December 20, 2006


By Gail Carson Levine
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Noelle

The author of the excellent Ella Enchanted returns with another tale set in the same world but in the country of Ayortha instead of Kyrria. Aza was an abandoned child, adopted and raised lovingly by innkeepers. Ayorthians all sing as much as they speak--for games, healing rituals, weddings, conversation and more--and Aza has a singing voice beyond compare. She develops a skill no others can match--she can "illuse" when she sings, throwing her voice so it sounds like it is coming from other places. Unfortunately, Aza is also very large, awkward and unattractive, and this makes her miserable. Then a frequent guest at their inn, a duchess, invites Aza to go with her to the wedding of the king. Unbelievably, the new Queen Ivi seems taken with Aza, and asks her to become her lady-in-waiting. Aza is thrilled until she realizes the queen is using her, both for her ability to illuse and as a foil to her own beauty. When the king is felled by an accident and his recovery is uncertain, Ivi becomes a cruel ruler in his stead, and blackmails Aza into obedience. Aza longs to break free of Ivi, especially as she grows closer to Prince Ijori. But when Ivi accuses Aza of trying to use the queen for her own rise in power, things get out of hand. Aza is on the run--from prison and from Ivi's murderous intent. Will she be able to prove her innocence and stop Ivi before rebellion takes over the country? With a magic mirror, helpful gnomes, and a poison apple, readers may recognize allusions to Snow White, but this is certainly a more unique telling of the tale. While the narrative is not as perfectly wonderful as Ella Enchanted, this companion novel will still charm readers from start to finish.

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