by Gail Carson Levine

Hardcover, 2006



Local notes

Fic Lev copy 1



HarperColl (2006), Edition: First Edition, 326 pages


In a land where beauty and singing are valued above all else, Aza eventually comes to reconcile her unconventional appearance and her magical voice, and learns to accept herself for who she truly is.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

326 p.; 8.62 inches


0060734086 / 9780060734084



User reviews

LibraryThing member krau0098
I was excited to read a novel by Gail Carson Levine; but this book turned out to be less than I was hoping for. It make work out better for young girls, but I seriously doubt young adults or adults will find it all that engaging. On a side note I listened to this as an audio book and that was definitely...well...an experience. They used a full casting for the audio book and all of the songs were sung in all of their full operatic glory. I was riding my bike when I started listening to this book and I almost fell off of it when all the sudden music started pelting out in the middle of my audio book....

Aza thinks that she is ugly; she is too big and has different coloring from other people in the kingdom. Her parents run an inn and love her dearly, but they are not her birth parents (they found her on the steps of their inn as a baby). When Aza accompanies a Duchess to the wedding of their new king she feels drawn to the new Queen. The Queen ends up asking Aza to be her lady-in-waiting and from there Aza gets embroiled in a dangerous plot to help Queen Ivy save face.

This book is supposed to be a retelling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. It has some similarities to that story but more differences. If you think Disney took the grim out of Grimms Fairy Tales well then this book is Disney sugar coated with a cherry on top. There is so much happy ever after it is almost sickeningly sweet. The dire circumstances of the heroine are never really dire at all; the book is completely predictable.

Aza makes an unlikely role model for young girls. Aza (who is wed at 16 years old, I might add) is fifteen going on sixteen but has the mentality of a ten year old. Her obsessiveness with her ugliness is really...well...obsessive. She easily tosses morals aside to be beautiful. At the end she says she can't believe how much she has changed throughout the book; when not a few seconds earlier she was *again* whining about her ugliness. At times the author tries to excuse Aza being ugly because she sings so beautifully. Is it a requirement that everyone do one thing outstandingly wonderful to make them a good person?

All of the characters pretty much have this shallow level of depth. All the characters are type-cast. Not one single character does anything surprising.

Is there good in this book? If you read it knowing what to expect it is an okay book. It was actually what I expected, but not what I was hoping for. It is super cute, and super sugary. I as said it is a Disney film with heaps of sweetness added. That is not all a bad thing. The book ends how you expect and all the characters are just so good that you can't help but smile at times. Of course at other times you want to slap them for being so stupid, but I feel that way about Disney films too.

If you love Disney and you love cutsey and you want to be a princess then this book is for you. I think it will probably find appeal with younger girls who still dream of being a fairy princess. I think anyone over ten years of age will have trouble finding much to love here. This book did not make me eager to read more of Levine's books. Maybe if I am in the mood for more brainless sweetness I will check other out. Instead of reading this I would recommend "Princess Ben" by Catherine Murdock; this is also a sweet fairy tale but with more guts and more interesting characters.
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LibraryThing member Nikkles
This is an alright book. I always feel that Gail Carson Levine does make her characters as full as they could be. The story is a nice twist on a classic though. Its a really quick pleasant read, but in the end not that special.
LibraryThing member Katya0133
A cute story, but I didn't enjoy it as much as Ella Enchanted, and I'm not sure why.
LibraryThing member SunnySD
In the kingdom of Ayortha, music is the art of choice. Birdsong is a welcome sound in the king's palace, and everyone sings at the drop of a hat. For Aza who has the most beautiful of singing voices, but who was born homely and abandoned with an innkeeper's family that kindly takes her in, a visit to the king's palace is unexpected. The king is to wed a beautiful commoner from the neighboring kingdom, and the country rejoices.

But all is not as it seems. The king's new bride cannot sing. When the king is struck down and lies at death's door, only Aza's "illusing" can hide this fault from the people. Aza must cope with a willful queen, a smitten prince, and her own guilt at misleading the people and the prince. When a magic mirror seems to grant her fondest wish - to be as lovely as her voice, the situation worsens.

