“That fool of a fairy Lucinda did not intend to lay a curse on me. She meant to bestow a gift. When I cried inconsolably through my first hour of life, my tears were her inspiration. Shaking her head sympathetically at my mother, the fairy touched my nose. ‘My gift is obedience. Ella will always be obedient. Now stop crying, child.’
Happy Birthday, Ella.
I picked up the book because I loved the Ella Enchanted movie when I was a wee lass. Do I remember it? Nope. Not one bit. I remember it being funny, and I remember that I thought the actress was gorgeous, and I like to think I can recall this book having paramount differences from the movie. I may just be creating memories based on what other people have said.
I confess: I’m not the kind of girl who likes fairy tales. Not too much, at least, and not for the same reasons that a lot of people like them. I’m not easily caught up in magical things and I’m more drawn into tales that are kind of morbid, or at least grittier—darker. And if the book has princesses and all that, I’m more involved in the medieval-ish world as research for my own stories. However, Ella Enchanted really hit the spot. It wasn’t stupid, even though it easily could have been, and Ella was so satisfying as a character…
This is a charming book. To be all… talesy (I have no idea how to put it), I guess that fits. It was a breath of fresh air compared to everything else I’ve read this year—mostly lackluster, or borderline (I’m hoping to change that). But did it jump into the greatness category? I can’t say it did. I was planning on dishing out four stars, but I digress. I really wanted it to develop more.
One thing this book has is a whole lot of character—that sounds simple, but it does wonders.
“…But Mandy was bossy, giving orders almost as often as she drew breath. Kind orders or for-your-own-good orders. ‘Bundle up, Ella.’ Or ‘Hold this bowl while I beat the eggs, sweet.’
I disliked these commands, harmless as they were. I’d hold the bowl, but move my feet so she would have to follow me around the kitchen. She’d call me minx and try to hem me in with more specific instructions, which I would find new ways t evade. Often, it was a long business to get anything done between us, with Mother laughing and egging each of us on by turn.
We’d end happily—with me finally choosing to do what Mandy wanted, or with Mandy changing her order to a request.”
Ella made her first impression on me then. Her narrative is charming and straightforward. She’s a brave, no-nonsense type of character. She knows what situations she’s in and faces them without all that glittery crap. Because of her, the story unfolds in a simple, realistic way that I really enjoyed. If she’d further embellished on things, or dwelled on them too long, I may not have liked the book as much as I did. It completely lacked shallowness, letting me go along with things—cliché things, farfetched things—that I could’ve spit at.
Fittingly, the romance is handled in a firm but gentle way. It’s not overpowering, nor is it vomit-worthy. It’s actually very light, which allows every gesture to blossom with extra meaning. It’s wonderful that Char and Ella have some great chemistry. I can understand their romance. That sounds like it should be a given, but a lot of writers forget that “little” detail.
To match this, the writing is simple, the story is simple. I actually found it devoid at some points, almost stripped bare. It’s a light book, rather short and easy to get through, and it doesn’t drag only because of the pacing. The book is paced in a faster way even though there are no fight scenes or anything too interesting. Ella Enchanted draws breath from the little things.
Thinking about it now, I actually didn’t really like the plot as a whole and found it cliché. Without context, I would have hated it. In the book, it worked because I was distracted from it or, again, Ella didn’t dwell on things too much. Her narrative saved it from being… blah, but that doesn’t mean that those things weren’t there. Some of the things that happened in the story seemed convenient. Let’s say that Ella was shoved into a Cinderella role in every way possible. She kept moving forward, thank goodness. It reminded me of Cinderella (my least favorite fairy tale, with Sleeping Beauty as a close second) in some ways. The book’s greatest strength, though, is also one of its flaws. Sometimes I felt detached from the story because it could be so bare; other times, the writing worked well to keep things interesting.
I still want more. More of Ella, more explanation, more complexities. When I realized that it was wrapping up, I was disappointed. In a way, Ella Enchanted is memorable for the very reason that it isn’t. It’s fresh, light, and quick, like a breath of fresh air, but that air’s going to keep blowing along and more will come by eventually and—
“I’m writing nonsense. In my first letter I had hoped to impress you with my brilliant prose, but that will have to wait for the second.”
That quote by Char will suffice for now.
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