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.
Just letting you all know: I'm only going to review books I love. There's enough negative criticism without me piling on. A book is too hard to write.
Gail Carson Levine grew up in New York City and began writing seriously in 1987. Her first book for children, Ella Enchanted, was a 1998 Newbery Honor Book. Levine's other books include Fairest; Dave at Night, an ALA Notable Book and Best Book for Young Adults; The Wish; The Two Princesses of Bamarre; and the six Princess Tales books. She is also the author of the nonfiction book Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly and the picture book Betsy Who Cried Wolf, illustrated by Scott Nash. Gail, her husband, David, and their Airedale, Baxter, live in a 1790 farmhouse in the Hudson River Valley of New York State.
Have I mentioned I love middle grade? Because hey, guess what, I absolutely goddamn love middle grade. (I feel like I shouldn’t say “goddamn” in a review of a children’s book, but also I am still me. I still have my brand to look out for, regardless of target audiences.)
I have a kind of complicated relationship with the movie. It has a reputation for being among the worst book-to-film adaptations, and that is, guess what, totally warranted. They’re two totally different stories, essentially. But uh…(whispers) I guess that’s kind of why/how I like them both?
I GREW UP ON BOTH OF THEM OKAY. THEY’RE BOTH GOOD IF YOU LOOK AT THEM SEPARATELY.
Anyway. I say for the second time.
This book, in case you live under a rock that prevents you from hearing about great middle-grade adventure retellings of fairytales with feisty female protagonists, is a Cinderella retelling wherein Cinderella (just Ella tho) has been cursed with obedience. She has to obey every command given to her.
But it double-sucks because Ella is a lil badass and totally feisty and stubborn and would neverrrrr listen to anyone if she could help it. Unfortunately she cannot. But she gets into some fun hijinks and verbal battles and whatnot because of it.
There is also Prince Char, who is an absolute BAAAAABE. One thing that no one can argue with in the movie is that the movie-Char is fine as hell. Pro tip: picture this for the rest of the review.
The HAIIIIIIIR. Oh my god.
Anyway. (Three times now. Stop counting.)
Char’s full name is Charmont, which is just one letter off from Charmant, which is the French word for charming. And he is EXTREMELY SO. A book boyfriend for the ages and the only man who could ever deserve Queen of Feist Ella.
This should be enough to convince you that this book rocks and it is ten years past time for you to read it. Amazing badass female protagonist + dreamy love interest + great well-developed romance that starts as a friendship (which I didn’t mention until this point but now you know) + adventurey exciting plot + curse + fairies + ogres + giants + fairytale lands + mythical creatures + elvin artists + Cinderella retelling = perfection.
Okay, to be fair, I didn’t include a lot of that information before now. But again: now you know.
Bottom line: This book is like throwing a bunch of ingredients for perfection in a pot and hoping they stick. And guess what? THEY DO.
Feminists often denounce traditional fairy tales because they perpetuate the ideals of a patriarchal society by encouraging girls to behave like proper princesses and wait for charming princes to take charge and save the day. In response to these traditional fairy tales, many authors have tried to reclaim the realm of fairy tales for girls. These retellings feature active protagonists who are not scared of taking charge and do not need princes to save them. One example of this new fairy tale genre is the 1998 children’s novel "Ella Enchanted" by Gail Carson Levine, which takes an untraditional approach to retelling the story of Cinderella. The novel addresses several specific feminist issues, specifically negotiating and fighting the burden of obedience, the importance of female friendships and, of course, learning to save yourself.
The story is set in an imaginary, medieval-esque kingdom called Frell. A roaming fairy named Lucinda gives Ella the gift/curse of obedience at Ella’s birth. As a result, Ella has to do everything she is told, no matter what harm it might cause to herself or others. (In the novel, the severity of Ella’s curse in constantly underscored with passages explaining how little control Ella has over her own life: “If someone told me to hop on one foot for a day and a half, I’d have to do it. And hopping on one foot wasn’t the worst order I could be given. If you commanded me to cut off my own head, I’d have to do it.") As the plot moves forward Ella is compelled to leave home to try and find Lucinda and ask her to lift the curse. Along the way she also falls in love with Prince Char. For varying reasons, depending on the version, Lucinda refuses to lift the curse. Further difficulties arise as Ella continues her quest.
That's the main body of the story. The Cinderella element is relevant mainly to the last quarter of the novel where actual elements from that story (the slipper, the ball) appear in the story, although the evil step-sisters and fairy godmother are present throughout the narrative.