An interesting take on Sleeping Beauty. Aza is as kind as she is ugly, and I liked the gnomes, to be exact. A pleasant book to occupy a rainy afternoon.
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LibraryThing member francescadefreitas
I liked Ayortha, the country of singers. And the gnomes. I found the details of the story a little confusing. I was never entirely clear on why Aza was considered so ugly - at times it seems like she was just tall and sturdily built? If she was so conscious of her size, why did she try and squeeze through a window?
This was a pleasant read, but not exceptional.… (more)
LibraryThing member spartan04
I already read Ella Enchanted and then decided to read Fairest also by Gail Carson Levine. This book mentions details from the former book because some characters from the first book are mentioned in this one.
LibraryThing member Librarygirl66
In a land where beauty and singing are valued above all else, Aza eventually comes to reconcile her unconventional appearance and her magical voice, and learns to accept herself for who she truly is.
LibraryThing member thc_luver6
This book has wonderful morals! It teaches that beauty isn't everything...and it includes lots of singing. ;)
LibraryThing member dbookmaniac
It's a great book. It's a snow white story with a twist. It is about a girl named Aza who thinks she is ugly, though she has a butiful voice. In the book she finds out what really matters. I have loved all of Gail Carson Levine's books and this is one of my favorites by her. Though my Favorite ones by her is her Princess tales. What I like about her is how she takes the fairy tales that we all know and combines them and adds a twist to them.… (more)
LibraryThing member supersam
It is now my fav book. It was like a twisted version of snow white, but I loved it the whole way through!
LibraryThing member debs4jc
In this delightful story, loosely based on "Snow White", the heroine Aza must learn to accept herself as she is. Adopted by innkeepers, she struggles to fit in in a society that deems her ugly. One thing she has going for her is her lovely voice, which is important in a society that adores music. But it is not enough to save her when she gets in trouble during a visit to the court. Aza must find a way to use her talents and inner strength to save herself--and to get back to those she loves. This story was wonderful to listen to as an audiobook, as I could hear the many songs referred to throughout the story actually being sung. The actors and director/composer did an excellent job and selectign the right melodies for the songs and the right tone. The only problem I had was that I couldn't always understand all of the words. Other than that I couldn't wait to get in my car for my daily dose of this delightful tale.… (more)
LibraryThing member hoosgracie
Excellent take on Snow White. The audio is well worth the listen as they wrote music to go with the songs in the book.
LibraryThing member RGQuimby
Another intriguing story from Levine, but this time lacking in charm. Readers will relate to Aza's desire to be pretty and loved, but the narrative moves very slowly. The element of magic in this book seems to be thrown in at the end, with the magic mirror becoming an important element only after the briefest of introductions. Aza's love interest is not exactly likable--the prince seems spoiled, class-obsessed, and utterly feckless. He leaves Aza high and dry several times throughout the story, and she happily accepts him each time. Not exactly the tough, resourceful fairy tale heroines that I am used to seeing from Levine. Also, all the singing in this story doesn't translate well to the printed page.… (more)
LibraryThing member MissReadsALot
The book was okay for a book. It could get really boring at parts. However it was a pretty good story.
LibraryThing member stephxsu
When we think of fairy tale heroines, we usually imagine a beautiful, graceful young woman with massive amounts of hair down to there and angel eyes. Aza is none of the above. Tall, wide, and pasty, Aza was abandoned at an inn when she was only a few days old. The innkeeper’s family adopted her and she has lived and worked with them ever since. The inn’s guests are rarely kind with their comments about her looks, but even after 15 years of hearing them, Aza is still uncomfortable with her looks.

