Tuesday, August 6, 2013

ARC Review: The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon

Title: The Fairest of Them All

Author: Carolyn Turgeon

Publication date: August 6th, 2013

ISBN: 9781451683783

Synopsis (according to Goodreads):
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, Repunzel 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 Repunzel'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 Repunzel, 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 Repunzel his queen.

But when Mathena's wedding gift of an ancient mirror begins speaking to her, Repunzel falls under its evil spell, and the king begins to realize that Repunzel is not the beautiful, kind woman he dreamed of.

I received a copy of this book from Touchstone in exchange for an honest review.

I absolutely love fairytale retellings and the fact that this book is essentially a mash-up of two of my favorite stories was just icing on the cake. I was thoroughly bewitched by the premise, the lovely royal blue color of the cover, and the fine praises of the author's writing. I had to have it. I had to read it and find out what could have happened to my favorite princess, Repunzel, to turn her into the evil stepmother that I have so often read about in Snow White.

The story starts out with a young, vibrantly happy Repunzel who meets a young prince simply by chance. She sees his hunting party in the woods from the crumbling remains of a kingdom long forgotten (perhaps, this speaks of some foreboding that I only recognized after reading the book in its entirety). She sang to the men straight from her heart, not thinking it would catch the ear of the royal heir and seize upon his heart.

Mathena, the witch who adopted Repunzel after her parents were deemed unfit, attempts to shelter Repunzel from the prince to no avail. Repunzel and the Prince Josef share one night of passion which changes Repunzel's life.

After Prince Josef is forced from Repunzel's side to wed a princess of his parent's choosing, Repunzel is forced to spend years hearing of her lost love's life from women who seek the guidance of her guardian. Through a series of events the queen passes away after first giving birth to Snow White. Now King, Josef seeks Repunzel out and makes her his wife.

Repunzel is forced to mold herself into a refined woman of court, instead of the wild woman she once was. She falls for Josef even more and even finds a place in her heart for Snow White. But, all things are not happy for Repunzel as she realizes the true nature of her king and loses the favor she once gained from her stepdaughter.

The book was so beautifully written and was such an original concept that despite some personal issues with a bit of the book, I enjoyed the read. It had so much substance and I came out of it sympathizing with a character in a historic fairytale that I had hated almost my entire childhood. Then ending ended up saving the entire reading experience for me. I was filled with dread throughout the book, waiting for the inevitable to happen and see Repunzel become the evil demon of a woman of Snow White folklore. The ending surprised me. It moved the book, leaps and bounds, head on my rating scale. I would recommend this book to those who have read Wicked by Gregory Maguire and love reading fairytale retellings.

This story read a lot like the book Wicked by Gregory Maguire. In Fairest of Them All, the reader can't help but bleed for Repunzel/the Evil Stepmother. It was the back story that was needed to truly understand what drove someone so pure of heart and loving to a desperation that caused evil to sow roots.

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