by Gail Carson Levine

Gail Carson Levine draws on elements from a well-known tale featuring a magic mirror,... read more

Gail Carson Levine draws on elements from a well-known tale featuring a magic mirror, a jealous queen, and, yes, a poisoned apple to create a fresh and original story. In a land where singing is revered and songs are woven into every interaction and event, Aza’s voice is exceptionally fine. Her appearance, however, is anything but fair. When Ivi, the king’s new wife, chooses commoner Aza to be her lady-in-waiting, Aza knows it is because her looks pose no threat to the insecure young queen. Soon Ivi is also exploiting Aza’s skill at “illusing,” or throwing her voice. Aza’s unusual talent means no one has to know that Ivi can’t sing—Aza can do it for her. After the king is injured, Ivi begins asserting her authority in shocking ways. The court puts the blame on Aza, suggesting she is influencing the queen for personal gain. The real influence, Aza discovers, is Skulani, the being inside the magic mirror that turned Ivi from pretty into beautiful. Sure she is being persecuted because she is ugly, Aza draws on the mirror’s power to affect her own transformation, but the change only convinces the king’s council that Aza possesses dangerous powers. This is a fairy tale, and Levine’s highly entertaining narrative will end in love and happiness, but not before several heart-stopping moments of danger and deception, and not before Aza learns to trust that true beauty resides in the heart. (Ages 10–14)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2007

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