However, Aza has a special gift: her voice. She is an amazing singer, even by Ayorthaian standards, and secretly she masters the art of illusing, or what we refer to as ventriloquism, or “throwing” one’s voice. She journeys to the king’s castle to witness the marriage of King Ascaro to Queen Ivi, a foreigner. There, her voice captures Ivi’s attention. Ivi is determined to remain the fairest in all the land, and blackmails Aza into becoming her lady-in-waiting so she can illuse over her own weak voice.

Aza is unhappy at the castle, where her only source of happiness is the prince Ijori. Ivi owns a magic handheld mirror named Skulni which can make gazers look beautiful, and Aza is obsessed with becoming beautiful through any means, including spells and potions. When her life is in danger due to Ivi’s manic selfishness, Aza flees to Gnome Caverns where she learns the truth about herself and must grow to accept her looks and gain self-confidence.

FAIREST is a good story, notwithstanding certain things I would have liked better explained, such as Skulni. While it’s a retelling of Snow White, Gail Carson Levine makes it clear that the moral is that no one should judge their worth by their looks.
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LibraryThing member allenm
I liked how it was a retelling of a classic fairy tale.Also how Aza(Snow White) is ugly until she drinks a potion and how she is part gnome and the weird guy in the mirror. And I like that singing is special in her country.
LibraryThing member ChocolatesHeaven4Me
Aza a girl who was found at the Featherbed Inn, abonddened by her parents, she was wrapped in a velvet blanket, with gold thread. She had a beautiful voice, the fairest in Aroytha. But she was ugly, as ulgy as you can imagine. Aza could illuse. Meaning she could make her voice go anywhere, and at a different person's voice, while her mouth was closed. Aza grew up to be a Inn keepers daughter. The duchess the Featherbads most rich quest, had to addentend the royal wedding. Uniting King Oscaro and Ivi. The duchess's maid grew ill. So the duchess took Aza instead. Aza soon became the Queen's neew lady-in-waiting. Because she was so ugly. One day the king had been blown at the head with a iron ring, and could not speak. He as parwalyzed.The Queen had a mirror, that one day Aza found. It was a hand mirrior, when Aza looked into it, she was the most beautiful person she had ever seen. Soon Aza was illuseing for the Queen because her voice sounded awful. But the choirmaster, Sir Uellu found out, and realized that Aza had more than a few drops of ogre blood. While the council was thinking what to do to her, she found a potion from the queen and it was labeled beauty. Aza immeadiately drank it. She became beautiful. And was sent to prison. Aza escaped and Uju the knight took her. He led her far away, but didn't kill her as the queen had asked him to. She ran to the Gnomes Caverns, and learned that she was not a cousin to the ogres but a cousin to the gnomes. One day, her good gnome friend zhamM went out and she decided to buy him a present for his generiostiy. Ivi, with the other potion made herself a gnome and gave Aza a posioned apple. Aza fell, and found herself in the same room as Skulni the creature that showed itself to her when she had looked into the hand mirror. He had tricked Queen Ivi to poison Aza, and the to kill someone in the court. Then Ivi would be executed, and die, and Skulni would get a holiday. Ivi was saved, when she pounded and broke the mirror from the inside. But she was now not beautiful, she was ugly like she was before the potion. While Prince Ijori saved her in reality. She coughed up the apple. And returened to the castle. The King was also getting better. Aza told the Prince of the danger Ivi was in. And Aza found the mirror broken. Aza forced Ivi to visit the King. And amazinlly he was cured. The next day Aza and Ijori were married. And tthey had three wonderful children. It just comes to show that beauty isn't everything.… (more)
LibraryThing member willowsmom
An adaptation of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Aza is a likable character, although her obsession with her appearance and it's perceived faults grows trying, especially when compared to the original tale. Prince Ijori's love for Aza feels a bit manufactured, but many of the characters are interesting and believable. The author's description of Aza's hideous hand me down gowns is especially silly, but the novel is overall quite lighthearted.… (more)
LibraryThing member tiamatq
I really enjoyed this retelling of the Snow White story... which I didn't get until shamefully late! The twist is that Aza, the main character, doesn't meet any traditional standards of beauty - she was abandoned in an inn when she was a baby, without any knowing who left her. Her skin is mottled, her hair is a dull black, she's grotesquely tall and extremely wide. However, she has an amazing singing voice, as well as the ability to imitate others and throw her voice. When strange circumstances send her to see the king's wedding, Aza becomes a member of the court and the new queen's lady-in-waiting. But Aza's luck quickly turns bad, as she becomes tangled in deception and political plotting.

