can "throw" her voice so it seems to come from anywhere. But singing is only one of the two qualities prized in the Kingdom of Ayortha. Aza doesn't possess the other: beauty. Not even close. She's hidden in the shadows in her parents' inn, but when she becomes lady-in-waiting to the new queen, she has to step into the light - especially when the queen demands a dangerous favor. A magic mirror, a charming prince, a jealous queen, palace intrigue, and an injured king twine into a maze that Aza must penetrate to save herself and her beloved kingdom.

©2006 Gail Carson Levine (P)2015 Recorded Books

Critic Reviews

"A song-filled, fast-paced fairy tale." ( Kirkus Reviews)
"Readers will instantly fall in love with the heroine, whose heart proves to be as warm as her voice." ( Publishers Weekly)
"[Readers will] sink into the fairy-tale romance, the remarkable characters, and the wild, magical adventures." ( ALA Booklist)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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    21
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    8
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    2

Performance

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    42
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    15
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    5
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Story

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Very cute and uplifting

Having only ever listened to this on audio, please forgive me if I make any egregious misspellings of character or place names. I'm actually going to skim some reviews to see if I can find how to spell these names...

"Fairest", a Snow White retelling, was the first book by Gail Carson Levine I've ever read. I'm familiar with her work because of the Ella Enchanted movie, but only now got around to picking up her books. (Seeing the movie did at least allow me to notice and appreciate the references this book made to Ella Enchanted.) Now that I have read one of her books, I see what all the fuss is about. The world she has created is charming with its many fantastical creatures and Ayortha's music-based culture, and I know Ayortha is only one small part of the world.

I enjoyed many of the characters too, Prince Ijori probably being my favorite. He loved Aza for who she was despite her "ugly" appearance, and even when she turned herself beautiful, he liked her better the way she was before because that was the real her. (A much better message to children than having her only love her, or love her more, once she was beautiful.)

Aza herself was a good character too, though I probably would have related to her more when I was much younger and still struggling with self-image issues. I admit that I didn't initially find her all that interesting, and for some reason, at the beginning of the story especially, I had trouble believing she truly was as horribly ugly as she and certain others seemed to think she was. But much like the story, she grew on me as things went along, and I was happy to see her overcome her problems in the end. I'll give some points to Aza's adopted family too. While not perfect, they did seem to love her and treat her well.

The "evil" queen (Ivi) was interesting (though not necessarily likable) because she wasn't actually that evil -- more like misguided and infuriatingly self-centered--but I did think it was an interesting and refreshing twist on the character.

That Lucinda, though. *shakes head* Need I say more?

As for some of those fantastical creatures, I adored the gnomes the most. Their whole culture and living situation fascinated me, and I'd say I finally really started enjoying the story around the time they became more prominent in the story.

The reason I've taken off a star is because the pacing in the beginning of the story could have used some improvement. It was enjoyable and all, but the story didn't truly suck me in until around the time they were headed for the gnome cavern, and that was a good 3/4ths of the way through the book. Truthfully, I probably would have enjoyed it more when I was the target age for the book, rather than in my twenties like I am now. I was also a little disappointed that we don't find out who Aza's birth parents were. She gets dropped off at the inn as a baby and is all wrapped up in these fine velvet fabrics with fancy gold embroidery, hinting that she was the daughter of someone important, and then we get to the end and are told that they just never found out who her parents were. Um...okay. Not the worst way to be disappointed, I guess, but after all those hints I really thought it would be revealed. *shrug*

Otherwise, this was a fun, charming little book and the ending left me with a smile and warm fuzzies. The narrator was very good, too, though I sort of wish she had sung the songs instead of reciting them like poetry. (I am still very disappointed that the full-cast, musical audiobook I’ve heard friends rave about does not seem to be available anywhere that I can find.)

Content Advisory for those who want to know: There are a few non-descriptive kisses. Various characters are in peril from time to time, but none of it was intense or upsetting. There is some fantasy magic. Overall, it was a very clean book, great for children and adults, but definitely aimed at pre-teens who suffer from self-esteem issues and need a good example of self-acceptance.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Lovely story!

I loved the story, everything about it. It captures your attention at the first page. I love that it all revolves around singing.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • ME
  • 09-01-17

great story!

great author!! will certainly look for more books by this author!! narrator was great, too. only thing that could make the narrator better is if she actually sang the songs in the book, which would be tough because we don't know the tunes!!
reading the songs as poetry is just fine with me, too, though.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Cute/clever re-imagining kept me listening late!

I really enjoyed this take on the Snow White story and that our heroine was not gorgeous like Snow White usually is. This is such a clever re-telling with many elements I didn't see coming. The narration was very good and generally seamless, although anyone buying this should be aware that in the land where this book takes place, the characters like to sing a lot. This means that the narrator has to speak all the songs (and there are many of them, and some are very long). This wouldn't be an issue if you were reading the book because then you could skim down the length of the songs and see what they were about. With the audio book you have to listen to every line--even the repeats of some of the choruses, which grew somewhat irritating. Still, if you enjoy poetry recitations, or can tune out for a bit, or don't listen in the car and are good at using your FF button, this issue shouldn't be a problem for you. It certainly didn't ruin the story for me, which was generally delightful!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Good Listen

Great writer. Perfect person to perform this book. I will definitely be buying more under the same writer. I really enjoyed the whole experience.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Wishful thinking

The story was sweet, and the voice was suitable, but I had had wishful thinking that the songs would be sung.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful