Monday, March 9, 2015

Book Review: Ella Enchanted

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Recommended for: Ages 8 and up

Rating: G

At birth, Ella is inadvertently cursed by an imprudent young 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 to be 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 as she tries to track down Lucinda to undo the curse, fending off ogres, befriending elves, and falling in love with a prince along the way. Yes, there is a pumpkin coach, a glass slipper, and a happily ever after, but this is the most remarkable, delightful, and profound version of Cinderella you'll ever read.

Gail Carson Levine's examination of traditional female roles in fairy tales takes some satisfying twists and deviations from the original. Ella is bound by obedience against her will, and takes matters in her own hands with ambition and verve. Her relationship with the prince is balanced and based on humor and mutual respect; in fact, it is she who ultimately rescues him. Ella Enchanted has won many well-deserved awards, including a Newbery Honor.

This is one Newbery honor book that I didn't read when I was younger. I didn't even know that it was a book until the past couple weeks. For awhile, the only Cinderella retelling that I have known was the Disney version, but this is an interesting and creative way to retell the story of Cinderella.

Writing: 5/5 

The writing was fast-paced and didn't ramble or give unnecessary details. It wasn't too fast-paced and was written so that you can get to know the characters and some of what Ella's world is like. It also wasn't boring and I actually wanted to read more, which is more rare than I would like for it to be. This book is written in first person, so you know exactly what Ella is thinking and feeling. The reading level is good for a children's book.

Setting: 5/5

The story is set in a fictional land, which I'm not sure if it is supposed to be in a fictional world or on earth somewhere. There are elves, ogres and fairies in this world. Each one is well developed and their species have certain physical traits and abilities. The world building isn't as serious as it is in most of the fantasy books that I read, but it fits perfectly for this story.

Plot: 4/5

There are many sub-plots throughout the story, and the main plot is a part of the entire story. The book starts out with an overview of Ella's childhood, and her struggles with trying to break the spell. I don't love that obedience isn't put in a good light, but it mainly focuses on how it can be used to harm people.

Characters: 5/5

All the characters were well done and had their own unique personalities. Ella struggles with the death of her mother and being sent off to school. She tries to break her curse throughout the story as she is asked to do things, like give her mother's necklace to her future stepsister, Hattie. Hattie is mean and quickly figures out that Ella must do whatever she tells her to. She then bullies Ella. Olive, the other stepsister, isn't very smart but she does learn that Ella must obey. There are several other characters, such as Mandy, the cook, Ella's father and the prince. The are some of the more traditional elements of the Cinderella as well as the different aspects.

I enjoyed this book very much and I would recommend it 


  1. This was one of my favorite books growing up. I've forgotten how many times I've read it. The message wasn't so much of "obedience is bad," as much as it was "forced obedience." Ella couldn't choose to disobey, but she also couldn't choose to obey. She was a slave to anyone who asked something of her, and that was what was bad.

  2. I agree, she wasn't able to disobey when obeying would endanger someone's life. I enjoyed it and wish that I had read it when I was younger.


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