Aza is an orphaned girl who never knew her parents. Raised by a kindly innkeeper and his family, Aza loved her life except for one thing: she was ugly. Her ink black hair made her pale-skinned face look pasty and ill, whilst her mouth look a bloodstained red. Living at an inn, Aza was required to deal with customers on a regular basis and their stares, rude remarks and taunts make her life miserable in spite of the love from her family.
It is when a well-to-do dame stays at their inn one day that Aza's luck seems to change. At the request of the dame, Aza became her lady-in-waiting on a trip to the king's castle. Whilst staying in the royal palace, a bizarre chain of events finds the queen's mirror in Aza's hands, and the decision she makes effects her life forever.
I love the world of Fairest. Even though it is a typical fairytale setting, complete with all the fictional creatures of the brothers Grimm world, Levine brings real life and colour to it all. The characters are lively, fun and varied, and the story keeps your attention the entire length. Though a magical element plays a key part in the story, I did not find the magic in this book to be heavy-handed or overwhelming. It is used lightly, and since it is already a fairytale world, it is considered a natural element throughout it. There are some usage of spells, however they are painted in almost a humorous light, and is not dark or satanic in presentation at all.
There is one instance where a character is near death, and their "spirit" goes into the magic mirror. Though this is done in a way that does not suggest anything evil or of the spirit realm and is quite innocent, it may not sit well with some readers, so I thought I should make mention of it.
The theme centers on appearances, (obviously) and I love the way Levine focuses the moral of her story on "It's what is in you, not what you look like that counts". Appearance most definitely is not everything, and the fact that it is portrayed so strongly in this story is something I very much appreciated. The author took characters who were pleasing to look at and showed the audience that they were corrupt inside, yet revealed that it is the goodness inside of a person that makes them truly beautiful.
The book is also a very enlightening read into the world of singing; captivating the emotion one feels when pouring their heart out in song. Anyone who appreciates music would definitely enjoy this aspect of the story!
Overall, I found this book to be an engrossing and entertaining read. The plot isn't slow, and the descriptions are rich and flavorsome without becoming boring. I have read it three times now, and every time is just as enjoyable as the last! I would give it four and a half stars out of five.