Title: The Fairest of Them All
Author: Carolyn Turgeon
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Source: Publisher as part of the blog tour
Release Date: August 6, 2013
Living in an enchanted forest, Rapunzel spends her days tending a mystical garden with her adoptive mother, Mathena. A witch, Mathena was banished from court because of her magic powers, though the women from the kingdom still seek her advice and herbal remedies. She waits, biding her time to exact revenge against those who betrayed her.
One day Rapunzel’s beautiful voice and long golden locks captivate a young prince hunting in the forest nearby. Overcome, he climbs her hair up to her chamber and they fall into each other’s arms. But their afternoon of passion is fleeting, and the prince must return to his kingdom, as he is betrothed to another.
Now king, he marries his intended to bring peace to his kingdom. They have a stunning daughter named Snow White. Yet the king is haunted by his memories of Rapunzel, and after the mysterious death of his wife, realizes he is free to marry the woman he never stopped longing for. In hopes of also replacing the mother of his beloved daughter, the king makes Rapunzel his queen.
But when Mathena’s wedding gift of an ancient mirror begins speaking to her, Rapunzel falls under its evil spell, and the king begins to realize that Rapunzel is not the beautiful, kind woman he dreamed of.
Review by Nara and Chantelle
"This is who I am, I thought.The woman in the glass. Wild and broken."
This novel was incredibly fast paced, and strongly character driven so I'm really glad that I'll be discussing characters today. Of course, by characters, I mean the main antagonist, Rapunzel aka Snow White's evil stepmother. The way Carolyn Turgeon created this conflicting monster of a character really surprised me in that it was believable! It was such a refreshing and unique retelling of a fairytale that I'd never even come close to conceiving in all my imaginations (although to be fair, my imagination stopped after Harry Potter came out). I love that Rapunzel was obviously flawed and, to be blunt, sort of cray cray.
The plot follows Rapunzel as she meets her "Prince", and like every girl, she thinks she's Cinderella. She thinks that she'll go to that ball, fall in love, get married and live happily ever after. I mean, why not? She's young, she's pretty, she's "the girl with the long long hair, trapped in the tower" and now a Prince is climbing up her hair to rescue her. Except he doesn't take her away... he takes her V card instead and marries someone else... SAY WHAT?! Yeah, that happens. You can't help but not want to root for Rapunzel, even if she is sheltered, and crazy, and desperate and impulsive because she's also a disillusioned young girl whose dreams of a Prince Charming didn't pan out. She's often contrasted with Snow White - the demure, beautiful good girl, and while there's obviously nothing at all wrong with that, Rapunzel's flawed and contradictory nature was a lot more alluring.
The biggest mistake a reader could make with this book, would be to start it with images of the Disney Rapunzel from Tangled in their mind (I plead guilty, it's just such a fantastic movie). At the beginning that's really all I could imagine in my mind, whenever Rapunzel was in the tower, I'd imagine her singing "when will my life begin", or whenever Mathena said anything, I'd instantly start singing in my head, "mother knows best". Nara gave me some great advice, don't over think this book, just let Turgeon weave her magic with this unique, twisted, dark retelling.
"It was sorcery, that hair."
So, in my half of the review, I'll be discussing the writing and the plot.
In general, the writing style is a bit flowery. As in, it's very descriptive. At times the author describes a particular thing in ten words when it could have been described in one. I suppose it's not necessarily a bad thing, but at times, it seemed a tad heavy handed, and...flowery. However, despite the masses of description, the pace of the novel moved quite quickly, and I don't think that the writing style was detrimental to my enjoyment of the book.
I quite liked the narrative style- it was a very honest, distinctive voice. It was easy to empathise with Rapunzel, although at times I did feel like going into the world of the book and yelling at her. The things she does...
Okay, the romance: seriously, if that ain't an instalove, I don't know what is...It was definitely a major, major instalove, but since The Fairest of Them All is based on the original fairy tale, and there was instalove in the actual fairy tale, it's somewhat acceptable in this book too. As in, I don't shudder away from the instalove as much as I would in other books.
Since Rapunzel is the stepmother from Snow White, she has a mirror which tells her truths when she asks it questions. But seriously, that mirror is freakin' useless. It doesn't tell her anything important, and basically the only thing it answers is "Who is the fairest of them all?". I commend Rapunzel for her patience because personally I would have thrown the mirror across the room.
As you read the book, you can observe Rapunzel's descent into corruption. There are smaller hints at the start, which then widen into cracks- and you realise that Rapunzel is not as innocent as you thought. (Okay, it was in the blurb, so I should have realised it earlier, but I didn't for some reason). There is this FREAKING HUGE twist at the end that I definitely wasn't expecting at all. I stopped reading for a moment and was like what the bloody hell just happened?! It's rare that a book will surprise me (I'm fairly good at guessing plotlines) so I would recommend this book to people who like fairy tale retellings based on that alone.
Check out the full tour schedule here!