Book Review: The Fairest of Them All

August 5, 2013 Whitney Review 4 Comments

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: The Fairest of Them AllFairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon
Published by Touchstone on August 6, 2013
Genres: Fantasy
Source: Publisher

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.

I lived on Fairy Tales when I was younger with Snow White being my favorite.  Of course I grew up on the sanitized Disney version, my room was an advertisement to the Princess and learned how to work the VCR for a constant loop of Snow White and her seven little men.  All in my Snow White dress of course.  As for Rapunzel, when I was ten I belonged to a creative writing club at my elementary school and remember writing a short story on her.  I had an artistic moment and added pop-ups and used yarn for her hair — I was very proud of myself.  I am not sure why I chose that particular fairy tale, perhaps it was because I had Rapunzel-esque hair at the time.

The Fairest of Them All starts out ordinary enough, with the classic elements of Rapunzel and her long hair but with the entrance of Snow White, mixes the two like a strong cocktail.  Carolyn Turgeon does this so effortlessly showcasing a wonderful story-teller.  I loved the writing, if it hadn’t been for the slightly more mature subject matter, The Fairest of Them All could have read like a child’s tale with its simplistic elegance.  Carolyn Turgeon has given Rapunzel a unique, refreshing voice, pulling you in to a mystical land, lavished with details.

As I said before, I grew up with watered-down fairy tales but began reading the originals a few years ago.  Therefore, I was enthused that a nod was given to the Grimm Brothers.  Examples being Rapunzel becoming pregnant out-of-wedlock and dreaming of dancing on coals, an element taken from Snow White.  Although I think the biggest, and most known is the magic mirror, the connector that adjoins the erector set with a simple click.

My one complaint is that I didn’t think there was a designated villain.  Yes, Mathena was not all that met the eye but it felt like such a blip at the end with the problem simultaneously solved, thus it had no effect on me whatsoever.  Rapunzel, who in Snow White fashion was suppose to play out the role of evil step-mother, I didn’t find that evil either.  If anything she was all vanity and finds redemption in the end, wearing stiletto heels rather than iron slippers.  In my opinion, there wasn’t a singular character that could claim the role.

Overall, I closed The Fairest of Them All with satisfaction, I was enchanted by its originality and look forward to reading more by Carolyn Turgeon.


4 responses to “Book Review: The Fairest of Them All

  1. I liked this book too. If anything, I liked that there wasn't a traditional villain as in the real world, people are more like Mathena than a fairy tale bad guy.

    Mermaid by Carolyn Turgeon is good as well 🙂

    • I never thought of it that way before, very insightful Sam!

      I've heard good things about Mermaid too and have been tempted by its pretty cover on many occasions. I think I will have to take the initiative and read it.

  2. I've only just found your blog but I'll definitely be visiting again soon, it's great! Also this sounds like a really interesting idea for a book! Like you I was brought up with the Disney versions of the Grimm fairy tales and Snow White was my favourite for years. And as much as I should be ashamed to admit it, at the age of 17, Tangled is one of my favourite films :/ :L I agree that it sounds like a really interesting plot and I might have to hunt this book down 🙂

    Please follow me back! 🙂

  3. Jo

    I just got a copy of this book, and I'm looking forward to sitting down with it — so nice to read your thoughts on it. I've enjoyed other books by this author, and it sounds like this one will be good, too.

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