There are several reasons that I love this novel and recommend it to everyone. The first is that it's an imaginative retelling of Cinderella which makes the story exciting for readers familiar with the original version without making it too abtruse for readers who have never heard of Cinderella. Also, the book is full of great role models for girls. All of the female characters are strong, self-aware women--things seen far too rarely in the fairy tale genre. The novel is narrated in Ella's voice. This makes it easy to see how strong Ella is as a character (especially at the end of the novel).
The other great thing about this book is that it all seems authentic, never over the top or under-written. In addition to creating immensely likable main characters, Levine creates a compelling world within the pages of "Ella Enchanted" vivid with details ranging from Elvish and Gnomish languages to customs at a Giant's wedding. The story is an immensely entertaining page-turner that will (even better) leave readers feeling satisfied when they reach the final scene where Levine ties everything together, artfully blending empowerment with a happy-ever-after ending fit for a traditional fairy tale.
This book is so hard for me to review because I love every single thing about it, but hate every single thing about that bloody movie.
Like seriously, who decided to only use the names and the curse and rewrite everything else for the movie? Why did we need a talking snake and an evil uncle and a fan group for the prince? Wasn't evil Hattie enough?
SERIOUSLY THIS STORY IS ABSOLUTELY PRECIOUS AND PERFECT AND THE MOVIE RUINED IT, I CAN NOT STRESS THAT ENOUGH FOR YOU
There is no need for a fan club for the prince. There is no need for an evil uncle trying to take the throne or a big giant talking snake that literally has no purpose but to make you feel like you are watching a live action version of Disney's Robin Hood.
It's even the little things. Like Mandy. She is suppose to be a ruffed-up old lady with crazy white hair and basically Ella's mother. Does this girl look like that?
Or that the stepmother and stepsisters are suppose to be fat.
But really, I'm upset about the ogres.
So in the perfect-little book, Ella has a knack for languages. Each creature has their own language and she knows bits and pieces of them from the talking birds at the market. Well the ogres have a knack for languages too, but when they speak (in whatever language they want to) you believe anything they say. You will do whatever they want you to do, because they are your best friend and they don't REALLY want to eat you.
I thought the scene in the book with the ogres, which I am not going to spoil, was absolutely fascinating. AND THE MOVIE DIDN'T EVEN -- UGH.
At least the prince was cute, right? That's a second thing they got right.
The first being the Ella has the curse to obey every command ever pointed at her.
Dig in, Ella. Run around, Ella. Cut off your head, Ella. Don't be friends with them, Ella. Be happy, Ella. Only speak in riddles, Ella. Hold your breath, Ella.
That is absolutely nightmarish.
Just take my word for it: If you ever are channel surfing and you see this
Run outside, grab that gasoline you save for when your lawnmower is low, throw it on your TV and light a match. It is absolutely insulting to this little gem.
I love all the retellings that Gail Carson Levine does, and that movie does NO JUSTICE.
I know I didn't really tell you anything about the book except that I liked it. But what else do you need to know besides it is a retelling of Cinderella and the "Cinderella" of the book has a curse to obey all commands ever? Isn't that interesting in itself? It's short and sweet, go read it.
My daughters have watched the Disney movie Ella Enchanted many times and loved it immensely. They are enamored by the Disney princess genre, even princesses who do not fit nicely into the company's traditional definition of princess. Until last week, I had never viewed the film with them, being that I hardly fit the definition of girly girl myself, often opting for whatever sporting event is in season. I enjoyed the concept of a medieval Cinderella who is not necessarily forced to do back breaking work for an evil stepmother but to be obedient to her and whoever else orders her around. Seeing the film version, lead me to this Newberry award winning book by Gail Carson Levine.
At birth, Ella of Prell is gifted by the fairy Lucinda to always be obedient at all costs. Growing up, she once had to eat an entire birthday cake, nearly relinquish a toddler gnome to an ogre, and lose more friends than she ever made, only because someone had ordered her to do so. Unable to tell anyone of her curse, Ella appears deceptive to the world, often times leading her to lead a solitary life.
As in the traditional Cinderella story, Ella's mother dies when she is fifteen years old. At her mother's funeral, she stays out of sight in case someone orders her to do something and she is too sad to be obedient. At this trying time in her life, she meets Prince Char of Kyrria for the first time, and he is instantly smitten with her, leading to a lengthy quest of his over the course of the book to win her hand in marriage. Although not instantly enamored, Ella over time realizes what her curse could do to Char and his kingdom, and seeks out Lucinda to take back this curse once and for all.
