Title: The Fairest of them All
Author: Carolyn Turgeon
Genre: Fairy Tale Retelling, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Publication Date: August 6th 2013
Source: ARC provided by Publisher via Netgalley for Book Tour
What if Rapunzel was Snow White’s evil stepmother? From the author of Godmother and Mermaid, The Fairest of Them All explores what happens when fairy tale heroines grow up and don’t live happily ever after.
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.
Think you know everything there is to know about Rapunzel?
The Fairest of Them All is a magical and imaginative story that explores everything that happens when fairytale characters don’t have their happily ever after.
Oh. My. God.
Please forgive the profanity, but it’s needed here.
I’d initially picked up this book thinking it would be a mild, fluffy read. I didn’t expect the stories to differ much from their original companions (other than Rapunzel being Snow White’s mom), but what I got from this story was a wonderful surprise.
This book was so captivating. From the prologue, I was immediately hooked.
Rapunzel was the protagonist here. Forget about the singing and dancing Disney character, because she’s nothing like that. Rapunzel evolves in this book many times.
At the beginning, we see her as the young and beautiful girl who let a prince fall into bed with her. She’s then left alone to pick up the pieces of her broken heart while the Prince marries another. In this part, you can’t help but feel overwhelming pity for the girl.
Then, when Rapunzel finally gets what she wanted: her happily ever after, we start to see her desperation at wanting to be the fairest in the entire Kingdom. We see her slow but steady descent into “evil”.
After that, when Rapunzel is finally consumed by her desperation, she decides to get rid of the only thing standing in her way from being the fairest: Snow White.
I’ve got to applaud Carolyn Turgeon. She created an amazing character change in Rapunzel. It was amazing seeing the heroine turn into The Evil Queen. We got to see into her innermost dreams and desires, but also her fears and motivations. She wasn’t Evil because she chose it, but because she was given reasons to be so.
It was also nice to see than in this book, Snow White wasn’t the all-loving, forgiving saint who’s represented in every story. Here we see real personality from her; we may even dislike her as much as The Evil Queen does! (I know I came to dislike her in one point of the book!)
This story was nicely crafted. The way Carolyn Turgeon intertwined both Snow White’s and Rapunzel’s stories, and added a dark aspect to it was… mind-blowing. There’s a really huge plot twist that I was not expecting in this book, that when it happened, it left me like:
I definitely was not prepared for that. I also wasn’t prepared for the other fairytale that was suddenly intertwined at the end. When I reached the 93% mark, I was desperately hoping the book never ended.
I think the only drawback of this book was its pacing. At times the book felt like it dragged on and on, without any significant events occurring. I think this has to do mainly with the fact that there was a lot of description. Don’t get me wrong the descriptions where beautiful, they were great, but it’s easy to lose track of the story when you’re drowned in description.
Overall, Carolyn Turgeon creates such a wonderful story, that you’ll be left dreading to pass the last page.
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Fairy Tales are a part of everyone childhood’s, or at least most people’s. I’ve always loved stories like The Princess and The Frog, Hansel and Gretel, Peter Pan, The Little Mermaid, and so on, usually the short versions for kids with pictures. And even now when I’m older, I think of them. I even read Thumbelina the other day after watching the movie. So it’s no wonder to read twists to the classic stories we grow up with and love most.
In these, usually they go more for the dark side of the story, or the most realistic and true to the real world, and this one isn’t always with happily ever afters. And I loved that in this book.
Rapunzel grew up with her stepmother Mathena, who told her she rescued her from their abusive parents and making her forget such a horrible past for a child. She’s part of the wilderness and nature, growing up in the forest in the ruins of a castle. Mathena and her were healers, Daughters of Artemis, helping others, usually women, with heartbreaks, pains, and many more things.
And one day, Rapunzel’s world is turned upside down when the Prince Josef appears on her doorstep, all charming, inviting the two women to the Harvesting Ball at the kingdom. Rapunzel ecstatic, but Mathena locked her for some time in her tower so that she wouldn’t go. But Rapunzel didn’t give up. She used magic to call the prince to her, spending a night full of passion and desire between the two. Until the Prince announces that he’s to marry someone else to unify two kingdoms. Devastated, Rapunzel stays in the forest with Mathena, that is, until the Prince, now turned to King, comes back seven years later to ask for her hand after the sudden dead of the Queen.
