Marshmallow enjoys reading stories that take familiar fairy tales and twist them in various ways to see what will happen. See her reviews of School for Good and Evil: Quests for Glory and School for Good and Evil: A Crystal of Time by Soman Chainani, and A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz. Below she reviews another such book: Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, first published in 1997 and awarded a Newberry Honor in 1998.
Marshmallow’s quick take: If you like books that twist classic fairy tales like Cinderella and Snow White, then this might be the book for you.
Marshmallow’s Summary (with spoilers): Ella of Frell has a big secret. She has to do everything that everyone tells her to. Lucinda, the fairy, gave Ella the “gift” of obedience when she was a baby. The “gift” of obedience makes Ella do everything that anyone tells her to do. If someone told her to cut off her own head, she would have to do it.
Anyone could control me with an order. It had to be a direct command, such as “Put on a shawl,” or “You must go to bed now”. A wish or a request had no effect. I was free to ignore “I wish you would put on a shawl,” or “Why don’t you go to bed now?” but against an order, I was powerless. If someone told me to hop on one foot for a day and a half, I’d have to do it. And hopping on one foot wasn’t the worst order I could be given.
But soon her mother dies and she is left without a mother and with a father who she thoroughly dislikes. During her mother’s funeral, she meets a prince named Charmont. They become friends. Then Ella meets Dame Olga and her horrific daughters. And even worse her father marries Dame Olga whose two daughters, Hattie and Olive, start treating Ella badly. Hattie soon discovers that Ella needs to obey orders and so then Dame Olga, Olive, and Hattie start treating Ella like a slave. (Sounds like Cinder-Ella, with her evil stepmother and step-sisters, doesn’t it?)
The rest of the story intertwines parts of the standard Cinderella fairy tale (she does lose her slipper at a palace ball) with some new ideas (the fairy who “gifted” her with obedience, for example). In the end there is love and happiness, so there it is quite like a fairy tale. But I won’t tell you how things get resolved. You just might have to read the book (or watch the movie, I guess…)
Marshmallow’s Review: This is a very good book that makes you think about how we are so lucky to be able to say no. If a fairy had given me the “gift” of obedience, it would be very bad if I could not say no to an order such as to cut off my head. It must have been scary to be in constant danger. If someone found out that you had to listen to any thing that anybody tells you to do. (Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe Ella could have asked someone to order her to not listen to commands unless she wanted to. I wonder if that would have worked.)
Ella Enchanted is a great book that makes you think about how we can just say no. Ella is a fifteen year old who acts normally and is not as flawless as in the fairy tale Cinderella. The characters, Lucinda, Hattie, and Olive are really quite despicable and are easily disliked. (I really disliked Hattie and Lucinda sometimes.)
Marshmallow’s rating: 95%