Unlike the movie, there is no shopping mall, protest, soundtrack, or evil uncle and his pet snake waiting to take over the kingdom. In Levine's original version we do meet Areida of Ayortha, Mandy the fairy godmother, and Dame Olga and her atrocious daughters Hattie and Olive. In addition to them, we meet a traditional medieval cast of elves, gnomes, ogres, and giants. All these people and other beings play a role in Ella's curse, making for a memorable book for middle grade readers.
As a mother of girls, I enjoyed that the Ella in the book is a heroine for all beings regardless of their place in society. She is assertive and is not subservient to her prince as the traditional Disney Cinderella is. In this modern retelling, Ella alone seeks out to reverse the curse cast upon her by Lucinda, making her a strong heroine character for girls. The movie was fun yet Disneyfied, but Gail Carson Levine's book version of Ella Enchanted is a fun, strong read and worthy of its Newberry, rating a solid 4 stars.
Now I know why people made such a fuss when the movie came out. I watched the movie first, so I had no idea how utterly wrong everything was. It totally is not like the book. Just slap on the names and the curse and that's where the similarities end. I must say the book is MUCH better than the movie.
The style of the writing was kind of weird for me, but not in a bad way. It's not that it was too fast paced or anything, but I noticed there wasn't a lot of padding or fanfare before events would happen, which I usually expect from fantasy books. The writing style worked in this story since it seemed to fit the main character to a tee.
I absolutely loved the story. It's a great way of showing how the only one who can save you is you, and you have to find the strength within to do it. Sometimes it takes someone else to bring that strength out of you and that's what Char does for Ella unknowingly.
The magic book was a nice touch and added what the other characters were thinking without actually changing the narrator of the story. I couldn't give the book 5 stars because it seemed odd to me how she dealt with her mother's death. It's like after awhile it doesn't seem to matter, which I guess makes sense since the book isn't really about her grieving for her mother. The story is really about how her death makes Ella have to face her demons by throwing her the different situations she finds herself in. Still, it really isn't that bothersome because of course you see that Ella misses her mother at times.
This is the best version of the Cinderella story I have encountered. All and all a very worth while read.
Ella Enchanted (Ella Enchanted #1), Gail Carson Levine
Ella Enchanted published in 1997, has won many well-deserved awards, including a Newbery Honor.
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.
تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز چهارم ماه سپتامبر سال 2014 میلادی
عنوان: الای افسونشده: روایتی دیگر از افسانه سیندرلا؛ نویسنده: گایل کارسن لیواین؛ مترجم محبوبه نجفخانی؛ تهران آفرینگان، 1392؛ در 336ص؛ شابک: 9786006753225؛ چاپ سوم 1397، موضوع: داستانهای نوجوانان از نویسندگان امریکایی - سده 20م
روایتی ديگر از افسانه ی سيندرلا: «من هنگام تولد یک ساعت تمام بیوقفه گریه میکردم و ساکت نمیشدم؛ اشکهایم الهام بخش او شد؛ با دلسوزی به مادرم نگاه کرد، و سرش را به چپ و راست تکان داد، و بینی ام را نوازش کرد، و گفت: هدیه ی من به تو اطاعت است؛ «اِلا» همیشه مطيع خواهد بود؛ حالا دیگر گریه نکن، کوچولو.»؛
یک پری افسانه ای در هنگام تولد، برای نوزادی آرزو میکند، که او همیشه فرمانبردار باشد؛ رمان «اِلای افسون شده» در سال 1997میلادی به چاپ رسيد، و در سال 1998میلادی موفق به دریافت دیپلم افتخار «نیوبری»، و چند جایزه ی معتبر دیگر شد، و در سال 2004میلادی، از روی همین کتاب فیلمی نیز به همین نام، ساخته شد؛ پیروزی این کتاب موجب شد، که نویسنده خود را بازنشسته کند، و به طور تمام وقت، به کار نوشتن بپردازد؛ آثار دیگر نویسنده: «ديو در شب»، «قصه های شاهزاده خانمها»، «اشتباه پری»، «آرزو»، «دو شاهزاده خانم» و ...؛ چند كتاب ديگر است
تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 15/04/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Ella Enchanted is like a koala. A big, soft, cute koala.