I love good twisted characters. I find them to be one of the best developed characters, in the case that the author knows how to do it. And Carolyn Turgeon knows exactly how. I was wowed with this whole book since the very first page of the preface until the last one.
The element I loved the most was Rapunzel, hands down. Not only because she’s the main characters, but her character development and growth. We start seeing this forest girl, so innocent and with aa good heart, like on Disney’s Rapunzel. And slowly as the story goes on we can see how she changes as beauty takes the front in her brain, being succumbed by power, “love”, and many things she goes through. In Fairy Tales characters are barely developed in that way. We know them superficially. But here, you know every nook and cranny of him/her, you know its dark secrets, the reasons behind their action, and Rapunzel is so amazing. Its hard not to love her, even when she seems like an evil witch, a silly girl, a stupid woman, whatever you think of her as the story goes, you have to like her, and even cry for her pain, laugh at her happiness, throw flames through your eyes at her madness.
And this Rapunzel is not who you thought she was. No.
When I was younger I had read two books from the library that were kind of like a spin-off. The main characters were the villains from Cinderella and Snow White. The story was from their point of view and they tell how they are victims of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, misunderstandings, and that they were framed as the “bad guys” when all they wanted to do was good. I felt that with this book, in a good way. We know the story of the innocent girl who becomes the bad guy because of circumstances and wrongly made decisions.
The secondary characters were amazing. The oh-so-dreamy Prince of fairy tales maybe isn’t always as you dreamed him to be. He’s a prince after all. And Snow White, she’s not the perfect little girl that turns into a woman who’s an angel born on Earth. I don’t like Snow White much, she’s not among my favorite Fairy Tales but I know her story. And here I disliked her so much ugh! But loved it at the same time! So contradicting! Wanna know why? Because they were human. It was like they were made of flesh and bones, like me, with their flaws, sins, dark desires, not only peaches and cream and happily ever afters. No. This is as real as if you were reading a memoir of someone famous, like a celebrity or a scientist, Whichever you prefer.
I was not expecting the ending. I didn’t actually liked it that much. I was expecting a big BOOM of something utterly evil to the core of the evilness on this world. I guess I kept my mind in the expectation of seeing the villain as its depicted by Disney, or even the movie Mirror, Mirror (which I loved). Its good to have some background story of the original tale, but I suggest you not to go step by step to it. I loved the whole book, and liked the ending, but not as bloody and EVIL as I expected. Nonetheless, Carolyn Turgeon is a master story-teller to be able to make such a good twist in this marvelously crafted story.
The narrative flowed quite nice, easy to follow and understand, also giving that eerie feeling that you were reading a fairy tale and a story set in the Medieval Times.
Overall, you won’t be able to pass the pages fast enough and get enough of this book. I’m actually very curious to read her other novels even more, since this my first time reading one of her works. Truly amazing and worth the read to all Fairy Tales lovers, specially those that want to know the twists to them and the “behind-the-scenes”.
Rating: 4.5 stars
As part of our participation in the Book Tour, we decided to have an interview with the author of Fairest of them All, Carolyn Turgeon!
1. Why did you want to write Fairest of Them All?
I’ve written a few fairy tale retellings—Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story, Mermaid, and the middle-grade The Next Full Moon (not a full-on retelling but based on old swan maiden tales)—and I figured that I had one more in me before I moved on to other things. So I wanted to do something big. And when I was looking around at all the young, damaged princesses in fairy tales, and all the evil older queens and stepmothers, I realized that they’re really the same women. As I shuffled them around, I saw that all the stories kind of fit together. What if Snow White (who’s grown up with a stepmother who wanted to eat her organs) ended up as the old witch in Hansel and Gretel? What if Rapunzel—valued only for her beauty, raised by the witch who locks her in a tower—grows up to be Snow White’s stepmother? It makes sense that later in life, when her beauty (and power) starts to fade, she might get pretty upset and turn to dark magic… and take out all that rage on the young beauty who’s replaced her. That’s the idea I went with (writing about how Snow White became a child-eater might have been a little much)!In general, I like looking at the minor, one-dimensional characters and seeing what makes them tick.
2. If Fairest of Them All was made into a movie, what would be your dream cast?
Rapunzel: Amanda Seyfried
Snow White: Angelina Jolie at age 15
Mathena (the witch who raises Rapunzel): Madeline Stowe
Prince Josef: Leonardo di Caprio (I actually pictured him as I wrote!)
The falconer: someone dark and brooding… like Clive Owen maybe, at age 30!
