**** Levine, Gail Carson. Fairest. 2006. 326p. HarperCollins.
For ages: 10 years and up
Aza is content to live forever with her adopted family in the land of Ayorthia helping them run the Featherbed Inn. It’s true she can sing well—something treasured by Ayorthian’s—but that doesn’t keep Aza from worrying about her larger than average stature or her full face, not to mention her shocking dark hair and large red lips. Aza is content cleaning up in the background until a duchess arrives and takes a liking to Aza. When the Duchess’s servant is taken ill, Aza is asked to accompany the Duchess to the King’s wedding.
At the castle, new queen Ivy discovers Aza’s special talent for throwing her voice and making it seem as someone else is singing. Thin-voiced Ivy persuades Aza to sing for her in a kind of Milli-Vanilli lip-sinking arrangement. Things get more complicated when the king is gravely injured and Ivy takes over as ruler of Ayorthia. Ivy threatens Aza’s family inn unless Aza continues to sing for Ivy and keep their secret. Aza feels terrible lying to her kingdom, especially to Prince Ijori, the king’s nephew and Aza’s only real friend. So there’s no one she can confess her concerns to when Ivy grows more and more attached to the advice of her special mirror.
Loosely based on the fairytale Snow White, this tale takes place in a nearby country of the same world as Ella’s from Ella Enchanted. Levine has a knack for creating life-like fairytale lands. Ayorthaia, a land of song, comes alive in the book. I felt like I was reading a musical and could hear the songs and melodies of Aza’s world even though there were only words. The romance is sweet and tame and Aza’s adventures and journey’s were compelling. My daughter loved this book and insisted I read it. I’m usually a slow reader but I read all 326 pages in just 3 days. That’s a good read.