And if you mess with it, it'll use it's big, sharp, not-so-cute claws to tear your face off.
It's just a cute little fairy tale for teenage girls about a silly little world. Accept it for what it is. Leave it at that. Don't delve any futher. Don't consider it from a feminine perspective, don't rationalize it from a historical stand-point, don't try to analyze is for hidden metaphors or literary value.
❌ My advice to you: The movie and the book are two very separate and different things. So when you start reading this book, don't compare it with the movie. Don't even think about the movie at all while you're reading this.
Do that, and you'll enjoy this book immensely. On the day she was born, Ella of Frell was given the gift of obedience by the foolish and careless fairy, Lucinda. Obedience. It was a gift.
Well, for starters... Ella, Hold your tongue
Erhh...well, that's not such an unpleasant order **coughs** but uhh yeah. You get the point. It was the curse of compulsion. One which couldn't be overcome. Delayed, maybe, but even that came with a high price. Physical side effects, very unpleasant side effects. This was a new spin on one of the most recycled fairy tales that's ever been told. This is not a book to be analyzed. It's just a really great story, and to add to that, it was delivered in a wonderful way, with bold, and engaging writing. JUST ANOTHER CINDERELLA STORY ⏩ An evil step mother ⏩ Butt-ugly deranged and bossy step sisters ⏩ A handsome and wonderful Prince ⏩ Maltreatment, sabotage and trickery ⏩ A ball ⏩ More sabotage and trickery ⏩ A pair of glass slippers ⏩ And some fairy magic
THE EXTRAS ❎ A magical book for spying on people. ❎ A diverse and magical land of Ogres, Giants, and Elves. Sorry mouse people. ❎ An established relationship between Cinderella and the Prince before the night of the ball. I'm sorry, but I just never understood it. Cinderella spent one night with a guy and bada-boom boom! Love ⏩ Marriage ⏩ Happily ever after? I'm sorry honey
That's why I respect Ariel(well, really, the Disney version of Ariel), Princess Jasmine, and Belle most of all, at least they spent some time with their guys before hitching those rides. Between Ella and Charmont, letters were written, ideas were exchanged, and thoughts were shared. First came friendship, and then came love. All I can say is: How I loved those letters! ❎ Ella's a girl with a little spunk. A heroine to love, admire, and adore.
Well she never said that. But she never took an order placidly. And of course, she took her revenge - revenge. Ha! How could I not love her? - whenever she could. After all, it's pure logic: You said get me a drink. You never said don't spit in it. ❎ Lots of adventure and action. This book is looking for someone - people - to share an adventure with. We join Ella as she embarks on a quest, to find a way to get rid of her curse. Take it from me, it was a wonderful experience. ❎ Happily ever after. Let's face the truth. A fairy tale won't be as magical without a happily ever after. I won't even lie. I love it! You do too.
“It is helpful to know the proper way to behave, so one can decide whether or not to be proper.”
I feel like this is a confession that I will regret making. I was a fan of the movie *hides* This is my first time reading Ella Enchanted and now I understand why everyone hates the film!
Ella Enchantedis what every great middle-grade novel should be. Great adventures, obstacles to over-come, engaging characters and a little magic. This book pulled all of these things well. Ella Enchanted is a retelling of the beloved fairy tale Cinderella, which is a personal favorite of mine. This is a much more modern adaption of the tale, there is no insta-love here. The book is a very short and fast read - I enjoyed every minute of it. I'd been meaning to read a book by Gail Carson Levine for awhile now and it looks like this was the perfect place to pick to discover her writing. I'm 100% going to be reading more of her work.
I adored the character of Ella. Yes, she had a curse on her where she had to obey whatever anyone said to her. Obviously this could ruin someone's life or get them killed but she rebelled against it as hard as she could. It even caused her pain resisting the requests that were harmful to her. She wasn't the best at keeping her secret about the curse, even if she never directly came out and said it. It was pretty obviously to anyone who was demanding. Still, she tried her hardest to have her own ideas, her own independence and her own life really. She was kind but believable and she could be immature - like every girl her age should be from time to time.
I loved the her love interest Prince Char - he was genuinely interested in everything she had to say and found her to be the most amazing person he had ever met. He was friends with her for a long time first before confessing his feelings and he was 100% dedicated to her. He was basically a sweetheart.