Aza's a terrific character, if a bit too mopey for my tastes. She is obsessed with being beautiful, and sometimes that got old to hear. I enjoyed her strength and her kindness. I also appreciated where Levine chose to depart from tradition - there are several hints throughout the plot that make you think "aha - this is Aza's background" and Levine doesn't go with the obvious choices. Queen Ivy is just the right amounts of dislikable mixed with pitiful. There are a few plot points that clear up just a bit too quickly, considering how other elements of the story take their time unfolding.

I listened to this book, mostly because I've heard several librarians rave about the fact that it's done by Full Cast Audio, Bruce Coville's audiobook company. For a book that relies to heavily on music, I can't imagine what it would've been like to read it on paper. The songs, the voices, the way that each actor played their role, made this a complete story. I'm surprised to find myself humming songs from the book, like Frying Pan's protest song.

If you're a fan of fairy tales, especially retellings, this is a great book, and an even better audiobook!
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LibraryThing member ThorneStaff
Gail Carson Levine, the author of "Ella Enchanted" and other creative twists on classic fairy tales, writes "Fairest", a (very twisty) twist on "Snow White". Aza is not beautiful, but she has a beautiful voice that attracts the attention of royalty, especially Queen Ivi. But Queen Ivi has a secret of her own, and she will do anything to protect it. Meanwhile, Aza is put in the middle of what threatens to become an international (interspecies?) conflict. Aza learns that beauty can come at a high price, and it is certainly not to the only -- or the best -- talent a person can have.… (more)
LibraryThing member rosenberg41783
A twist to the classic story of snow white, Fairest is a fairy tale that still has a classic ending. It's about an adopted girl who has always been called ugly, but everything changes when she starts to work at the palace for the new queen.
LibraryThing member BookshelfMonstrosity
What a stellar first line. What follows is Levine's tale loosely based on the fairy tale Snow White. All the basic elements of the ancient tale appear in some form or fashion in the novel: apples, fair skin juxtaposed with jet black hair, dwarves (or gnomes in this case), a charming prince, and a cleverly disguised wicked queen. I would definitely recommend reading Ella Enchanted first before reading this one; this book has some characters connected to Ella. It's not imperative that you do so; just helpful.

Song is an important concept in the book; the Ayorthaians value singing as their main form of expression. This fact leads to my only complaint for the book: lengthy passages of sung poems or verses are included in the novel and I confess I began to skip over them. I found the songs to be annoying after the first 8 or so. Perhaps others wouldn't find them to be as distracting as I did. I understand the need for them to be there; I just did not like the vast amount included.

One of the main themes of Fairest is an important one for the book's target audience: accept the way you look. You're unique and beautiful just as you are. Aza was just like any other teenage girl - insecure and too hard on herself. I think many YA readers could relate to the way she feels. This aspect of the novel is very applicable in today's appearance-driven society.
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LibraryThing member cherryblossommj
My library had a copy of this book, so I started to read it. But it just made me wish I had a young girl to share the story with, so I stopped. I'll read it again one day, it seems to hold a good lesson. I'm just too distracted to read it right now.
LibraryThing member cherryblossommj
My library had a copy of this book, so I started to read it. But it just made me wish I had a young girl to share the story with, so I stopped. I'll read it again one day, it seems to hold a good lesson. I'm just too distracted to read it right now.
LibraryThing member dfullmer
An interesting take on the snow white fairy tale by the author of Ella Enchanted. A girl whose looks don't fit in learns to love herself and appreciate her unusual vocal talents.

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