Thursday, January 6, 2011

Review: Gail Carson Levine’s Fairest (Part 2: The Good)

I didn’t totally hate Fairest. Despite all of that, there were moments that I really liked, maybe loved.

In the first few chapters, we meet zhamM, a gnome who is a breath of fresh hair. I mean, air. He walked into Aza’s inn and made me want to keep reading. Here’s why (spoilers):

“Htun looks black to humans. It is the color I like best, deeper than scarlet, more serene than cerulean, gayer than yellow. Your htun hair is the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.” 

1. zhamM is the first character to be kind to Aza. He sees something beautiful in her hair, which she thinks is sooty black. There’s a message! Not “inner beauty is the most important thing” but “what you have is already beautiful.”

2. He’s foreshadowing something. Humans can’t see the color htun. It belongs to the gnomes. What’s going on with Aza, who happens to be a foundling?

3. Htun itself went a long way for me. It’s an utterly charming detail. Nice language, nice voice. I wasn’t invested until that moment.
    I suppose all of the moments I loved had to do with zhamM. He won a lot of my goodwill. I was intrigued by his job as a judge. Since gnomes can see the future, their judges give punishments to criminals that will best help them. When he looked into the future and saw the best punishment for that particular gnome was no punishment, he carried out that sentence.  

    Seeing zhamM meant things were looking up. The book begins to find a rhythm when Aza “finds herself” in the gnomes’ underground city. She learns to see htun with zhamM holding her hand. She makes a living singing for commission. I wanted to stay there with her, to watch her gain confidence and poise. Too bad GCL spent so much build build build on the court dealings and rush rush rushed through the land of the gnomes to the end.

    I thought the “sleep” of Snow White might be the years spent underground. When she woke up, she would be transformed. The kiss, I hoped, would be “kiss and make up” after the Prince came to apologize for putting Aza in prison without hearing her out. (Yeah, you love her. Sure.) I hoped he’d come to the “I’m a jerk” conclusion by himself, though I think it was zhamM who sent him a letter. Unfortunately, though every other part of the story was changed, the sleep/kiss was poisoned death and waking up. (Though it was lyrical. I enjoyed how “soul limbo” played out.)

    Anyway, this review has gone on long enough. Here’s someone who agrees with me. And here's a rebuttal.

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