Yes, Ella and Char were a little young to be talking about marriage but we aren't talking about modern times here - they were just at the right age in a different century. They did feel like very young characters but they were young characters so I appreciated that they didn't try to make them act like they were 25 or something . They talked exactly how you might suspect someone of their age doing so. It was completely endearing and adorable.
Loved all the side characters, even Lucinda was fun to me. I loved that most of the characters evolved through the story and some did not. Great storytelling.
I will quickly address the movie that was based off this book. I saw the movie that stars Anne Hathaway many moons ago and really enjoyed it. It was really cheesy, not that well-done and all-around silly. However, there was something charming about it - maybe because I really liked the lead actors but the movie was comforting and safe to me and I loved that about it. You could just let your brain shut down and watch something mindless. Is this worth a watch if you've grown up on the book? NO, so much NO. Yes, I enjoyed the film and still do. However, I never grew up with the book and after reading it, I now know why fans are so harsh on the film. The film has almost nothing to do with the story. The characters are 100% different - they tried to modernize it and they added in new plots that aren't nearly as good as the ones in the original series. Basically, avoid the film.
Obviously, I highly recommend this to a younger audience or for someone like me, who is young at heart!
I never liked Cinderella as a kid. It seemed like whenever she got into trouble, her best plan was to burst into tears and wait for someone to come along and help her. I also wondered, even if she couldn't leave her stepmother's house, could she at least tell the awful woman to go make her own damn breakfast once in a while? As far as little cynical-as-hell Madeline was concerned, Cinderella was a spineless twinkie who was painfully useless.
Obviously, I am not the only girl who had a problem with the fairy tale, and fortunately, Gail Carson Levine decided to do something about it. Her Cinderella (Ella of Frell) is smart, stubborn, and pretty damn feisty. Her only problem is that when she was born, a well-meaning fairy gave her the gift of obedience. Ella has to obey any direct order given to her, no matter what. So, naturally, she sets out to find the fairy, lift the curse, get rid of her stepmother and stepsisters, and maybe even end up with Prince Char. (Char as in Charmont, geddit?) A lovely story, and much better than anything Disney could come up with.
This still stands as one of my favorite books. The fantasy elements are clever and not too over the top. Ella is witty and pretty clever herself, not to mention strong and determined and resourceful. Mandy is just your everyday, ordinary, regular old cook/fairy. Char is, appropriately, charming. The stepsisters are deliciously evil. Lucinda is completely batty.
I like that none of the women in the book are doormats. Good or evil, protagonist or minor background character, they have an opinion, they exert at least some control over their own destiny, they are quietly secure in the knowledge of their own power.
The movie was terrible, folks, so don't go by that. (Anne Hathaway, why must you insist in being in movies that ruin my favorite kids books?)
GR Ultimate Reading Challenge: My, What Big Teeth You Have.
As a child I thoroughly enjoyed Ella Enchanted (the movie)! I decided to give the book a go. Unfortunately it didn't work for me.
I was actually enjoying it in the beginning. Once the step-sisters were introduced the writing style changed dramatically. I'm not exactly sure why this happened. I found myself losing interest in the book.
This was definitely a personal thing. I do still recommend.
First read of the 2016 Booktube-a-thon! This completed the challenge of reading and watching a book to movie adaptation (which I am about to watch right now). This was very meh, unfortunately. It contained my most hated trope and for some reason it took me such a long time to get through! I loved the magical world though!
Around the Year in 52 Books Challenge Notes: - 12. A childhood classic
This book gets five huge, shiny stars because of the following conversation I had with my 12 year old today:
"Mom, Kate (name changed) was teasing me at school today, but I don't think it was friendly teasing. I think it was mean."
"It probably was mean." (We've had a lot of problems with Kate bossing and teasing lately, but my daughter is always anxious to give Kate the benefit of the doubt).
After a moment's thought, my daughter said, "It's like Ella Enchanted - how she has to listen to mean people and do what they say. Only I don't have to listen to Kate or do what she says because I don't have a spell cast on me like Ella does. I'm not going to listen to Kate anymore. I'll still be nice, but I'm going to step back."
Thank you, Gail Carson Levine, for crafting an empowering story for girls, and for helping my daughter see, through the lens of Ella's experiences, that always trying to conform to others can be like living with a curse.
