Ella Enchanted

Gail Carson Levine
240 pages
1997

“It is helpful to know the proper way to behave, so one can decide whether or not to be proper.”
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

This has been one of my favorite books for many years now. While I like the book, I really like the audio book for it, read by Eden Rigel. When I first heard her reading the book during one long car ride in my pre-teen years, all I could think was how perfectly the voice fit my image of the character.

Ella Enchanted is a retelling of Cinderella with a twist. The main character, Ella, was blessed/cursed by a fairy doing forbidden “big magic” and was given the gift of obedience. This means any time someone tells her to do something, she must do it, or the world starts to tilt and her whole body hurts. This is not too much of a problem when she is young, in fact, it makes her very rebellious. She learns to find all the little loopholes to satisfy the gift but still not acquiesce to the demand. The trouble starts after her mother dies of illness. Her father, who has been kept ignorant of her condition, has debts he has to deal with. At the same time Ella meets the Prince, Char, and they form a friendship based on the love of Eleanor, Ella’s mother. Her father becomes friendly with the Dame Olga, and her two odious daughters Hattie and Olive. The rest that follows is her fight to keep herself and those she loves safe from people that would misuse her gift. The whole time she is still hoping she can find the fairy to make her reverse the gift. Everything culminates in three masked balls, and Ella saving the day.

This is a fast read and not very long as an Audiobook, but there is so much in the book. Ella is not a normal girl, even in her world. She has a way of getting into trouble but then being able to talk her way out of it. Many of the characters are draw to her strong spirit, and she in turn chooses worthy friends. She is brave, intelligent, and head strong. She is just the type of girl preteens and teenagers should be reading about. And when she has to make the hard decisions, she does what needs to be done, even if she is breaking her own heart to do so.

The other characters are a fresh take on the classic. Char is a very interesting Prince, as Ella meets him when they are still quite young and they grow closer as they get older. The interactions between the two are believable, and enjoyable to observe. One of my favorite scenes is when the two of them skip a wedding and dance together, and then slide down the banisters.

This retelling is unique in that Ella’s father is alive, and even made aware of the mistreatment his daughter is suffering, but he does nothing to stop it. He is a greedy and shrewd man, and his daughter’s happiness is not his priority. Dame Olga and Hattie make delightful antagonist, more greedy than evil. And of course there is the fairy, Lucinda, and possibly one or two more. There are also giants, ogres, gnomes, centaurs, and parrots.

There is a movie version out based on this book, but I have not been brave enough to see it. The movie clearly has singing and dancing in it, and while there was some singing in the book, things just look too different for me. I have trouble watching adaptations of my favorite books, especially when it is clear from the trailers that things have been changes.

Final Verdict: A great read for the younger readers or the young at heart! A wonderful tale of a brave girl who won the prince with her personality!

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