Release date: August 6, 2013
Source: Publisher for blog tour
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.The Fairest of Them All is not your average fairy tale. It's not a story about a pretty girl who gets the handsome prince and lives happily ever after. Mixing the stories of Rapunzel and Snow White into one intricate, absorbing tale, Carolyn Turgeon explores love versus lust, how a life full of great promise goes awry, and how revenge and guilt can eat away at a person until it's all that's left.
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.
Rapunzel's story is quite unlike the one we've seen before. She is heralded as a great beauty, with her long, golden hair. She has grown up far away from everyone except Mathena and the women who come to them to seek cures for ailments and broken hearts. In a kingdom where witchcraft is absolutely forbidden, they hide in the woods, not daring to speak the word, though everyone knows what goes on in the cottage with the tower behind it. Rapunzel is not locked away or taken against her will from her family in this fable, but her story is still one of sorrow and loss. When a handsome man--who she quickly learns is the prince--visits the cottage, Rapunzel realizes desire, quickly and powerfully. But the prince is betrothed to a princess from the East, a union that promises peace, and cannot marry Rapunzel, so she must live with the pain, all while hoping someday, somehow her fate will change.
The Fairest of Them All is a slow, luxuriating tale, one that takes its time to let the reader settle into the feel, which is distinctly magical and lush. Rapunzel is headstrong and determined to get the things she desires, even when she is warned of the consequences. She must learn for herself. The mixing of her story with that of Snow White changes the reader's view of both women; it brings both to a more human level, rather than that of untouchable princess. Also, looking at the story of Snow White from the mind of the "evil queen" brings a depth and humanity to the woman that one never considers when looking from Snow White's perspective. It's a reality check that makes the whole book more satisfying--the ending especially so.
Rapunzel is in many ways a pawn of those around her, despite her willfulness. The manipulations of others and others inability to resist desire--be it physical desire, desire for power, desire for revenge, desire for an impossible change--steer her in ways she'd never go on her own and effectively shape her life. It's heartbreaking to watch, but it's satisfying to see her come to her senses and fight for herself.
The Fairest of Them All is masterfully written and puts a spin on two fairy tales that brings their stories into better relief. It is dark and dangerous, but there's light at the end.
Carolyn Turgeon is the author of five novels: Rain Village (2006), Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story (2009), Mermaid (2011), which is being developed for film by Sony Pictures, and The Next Full Moon (2012), her first and only book for middle-grade readers. Her latest novel, The Fairest of Them All, comes out in August 2013 from Touchstone/Simon & Schuster and is about Rapunzel growing up to be Snow White's stepmother. She lives in Pennsylvania and New York and teaches fiction writing at the University of Alaska at Anchorage's Low-Residency MFA program. She's currently at work on a new novel about Dante's Beatrice, set in thirteenth-century Florence.
As part of my stop on the blog tour, I get to share an excerpt from the book! I've chosen a pivotal moment in the book, the moment Rapunzel is no longer "the fairest of them all":
Question of the day (to be answered in a comment for an extra entry to the giveaway!):
What two fairy tales would you mix together?
Other stops today:
Bound By Words -- Review
Tressa's Wishful Endings -- Review + Favorite Quote
Wicca Witch 4 BookBlog -- Guest Post + Playlist