2022 me still agrees with my review from 2018. This is a forever childhood favorite of mine, and I’m grateful for the comfort and joy it brought me this week. ♥️
2018: #mystrangereading Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I think I have owned no less than five copies of this book. Each one either given away or re-read until the cover fell off. This will forever be my all time favorite childhood read. It has adventure, courage, and strength of character, and it takes a classic story and turns it into a tale about a girl who saves herself and gets the prince. So precious and so good everytime I open it. This fufills No 26 of #my2018strangepanzanellareadingchallenge Childhood Favorite ❤️📚 #readit #bookstagram #books #cinderella #ellaenchanted #favoritethings
A unique retelling with some truly surprising plot twists. Quite different from the other Gail Carson Levine’s fairy tale retellings that I have read. Ella Enchanted and more lush writing style and less deliberately comical and stilted interactions and it possessed quite an enjoyable style.
Shock of all shocks - my favorite part of the book was undoubtedly the romance (I know. You don’t see me say that in a review very often!). The relationship between Char and Ella was sweet and well developed and a highlight of the book. I thought Ella’s sacrifice love for Char and her resolution to protect him from herself was very poignant and believable.
The other element that stood out to me was Ella herself. At last – a rebellious character that makes sense and actually has a reason for being rebellious! Ella is definitely not a placid Cinderella and fights back against her tormentors with a stubbornness that almost borders on the heroic. This was really a brilliant bit of characterization and kept the book from being overwhelming disturbing (which it would have been if Ella had been taking all the abuse without a murmur) and gave me a feisty non-annoying heroine I could actually root for. For once!
Ella Enchanted also contained some nice world building that still retained a streak of Levine’s signature zaniness and pacing moved along at a good clip and kept me turning the pages quickly to see what happened next.
But in spite of all this . . . when I closed the book I found it forgettable. It’s not a book that I’d treasure or a new favorite—I’m not even sure I’d read it again. For some reason, this book wasn’t one that stayed in my mind or claimed a permanent part of my emotions.
Perhaps it was because I felt slightly worn after reading Ella Enchanted. I found Ella’s situation pretty stressful and much of the book focused on her impossible and worrying situation and her families endless abuse. Obviously, people taking advantage of Ella’s *gift* was what the story was about, but I found it genuinely stressful at points to read. However, I have read other stress-producing books that I loved so I still can’t quite articulate what ingredient this book was missing to make me like it more. I really wish I had loved this book more than I did – and I suspect that missing element shall puzzle me for some time.
Overall – an enjoyable book, though.
Content: Ella is taken advantage of constantly by cruel people. Some magic and a few eye-rolling moments with the infatuated Ella admiring Char’s physicality – the hairs on the back of his neck, for one. *SNORTS*
It's a sweet, humorous book, written for a younger audience but easily enjoyed by an older one too. Based on the Cinderella story, there are a few notable differences, namely that Ella was "blessed" with the "gift" of obedience by the fairy Lucinda, who thinks all her gifts (such as turning you into a squirrel) are wonderful. Ella is the daughter of Lady Eleanor and a somewhat unscrupulous merchant, Sir Peter, whom she rarely sees. She grows up with her mother, who teaches her to slide down the banister, and the cook Mandy, who's not all she seems. She learns fairly early what a curse the gift is, where any command must be obeyed. The opportunities for being taken advantage of are mind-boggling (but strictly G-rated). Ella learns to be defiant even while she is forced to obey, but the trick doesn't always work.
When, at fifteen, her mother dies several things happen. Firstly, she meets Prince Char and forms a friendship with him, and secondly her father decides to send her to finishing school along with the two hideous daughters of Dame Olga, who has her sights set on Sir Peter. The daughters, Hattie and Olive, are greedy, rude and obnoxious, but things become worse when Hattie realises Ella must obey her.
Ella is desperate to find Lucinda and have her remove the curse, which leads her to run away from the finishing school and into all sorts of trouble. Unlike a lot of fantasy stories, though, this one isn't a quest story set on an endless road. Ella meets Elves and is nearly eaten by Ogres, but spends most of the story at home. Humorous escapades and a blooming friendship between her and Char balance out the cruelty dealt her by others. And the Cinderella aspect is given full due, but in a refreshing way. The similarities are there, but it never feels old and tired and same-y.
Also, Ella herself is a great heroine, smart and strong but not over-confident or perfect. She's a bit clumsy but has the gift of imitating languages and voices, and learning languages quickly. She's no defenceless damsel and she doesn't whinge, but her curse curtails who she really is. The moral of the story is fitting, but not lecturing. Levine has a much lighter hand than your average Disney movie, and there's not a saccharine moment. It reminds me a bit of the movie Ever After, so if you liked that then you'll like this book, and vice versa.
