Sunday, January 24, 2016

Book Rant: Ella Enchanted

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine is one of my top favorite books of all time.  I originally read it in fifth grade, and still have the same copy (with my handwriting in orange gel pen in the front cover from that time).  This installment in my book rant series will be not consist of the movie “based on Ella Enchanted”, which I may decide to cover in the future.  It doesn’t really fit in this sort of rant.

My two favorite genres are historical fiction and fantasy.  I took fantasy literature in high school and, although it wasn’t particularly challenging, still loved it.  Most fantasy stories I own are meant for children, and can be read by adults, obviously, but I plan on challenging myself in discovering higher reading level-geared material soon.  Ella Enchanted is certainly a children’s book, but I think the comfort of a beloved story and set of characters is nothing to be ashamed of.  I think Ms. Levine would agree.

The book is written in first person, which I have not personally exercised in my collection of in-progress works so far.  This method is perfect in this story because it helps the reader understand the protagonist on the deepest level.  Ella’s character is probably the best I have seen in Gail Carson Levine’s works as a protagonist.  Her personality is well-developed as a courageous, intelligent, and loving person.  Being based on the well-known character of fairy-tales, Cinderella, how did Ms. Levine make the rather weak-willed person into a heroine who is more easily relatable?  The spin of a fairy birth blessing actually being an unintended curse is such a clever idea.  Being obedient to an odious stepmother and stepsisters just wouldn’t fly in the ideal of modern heroines, so Ella is tweaked to become an even more admirable Cinderella character.  I mean, well-behaved women rarely make history, right?

The supporting characters behind Ella are her mother, fairy-godmother (who actually wasn’t responsible for her “fairy gift”), her best friend Areida, and the steadfast and kind-hearted Prince Char.  The antagonists include her step-family, a couple of ogres, and basically anyone who could use Ella’s obedience against her and those she loves.  In my opinion, those on the border are Ella’s greedy father and the fairy who gave her the curse.  They are not “bad” characters, out to hurt others on purpose, but are products of their selfish lives.  This spectrum of character personalities is a good presentation of natural human faults and foibles.  Not everyone can naturally be a good as Prince Char, or as clever as Ella, but it can be a good thing to aspire to.

Ella Enchanted is, in short, a perfect original retelling of the original story.  It contains a lovely, inventive heroine and supporting cast of characters, with a fully orchestrated plot that while remains consistent to the classic tale of Cinderella, truly is its own unique and memorable tale.

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