3. What are your plans after the release of this book?
I have a bunch of events to do, several book readings/signings and even an appearance at MerPalooza (a mermaid festival in Florida)! But after that I hope to hunker down and finish this crime novel I’ve had on hold for years, as well as a historical novel set in the 13 and in September I go back to mermaid camp! http://thehairpin.com/2011/06/last-weekend-iwent-to-mermaid-camp
4. Is there a message in your novels that you want your readers to grasp?
Some basic ones are these: to not fall into prescribed female roles, to not let your beauty define you, to not let a prince charming define you, and to be kind and generous to other girls/women and always value your female friendships.
5. What would you say to anyone that’s hesitant to read your books?
Sometimes fairy tales get a bad rap; people think they’re all glitter and rainbows and for little kids. But remember: the originals are dark and twisted and gorgeous and complicated. These are stories that have been told and re-told for centuries, and that stay with us from the time we’re children to the time we’re adults. They’re stories that are in our blood and bones. You may or may not love my books, but don’t dismiss them (or any fairy tales) as silly stories for little kids!
6. How do you react to negative comments on your books?
One of the hard things about writing books and putting them into the world is that you have to deal with the fact that not everyone will like them or appreciate what you’re doing or even necessarily understand what you’re doing. I’ve seen crazy reviews of my books, and I’ve had people email me to complain about endings that weren’t necessarily happy. You just have to ignore all of that, and stay true to your vision. That goes for whatever you’re trying to do in the world!
7. Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Oh, I think all of writing is challenging. One novel represents so many hours of sitting at a computer typing typing typing when you could be out ice skating or making sandcastles or doing any number of other things that are way more fun. And most of the time, you’re doing it with no guarantee that anyone will ever buy it or care that you’ve done it. So just doing it is hard. And then there are all the other hard parts. =)
8. What is your favorite book and why?
My favorite book is One Hundred Years of Solitude. It’s so beautiful and sweeping and astonishing, the kind of storytelling you might hear around a fire, and it has that amazing opening where the gypsies bring ice to Macondo for the first time and no one can believe their eyes. Imagine that: seeing ice for the first time, believing it’s a miracle. Here’s an excerpt, in case you haven’t read it!
9. What books have influenced your life the most?
I loved so many books as a kid, and it’s scary, how much the things you love and take inside you when you’re young shape who you grow up to be. Books I loved were: the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace, Pippi Longstocking, Nancy Drew, the Little House books, all the S. E. Hinton books, Clan of the Cave Bear, Peter Benchley’s Girl of the Sea of Cortez… Too many to name, really! And I loved fairy tales and the Greek myths, all that beauty and magic mixed in with everyday, real life.
10. Is there anything else you would like to say to your fans?
Hmm. I guess just thank you so much for supporting me, and that I’d be happy to talk to your book clubs (or schools, or what have you) over the phone or Skype or in person, if I’m in your area. And that if you want to write (or have any other dream), sit down and start right now and just go for it, even if no one cares and it’d be way more fun to go ice skating!
FOLLOW THE FANTASTIC FLYING BOOK TOUR
Dedicated Readers Only -> Review + Dream Cast
Between The Pages -> Review
Musings Of A Blodger -> Review
Addicted 2 Heroines -> Review
Boricuan Bookworms -> Review + Interview
Looking For The Panacea -> Review + Favorite Quote
The Book Rat -> Review
Closed The Cover -> Review
A Backwards Story -> Review + Guest Post
Reader Rising -> Review
Cecilia Robert -> Excerpt
Reading and Writing Urban Fantasy, Paranormal and Romance -> Review + Favorite Quote
After Dark Rendezvous -> Review + Interview
Literary, etc. -> Review
Paranormal Book Club -> Review + Favorite Quote
Bookcase To Heaven -> Review + Dream Cast
Bookish Outsider -> Review
Bookhounds -> Review + Excerpt
On The Shelf -> Review
Paper Cuts -> Review + Excerpt
Bound By Words -> Review
Tressa’s Wishful Endings -> Review + Favorite Quote
Wicca Witch 4 BookBlog -> Guest Post + Playlist
Trips Down Imagination Road -> Review + Guest Post
The Reader’s Antidote -> Review
A Dream Within A Dream -> Review + Excerpt
Read. Sleep. Repeat -> Excerpt
Enter this incredible giveaway!
QUESTION OF THE DAY!
What do you think about twists and spin-offs to Fairy Tales?