A joy to read, and very well written, Ella Enchanted took up a few hours of my time but will take up a much larger slice of my memory: for making me laugh at the end of an exhausting week, for being sweet but not cloying, wise but not preachy, and for revitalising an old fairytale.
“And so, with laughter and love, we lived happily ever after.”
So What’s It About?
Ella of Frell is given a terrible “gift” by a foolish fairy when she is a baby- she must always be obedient when given a command. She grows up struggling against the crushing constraints of her curse but relatively happy and beloved by her mother and cook. Her world is upended by her mother’s death, and the changes that follow.
Nasty stepsisters, boarding school nonsense, sweet-talking trolls and fairy fickleness only brush the surface of the adventures that are in store for Ella as she struggles against her challenging new circumstances and her curse. Of course, there is a prince in the mix as well, and while their friendship grows into something more the dangers of Ella’s existence have never been more apparent. It will take every bit of this heroine’s resolve to find her happily ever after!
The F Word
I disliked the last fairy tale retelling I read because of the way the author failed to successfully capture the beloved message that is at the heart of Beauty and the Beast: love people for what’s on the inside, not the outside. When considering Cinderella for this review, however, I struggled a bit in deciding what the moral of the original story even is. Have small feet? Wait for a man to sweep you away out of servitude? It’s…a little less clear. Let’s settle for a generic “Goodness (especially in the face of adversity) is always rewarded.”
The thing that makes Ella Enchanted one of my favorite fairy tale retellings is that the clever and seamless incorporation of Ella’s curse provides the story a much bulkier message for young readers: one about the importance of free will and the control that others will always try to exert over us, and the fact that sufficient determination to do the right thing will prevail against even the most improbable odds. These are the truths at the hearts of Ella’s story, and it just so happens that they are presented in the midst of a story that is indescribably magical and charming.
The central appeal of this book to me is Ella herself. She’s simply one of the most lovable narrators I’ve ever encountered – spunky in a way that is genuinely endearing as opposed to annoying, endlessly clever and resourceful, capable, hilarious, charming and independent. You may remember similar praises for Aerin in The Hero and the Crown and Cimorene in Dealing With Dragons, and that’s because these girls (along with a few others we’ll be talking about soon enough…) truly shaped my conception of who I wanted to be when I was younger.
Ella’s struggle for agency is always the book’s central concern. What’s more, she breaks her own curse through her own determination and selflessness -and it should be noted that she breaks it by refusing to marry the prince who proposes to her. It makes me a little weepy to write about this because it’s JUST TEACHING GIRLS SO MANY THINGS- that their ability to make choices and think for themselves is their path to freedom, that there will always be people who will try to take these things away but they can be overcome, that they can find power in saying no.
But there’s one glaring exception to this book’s generally empowering and positive nature, and that is its completely on-the-nose treatment of the ugly stepsisters. It’s frustratingly regressive to argue that a girl being “ugly” outside (read: usually, unwilling or unable to conform to narrow and misogynistic beauty standards that emphasize looks above all else) is a bad thing or is correlated in any way with being a bad person and/or therefore unwanted and unloved. Hattie and Olive are spiteful and cruel people, and that should be enough on its own – why do we have to mock the way they look as well?
I’d also like to mention that Ella Enchanted is otherwise bursting with charm and color at every turn. Enchanting descriptions abound – everything from the tiny pottery castle her father sells to Ella’s magic self-replenishing book, her beautiful dresses for each ball to the food that she cooks with Mandy the cook/ fairy godmother. There are also delightful creatures: tiny dragons who toast cheese with their noses, gnomes who tell the future, waxy green elves who sleep under the stars and docile centaurs.
The other main thing that I need to yell about vis a vis this book is the giant, embarrassing crush that wee little Charlotte had on Prince Char. He seemed like the perfect boy™ to 8 year old me, what can I say!!!! Re-reading as an adult, I am delighted to inform you that Char is a Good Good Boy, and I suffer no regrets regarding my childhood infatuation. He’s a sweet, kind person and the development of Ella’s friendship and romance with him is adorable – the letters they exchange, abandoning a ball to search for hidden walls, giving apples to centaurs and -who could forget!-sliding down staircase banisters
“No one is here,” Char said. “You need resist temptation no longer.”
“Only if you slide too.”
“I’ll go first so I can catch you at the bottom.”
