It’s my turn to share a childhood favorite.
I’ve always loved Cinderella stories with a twist. Forget the Disney version where the girl has no agency and no personality.
Give me a headstrong girl in rags and pair her with a prince and I’ll read just about anything. Cinder and Throne of Glass started two of my favorite series with their own adaptations of the classic. Most recently, I’ve devoured Kingdom of Ash and Briars and Geekerella. So it’s no mystery that one of my childhood favorites was Ella Enchanted.
It’s been at least 10 years since I read it, but I was excited to jump back in to Frell.
It was still great. I wasn’t quite as taken with it as I was at 9, but I really enjoyed it. It was a quick read, full of feminist quips that make this so much more than the classic makeover fairytale from which it originates.
Why did he think it was fine to talk about me as though I were a portrait instead of a maiden?
Why indeed? This is what your daughters should be reading.
Ella is cursed with obedience, forced to do whatever anyone says as a command – whether it’s intentional or not. It’s as terrible as it sounds, even when no one knows but her mother and fairy godmother. After her stepmother and stepsisters find out, they make her life hell, controlling her actions and forcing her to wait on them.
But Ella maintains a small life of her own, and starts to fall for Prince Char. After a few adventures together, they begin a secret correspondence that’s as romantic as that sounds! But things get complicated when he confesses his feelings to her.
Because Ella knows that if she marries Prince Char, her curse will endanger him and the kingdom, she refuses him. Later, after the ball – of COURSE there’s a ball, this is a Cinderella retelling – the prince (accidentally) commands her to marry him. Ella still knows she can’t, and even though it’s against her heart and her curse, she finally has the strength to refuse an order.
She breaks the curse. On her own.
Even if she didn’t end up with the prince, that is the happy ending. Breaking the curse is the victory. Ella’s real victory is her own strength. Getting the guy at the end is just a bonus.
But it does happen. This is a fairytale – of course they end up together.
(One random thing I wondered about: why is this still shelved in middle-grade? Ella is 15 for most of the book, and 16 by the end. Technically, it should be YA.)
No, this book isn’t perfect. It’s pretty internally-focused, more about Ella’s struggles than actual plot events, and the ending is a bit rushed, but I’m so glad I returned to it as an adult.