Saturday, March 31, 2012

Book Review: Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Ella Enchanted
by Gail Carson Levine

Release: July 16 1998
Author Info: Website
Publisher: HarperCollins
Age Group: 8 and up
Challenge: Dusty Bookshelf Challenge

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. (Source)

Note: Given the fact there is a movie based on this book, which is up for debate after reading it, I intend to stay as far away from the topic of those differences and my preferences. This is strictly a book review.

The story is rather simple in my opinion, which doesn't leave me with much to say, although I will try.

There is no denying that as the book mirrors the story of Cinderella, while in a slightly different light. I expected as much, but was also semi-disappointed to notice as the story went on, just how much it followed. Ella Enchanted is considered to be a re-telling of Cinderella, being a re-telling, most everyone knows the story; what else can I say?

There however is a twist to this story, Ella has to do what is asked of her, no, what is commanded of her. From birth she was given the gift of obedience, taken to an extreme. To forever live doing what she is told.

I enjoyed watching Ella's clever nature shine through her curse. There are moments and times when she can fight against it. If there isn't a time limit ("Now" "quick"), she can delay a command, although she will suffer in time if she doesn't give in and do as she is told. She can occasionally twist the meaning, if they are too broad, but when issued a strict command, she must obey. Sometimes, commands can even rule over her emotions and her mind; if she is told to be happy, she must be happy and she can not feel or think any other way. Can you imagine living in such a way?

Ella is forever at the mercy of what is commanded of her, or rather, of those who command her. Leaving her to live in constant fear and distance of others, even more so if she is found out. It's a rather sad way to live and maybe that explains why we are introduce to so few people in Ella's life, most of which who have no real importance. From her father, her mother, their cook, Maddy, Lucinda, Lady Olga and her two daughters, Hattie and Olive, and  Prince Char; that's it for characters. One or two might show up for a chapter only to disappear at the end.
I found myself thinking about how small Ella's world was and asking why this is so? Sometime we are overwhelmed by how large a fictional world can be, but we can also be left thinking one is too small. Which I felt was the case here.

I felt the beginning of the story was fairly slow, telling of Ella's everyday life and those close to her. Though that it does explain much about Ella, which makes her more understandable and relatable in the long run.
After some time she is sent to boarding school, which again I found to be slow. I suppose that is the way it's meant to be, but I was half way through the book and wondering when something would happen.
Finally, Ella decides to embark on a journey, only to leave me feeling that the adventure was short.

Given the fact that Ella's life takes place in an enchanted world I expected to have more interaction with, well everything; monsters, creatures, magical mythical beings! To say my hope weren't meant, is an understatement. There are a few moments, such as where Ella is captured by ogres at one point, which plays out pretty well. There's a big of a twist on centaurs which was interesting.. but not much else. Mostly I was left asking myself why there wasn't more detail and exploration.

The only real comments I have to make are on Ella and Char. The moments between the two of them are delightful. I loved Ella's character (pun intended!) and personality. She is a wonderful mixture of silly, clever, light-hearted, and genuine. Which is rare to come across in a time where marriage and money are the facts your entire life revolves around; both having them, acquiring them, and being defined by them.

If I have to recommend this book for any reason, it would be to read about Ella and what a wonderful character she is. Which I suppose is why I find myself wondering if I liked this book or not. Although it is Ella's story, I felt so much of it was missing.

I should note that the writing style is odd. At first it bothered me but over time I came to enjoy it.

Overall, sometimes I like change, sometimes I do not. In the end it all depends on the story it's self and how it plays out. I'm not sure if I liked this book or not; I do know I didn't hate it but I didn't love it. I mostly felt frustrated with almost every aspect of this story. Bottom line, something large was missing to keep me hooked and having me falling in love with Ella's world.

I found this to be a nice light read but not much more. It will mostly likely bring a smile to your face, underdog stories tend to do that.

Recommend: Fairy tale lovers, light read, romance.


  1. I really enjoyed Ella Enchanted and read it a few years ago with some ESL students. I think that middle grade fiction is generally more enjoyable (for me anyways) when it's shared with someone in the targeted age group. I agree with you though that the best part of the book is definitely Ella's character.

    1. I did enjoy the book but not as much as I hoped. I've seen the movie more than a few times and while it's considered to not be so great, I actually enjoy it.
      Before I picked this up I read reviews raving about how it was much better than the movie, which may my expectations pretty high. After reading, I felt a little let down.
      It's not a bad book, I just didn't love it as much as I'd hoped to.

  2. Your blog is awesome! I love the design and everything so I'm giving you the Liebster blog award, check it out - :)

  3. Liked how you developed your review and how you took the time to explain both strong and weak points. Wow Eli, certainly you have a really nice blog, and here is a proof of that: I'm giving you a second Liebster Award.