Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fairest of Them All

I read two Snow White-fairy-tale-esque things back-to-back.  The Sleeping Beauty (Book 5 of the Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms) by Mercedes Lackey and  Fairest by Gail Carson Levine.  I finished The Sleeping Beauty yesterday and started Fairest right after.  I finished it a little after 11 o'clock last night.

Yeah, I thought The Sleeping Beauty would be about Sleeping Beauty too.  But her name was Rosamund.  Briar-Rose.  Do you get the connection?

Synopsis of The Sleeping Beauty:  

The Sleeping Beauty
Heavy is the head—and the eyelids—of the princess who wears the crown…

In Rosamund's realm, happiness hinges on a few simple beliefs:  For every princess there's a prince.  The king has ultimate power.  Stepmothers should never be trusted.  And bad things come to those who break with Tradition….

But when Rosa is pursued by a murderous huntsman and then captured by dwarves, her beliefs go up in smoke. Determined to escape and save her kingdom from imminent invasion, she agrees to become the guinea pig in one of her stepmother's risky incantations—thus falling into a deep, deep sleep.

When awakened by a touchy-feely stranger, Rosa must choose between Tradition and her future…between a host of eligible princes and a handsome, fair-haired outsider. And learn the difference between being a princess and ruling as a queen.

Brief explanation:  "The Tradition" is a formless, all-seeing force.  When someone's life begins to resemble a certain fairy tale, The Tradition pushes magic towards that person and tries to push him or her on that particular path.  The job of the Fairy Godmothers is to either re-direct The Tradition or help it along.

Personally, I liked it.  I didn't like it as much as the other books in the Five Hundred Kingdoms, but I enjoyed it.  Some books I can about predict what's going to happen.  This one, well, some of it was obvious.  Other things were a little more difficult to get.  Luckily, the people in this book are probably smarter than I am and they explained to the duller characters--thus explaining it to the readers.

And for the one that's more like the fairy tale:

FairestFairest Synopsis:  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 villiage of Amonta. It was January 12th of the year of Thunder Songs. 

The Fairy Lucinda [yes, the same one from Ella Enchanted] has once again given a dreadful gift. This time it's a mysterious magical mirror. The gift is disastrous when it falls into the hands of Aza, who never looks in a mirror if she can help it. In the Kingdom of Ayortha, Aza is most definitely not the fairest of them all. Many spurn her. Many scoff at her. She keeps out of sight. 

But in the land of singers, Aza has her own gift, one she's come by without fairy intervention: a voice that can do almost anything, a voice that captivates all who hear it. In Ontio Castle, merry Prince Ijori is drawn to it, and vain Queen Ivi wants to use it for her own ends. Queen Ivi would do anything to remain the fairest in the land. 

The synopsis doesn't exactly say this, but the back of the book does.  Aza can throw her voice so it sounds like it's coming from somewhere else.  A statue, another person...

Thoughts:  There's a bit of a subliminal message to this book.  Whether or not Levine intended it, I really don't care.

How does a fourteen to sixteen year old girl (that's how much time elapses in this book) live in a world obsessed with beauty?  Sure, she can sing, but it's not enough.  She's not pretty.

Sound familiar?

Now that I'm so far ahead with my reading challenge (5 books), I should probably get through The Name of the Wind.  I got 5 weeks before I'd be considered falling behind.  All those children's books add up after a while.

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