At birth, Ella is inadvertently cursed by an imprudent fairy named Lucinda, who bestows on her the "gift" of obedience. Anything anyone tells her to do, Ella must obey. Another girl might have been cowed by this affliction, but not feisty Ella: "Instead of making me docile, Lucinda's curse made a rebel of me. Or perhaps I was that way naturally."
When her beloved mother dies, leaving her in the care of a mostly absent and avaricious father, and later, a loathsome stepmother and two treacherous stepsisters, Ella's life and well-being seem in grave peril. But her intelligence and saucy nature keep her in good stead as she sets out on a quest for freedom and self-discovery, trying to track down Lucinda to undo the curse, fending off ogres, befriending elves, and falling in love with a prince along the way.
Ella Enchanted is the story of a girl blessed with the horrible curse of obedience. Whatever somebody orders she has to literary obey. Which causes problems for others indirectly, like the prince telling her to stay, or directly, like every order her stepfamily gives her. This still doesn’t subdue Ella’s spirit, which is normal. Who likes to do what others orders by force? That’s how rebellions are formed! And that’s what Ella does in a way when she is in finishing school and sets out to look for Lucinda.
The novel is straight forward. It’s not a masterpiece in any way, but it’s cute and has a lot of heart. The protagonist doesn’t let her curse bring her whole life down by looking for ways to go around it. She manages to fight back with those who use her but she’s not a bitch either. She’s a sympathetic voice that you want to root for, which is good because this novel is in first person.
There’s nothing more annoying than a two-faced teenage girl narrator who is annoying to boot and spends pages describing her love interest as a smoldering Adonis. At no point did I want to punch Ella in the face. Her voice was charming, insightful and refreshing after all the purple prose I’ve read. Levine uses simple language but insightful thoughts to actually show Ella as a normal but smart young lady.
Plus she’s a linguist. Best super power ever! The way she develops this ability brings new depths to Ella that I did not expect and it’s this ability that allows her to fight off ogres. You see a genuine interest that grows as she goes along and permits her to make friends, outwit everyone and find loopholes for her condition. Remember kids, linguistics can save lives.( I wonder if I’ll be able to fight ogres once I finish my master’s). More authors should take risks and give hobbies to their characters and make them work to improve. That’s one of the best way to make real characters instead of puppets.
But my favorite aspect of this novel is the romance, and coming from me that speaks volumes. The relationships of this series are based on actions, not just words. A nice break from “my heart aches in waves like heat radiant with passion, my eternal soulbuddy of cosmos and beyond”
Ella’s romance with Char is eventual. They start off as friends, getting to know each other better as time goes by. This allows them to appreciate each other in levels that other YA do not. Char finds Ella funny, cute and charming; Ella finds Char kind, smart and sweet. It’s sappy at times, but always endearing. My favorite part was when Ella was making fun of finishing school to get a laugh out of him because more than just beautiful looks or power, all they want is for the other to be happy and well.
Then you have Lucinda, giving “blessings” of love that are just horrendous. Like cursing a couple to be stuck together forever. It was beautiful when a fellow fairy explained why that was a bad gift to give after all everyone needs space from those they love once in a while or else they’ll end up hating each other.
Levine shows a great sensibility to what love really is, which surprised me. The subject of true love, and I say this with out rolling my eyes, is really touched upon. True love is friendship, caring for your partner more than yourself without losing yourself and free will. Everything I’ve said about romance was delivered here in a silver platter and don’t be weirded out if in a future sporking I quote from this book.
But I do have a few complaints though. At times the book padded and I just can’t see the actual point of the Duke scene. You could take that out and the novel wouldn’t really suffer. So her father pimps her out? We already knew he sucked. The Duke doesn’t show up again nor this scene affects the big picture of her curse. Was it to show love magic is fake? We had that with her father and step mother. I really stopped to think what was the point of that and for every reason to do it there was a reason to take this scene out.
Also, some characters were a bit flat and the story lost me a bit when it entered in Cinderella. I don’t mind fairy tale retellings at all, but in this particular case it lost strength when it went there. I guess it’s because it was its own story for the longest of times that, while not tacked on, it did break some of what was special about it. It could have borrowed from Cinderella and gone its own way, like The light princess did with Sleeping Beauty.
Still, those are minor complaints. I adored this book and I wish I had it half my age ago. I’m considering buying another of her books in the future to see if I like as much as this one. Also, must check out Ella Enchanted movie. Must see Chad/Ella cuteness on screen (Don’t spoil me, I want to see how they did the letters sans spoilers) .
Well, until next time this is Shaolina signing out!