He flew down so incautiously that I suspected him of years of practice in his own castle. It was my turn. The ride was a dream, longer and steeper than the rail at home. The hall rose to meet me, and Char was there. He caught me and spun me around.”
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Ella is given a gift at birth. Or is it a curse? Ella's gift is of obedience which turns out to be a curse in many ways and Ella gets into trouble sometimes because of it and sometimes it has nothing to do with the gift.
It is a fun story that had me laughing out loud throughout. I didn't like Ella at first but she grew on me as the story progressed. It is similar to the traditional story but it is also very different and I actually liked the Prince's character better in this.
I felt like the author said to herself: "I'm going to really revamp the Cinderella classic! I'm gonna give the girl a backstory like you wouldn't believe! and it's going to be cute, and funny, and there will be all kinds of mythical creatures in it! It's going to be wholly other-worldly! And she's going to go on this awesome journey that's going to be epic and life changing!"
All that ended halfway through the book: The journey, the special creatures, the seemingly important gifts and details, the developmental steps... all gone. And then the author thought to herself, "Oh wait...this is supposed to be Cinderella. Um..let's see...her father remarries...her stepfamily hates her...turns her into a slave...glass slippers...the prince has a ball...glass slippers...they get married...The end!"
So really the book is two stories. The totally awesome cool story that the author started with...and the cliche, not-at-all-revamped Cinderella story that she ended with.
And for Goodness Sakes! WHAT WAS WITH THE ELVES GIFTS?! She made it seem so damn important that we should know about these gifts and all the way through the novel Ella is hiding them and they're special and they're everything her father ever wanted... What happens to them?! We don't know! She kept them in a bag for the rest of her life! AND THE NECKLACE?! I thought for sure that was going to be the key to everything! It was special and important when it was introduced. it was an heirloom. It was gnome-made (gnomes are magic). It's stolen from her. She wants it back. She contemplates getting it back... Then for the next hundred pages, it's never mentioned, but suddenly at the end of the book, *poof* she has it back. All is well. The End.
I still enjoyed the book, but good grief, make a tighter story, Lady!
by the way: Prince Charming Prince Charmonte ...hmmm.... I don't like that kind of blaring twist on cliches.
My sister recommended this book to me and even bought me a copy at half price day at Goodwill. Now I am recommending this book to you.
The main character, Ella, is a young woman, almost 15, who is cursed with obedience as an infant. A fairy thinks she's blessing the baby by forcing her to be obedient, but that's not really how it turns out. Imagine being physically compelled to do anything that anyone tells you to do. You don't have to be an anarchist to quickly realize that would be a rotten way to live.
Thankfully, Ella is intelligent, clever, witty, and gifted with languages.
After a family tragedy, the previously sheltered Ella is forced out into the world where she goes on a quest to find the fairy who cursed her and ask for relief from her burden.
Two-thirds of the way through, the book becomes the retelling of the classic Cinderella story. At first I was nervous that the great beginning of the book would be ruined by this quirky turn, but it actually worked out really well.
Gail Carson Levine is a gifted writer, and I enjoyed this story immensely. I recommend this book for little girls and really anyone all into "someday my prince will come" and "happily ever after." This feisty heroine will be an inspiration to everyone who reads her story
such a lovely, gentle fantasy! i read this slowly, usually just a few chapters before bed, and it was a very comforting experience.
it's an interesting retelling because the classic cinderella is also endlessly obedient, though she doesn't have a curse on her like ella. she's obedient because of feminine socialization and cultural expectations. this book is wonderful for naming inescapable obedience a curse, as it is.
something i noticed (perhaps because i've been learning techniques for reparenting my inner child) is that ella is so good at self-soothing and seeking out comfort. she's essentially been orphaned, but she knows small ways to make herself feel cared for. when she visits the elves, she sees the elf nursery where adults play flutes and rock the hammocks of baby elves. and later, alone, she rocks her own hammock to help her sleep 🥺 taking care of one's inner child is such a strong, resilient thing to do, and i love that ella models it for readers.
i also love the inclusion of different languages! it's a powerful way to enrich the worldbuilding. and i love seeing ella become a skilled linguist as she interacts with more people who speak different languages.
overall, it's a wonderfully vibrant, layered retelling with a soft, soothing tone despite its occasional darkness. cinderella has never been my favorite fairytale, and i've never been interested in the movie adaptation of ella enchanted, but i adored reading this!