I very much enjoyed reading Carolyn Turgeon’s works such as Mermaid and The Next Full Moon that ever since then, I’ve decided to buy her succeeding books, knowing that she will not let me down. Hence, when The Fairest of Them All was released, I immediately bought a copy from The Book Depository.
Here’s the plot description from the back cover of the book:
In an enchanted forest, the maiden Rapunzel’s beautiful voice captivates a young prince hunting nearby. Overcome, he climbs her long golden hair to her tower and they spend an afternoon of passion together, but by nightfall the prince must return to his kingdom, and his betrothed.
Now king, he weds his intended and the kingdom rejoices when a daughter named Snow White is born. Beyond the castle walls, Rapunzel waits in her crumbling tower, gathering news of her beloved from those who come to her seeking wisdom. She tries to mend her broken heart but her love lingers, pulsing in the magic tendrils of her hair.
The king, too, is haunted by his memories, but after his queen’s mysterious death, he is finally able to follow his heart into the darkness of the forest. But can Rapunzel trade the shadows of the forest for the castle and be the innocent beauty he remembers?
Before anything else, let me talk about the cover first. Three words: I love it! The background color and the character on it with her flowing golden hair complement one another which make the cover design look more attractive and eye-catching. Moreover, readers could immediately tell from the cover that it emphasizes on the hair. With that said, Rapunzel would come into mind. However, the title depicts otherwise – it doesn’t have any relation to Rapunzel’s story, but evidently to Snow White’s instead. But fear not, the blurb would help clear things up on what the story is about. Even after reading the blurb, I got intrigued with the story more. I’m curious how Carolyn Turgeon would merge the story of Rapunzel and Snow White altogether.
Moving on, I’m right about what I said earlier that Carolyn Turgeon would not let me down. Just a few pages in and I’m already hooked on the story. Imagine, all my childhood life I’ve known these characters as the damsels in distress, being saved by their knights in shining armor. And now, as a retelling, I hear that one of the princesses has become the evil queen. It’s unimaginable and yet Carolyn Turgeon is able to do so. She surely knows how to craft a fairy tale retelling – adding her own special ingredient that the outcome turns out to be quite impressive.
Told in first person point of view, the book centers on Rapunzel’s life – how she falls in love with the prince to becoming the infamous evil queen. Rapunzel’s character in this book greatly reminds me of Rapunzel in Disney’s Tangled. I guess it’s because of the magic their hair holds that strikes the similarity, although the magic capability differs from one another, as well as their personalities. Furthermore, even their “mothers” surprisingly share the same name: Gothel.
I’m glad that Carolyn Turgeon writes the story with Rapunzel in the spotlight. I haven’t seen any good Rapunzel retellings aside from Tangled. And I love that this book is written in first person point of view. In a way, readers get to understand Rapunzel’s thoughts and feelings more. How she reacts and handles her surroundings somehow justifies the things she could secretly feel and hear people’s thoughts. Magic greatly influences her life and it is because of it that she has the capability to literally empathize with people more. But as we all know, magic also has a downside. The more you get attached to it, the more it will destroy you. This is evidently shown in her attachment to the magic mirror.
Despite Rapunzel being the evil queen, I do not blame her for becoming one. The transition from magic to religion during this period negatively affects the lives of those who practice magic or sorcery. And Mathena Gothel and Rapunzel are not able to escape this fate, hence their isolation from the palace. With this said, it’s no doubt that people will now allow such outsiders to enter the kingdom and be a part of it. So when Rapunzel becomes queen, Mathena Gothel gives her the magic mirror as a reminder of the unforgotten magic and also as a way to make Rapunzel feel she’s not alone. On the other hand, the mirror has drastically shaped Rapunzel’s growing obsession for beauty and youth.
Feminism is also strongly portrayed in the story, evident in the way Rapunzel, Mathena Gothel, and Snow White are characterized, while men are described possessing unattractive qualities. It’s really impressive to see that Carolyn Turgeon factors in the complexity and harshness of reality into the book, making the story more relatable to the readers. Her descriptive narration is perfect as the plotline is written uniquely with the originality of a retelling. She even utilizes parts of the original story from both fairy tales and makes a twist out of it. The story combines innocence and naivety with darkness, adding to the never-ending surprise the book unveils. Overall, I love this book! I would definitely recommend this to fans of fairy tale retellings. After reading this book, I don’t think I would look at fairy tale villains the same way ever again. I definitely can’t wait for Carolyn Turgeon’s future works.