Once upon a time, in the magical world created by Gail Carson Levine, there lived a girl named Ella in a town called Frell, which belonged to the kingdom of Kyrria. However, Ella is no ordinary girl. She has secretly co-existed since her birth with the bane of her existence — a terrible curse.
The nonsensical fairy Lucinda impulsively blessed Ella with the “gift” of obedience. Ella’s beloved mother, Lady Eleanor, and her fairy godmother, Mandy, have successfully kept this dangerous fact from public knowledge, even from her father, Sir Peter. Forced to obey anyone’s commands whether the orders are to her liking or not, Ella struggles inwardly with her compulsion to obey and her desire to be independent. When her mother dies not long after Ella’s fifteenth birthday, Ella’s whole life breaks apart, and the start of Ella’s quest for freedom begins. Her new friendship with the crown prince, Char, and her secret knack for learning foreign languages encourages Ella on her odyssey and boosts her self-esteem, although she quickly makes many enemies in people who want to take advantage of her “gift.” Her father, a cold merchant, only contributes to Ella’s problems by sending her to a boarding school, where she meets her two future “evil step-sisters.” There still is hope, if Ella can convince Lucinda to take back her gift or break the curse herself. But can Ella ever conquer the memories and feelings battling within her in order to finally be free?
Ella Enchanted is not a typical retelling of Cinderella with the magical elements included. It is a more detailed and engaging narrative that goes beyond a traditional fairy tale by bringing all parts of the original story together in descriptive surroundings. The storyline of Ella Enchanted is unique on its own, even without linking it to its predecessor. However, the stories surrounding the famous fairy godmother, glass slippers, and the mystery of the ball are all explained fully and chronologically. The settings within the story are comparable to medieval times with a twist, as ogres,gnomes, centaurs, giants, elves, and fairies join the human inhabitants in Kyrria. The author even created new languages and characteristics for each group of magical creatures, through which Ella’s linguistic skills are demonstrated.
Evil exists not only in the misuse of magic but mainly in human vice, like the avarice and selfishness displayed by Sir Peter, Lady Olga, and her two daughters, Hattie and Olive. The obstacles that Ella has to overcome are presented by the people around her. Ella has to endure slavery and extortion inflicted by her own relatives, and her curse is not the only contributor to the misery of her situation. Honesty, loyalty, and unselfishness are rare virtues in Kyrria’s population. Nevertheless, Ella finds friends in unlikely places. She befriends Areida, a girl as much of an outcast as herself, and withstands prejudice, being unprejudiced herself. Her other best friend is Char.
Prince Charmont, a.k.a. Char, has an unusual temperament for a so-called Prince Charming. It is actually a surprise that the prince’s character has positive traits and noble inclinations. Char also is intelligent and dedicated to his country. Char’s and Ella’s romance rings true, from their pen pal correspondence to their mutual respect and confidence in each other. With witty dialogue and Ella’s charming personality, the story of Cinderella has received an intriguing makeover in Gail Levine’s Ella Enchanted.
Original review: Part 1: An enchanting and extended version of ‘Cinderella’; Part 2: An enchanting and extended version of ‘Cinderella’; Part 3: An enchanting and extended version of ‘Cinderella’, Examiner.com