Wednesday, August 14, 2013
What if Rapunzel was Snow White’s evil stepmother? From the author of Godmother and Mermaid, The Fairest of Them All explores what happens when fairy tale heroines grow up and don’t live happily ever after.
Living in an enchanted forest, Rapunzel spends her days tending a mystical garden with her adoptive mother, Mathena. A witch, Mathena was banished from court because of her magic powers, though the women from the kingdom still seek her advice and herbal remedies. She waits, biding her time to exact revenge against those who betrayed her.
One day Rapunzel’s beautiful voice and long golden locks captivate a young prince hunting in the forest nearby. Overcome, he climbs her hair up to her chamber and they fall into each other’s arms. But their afternoon of passion is fleeting, and the prince must return to his kingdom, as he is betrothed to another.
Now king, he marries his intended to bring peace to his kingdom. They have a stunning daughter named Snow White. Yet the king is haunted by his memories of Rapunzel, and after the mysterious death of his wife, realizes he is free to marry the woman he never stopped longing for. In hopes of also replacing the mother of his beloved daughter, the king makes Rapunzel his queen.
But when Mathena’s wedding gift of an ancient mirror begins speaking to her, Rapunzel falls under its evil spell, and the king begins to realize that Rapunzel is not the beautiful, kind woman he dreamed of.
I love to read the "what if" type stories. Add to the mix some old-fashioned fairy tales, and I'm in reading bliss. This story was clever in that it combined the stories of Snow White and Rapunzel. Reading it was like watching a mixture of "Mirror, Mirror" and "Tangled" in my mind, only grittier. Scenes from both movies played out in my thoughts. At the same time, it was different, and those parts were clearly an original work from the author's imagination. It was a bit edgier than anything you'd see in a Disney movie, but life is painful at times, and there is often heartache that comes with out-of-control ambition. I liked the insight into the darkness of the human soul that was skillfully shown in this story. But the author also showed that darkness can be redeemed by light.
Reading this book reminded me of learning about Luke Skywalker's father the first time and pondering how someone who started out innocent became corrupted because of tragedy and pain, then turned evil as a result. At the same time, the author managed to squeeze a happy ending out of it. The big "reveal" at the end made sense, and it wasn't entirely unexpected. At the same time, it was a unique twist on things that the author used to turn Rapunzel's heart around. I liked the fact that triumph came from tragedy in this book. The magic she tried to use only made her situation more complicated, and in the end, it showed itself to be a false friend as well. How true that is. Deception never works. In the end, it only wounds.
The "revelation" about their marriage at the end was a bit creepy, but at the same time, everything came together in a way that made sense. If I were Rapunzel, I'd have been horrified, too. Thankfully that situation resolved naturally. I really enjoyed the author's voice and the creativity she expressed in this novel. I read it quickly. Actually, I devoured it. It's not for readers who like gentle stories, though. Some of the reality in this story might be a bit much for teens. But I like the realism and the emotion, so it worked for me. I'll be thinking about the story for some time.
The Fairest of Them All was published by Touchstone (Simon and Schuster) and released August 6th, 2013.