Review: The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon

The Fairest of them All / Carolyn Turgeon

When you hear, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall… who’s the fairest of them all?” – what is the first thing that comes to your mind? For a lot of people, including myself, it’s Snow White. But what if I tell you that this book, despite of its title, is about Rapunzel. Yup.

If you can’t tell by the cover, a girl with long blonde hair, it is a fairytale retelling of Snow White in the point of view of Rapunzel. Wait, what? It sounds complicated but this is one of the most creative books that I’ve read in a long time. I haven’t had much luck with retellings mainly because the author makes it so out of character and out of place in the already established world. Most of the time, I don’t buy the route that an author took; these are fairytales of more than a hundred years old and not some Hollywood movie from ten years ago to be remade. Chances are, everyone and their mother’s mothers (literally) have some recollection of these childhood bedtime stories. I’m not saying that authors can’t make it their own… it’s a personal taste kind of thing.

Also, I’m attached to the original versions somewhat. I had a Children’s Literature course in college and it remains as my favorite class of all time. Since that class, however, fairytales have stopped being a “children” thing for me. If you only knew how the original Cinderella went. Have you ever thought about why Prince Charming would want to take home Snow White’s lifeless body? And AR Roquelaure expounded on some idea when she wrote The Sleeping Beauty Quartet. And how about Rapunzel? Honestly, it’s one of my favorites, if not my #1 choice. The original is so not for kids. This books follows that more closely than the Disney-fied version. Therefore, this book is not classified under Children or Young Adult fiction, regardless of how sparkly the cover looks.

So… what if Rapunzel is Snow White’s “evil” stepmother? Yes, the one with the apple and everything. You’re interested now, huh?

We start out with Rapunzel’s secluded life in the forest as a “healer”. She’s living with her foster mother, Mathena. and from her, Rapunzel pieces together her past as a child in the palace, her parents giving her away, and how she ended up in the forest. As with the original, she lives in a tower and grows out her hair. One day, a prince finds his way to her upon hearing her singing voice. Mathena refused to let Rapunzel go with the Prince but he finds a way to come closer to her.

As mentioned above, this follows the original plot and I don’t want to spoil you for either book so I encourage you to read at least this book. So Rapunzel, now betrayed and suffered a huge loss, continued to live her life in the forest until one day, news spread of the Queen’s sudden death. Not long after, the now King comes back for Rapunzel and this time, she goes with him. Mathena gifts her a magic mirror which Rapunzel treats as her most prized possession.

Life in the palace was difficult for Rapunzel. The people loved their previous queen and they felt that she was “replaced” too soon. Rapunzel had to win their favors and become closer to Snow White. And it did not help that she seemed to be unable to produce an heir to the kingdom. Like before, the King started to look for other beds to warm. Inevitably, Rapunzel catches him. The Mirror becomes Rapunzel’s only refuge… until it gives her an answer she didn’t expect.

By now, the general Snow White plot comes into the fore. But it still mostly remains a Rapunzel-centric story. And let me tell you, it is one twisted story. Just when you thought that you’re in for a seemingly harmless fairytale retelling, you’re in for a shock. I like Rapunzel’s voice. Her desperation and confusion was believable and even though she’s labeled the “evil” stepmother, I can’t help but feel sorry for her the most. The twist at the end will make you realize why this cannot be young adult, much less a children’s novel. It’s refreshing to read these stories all grown up… as a grown up.

Carolyn Turgeon did a great job taking the damsel in distress to a whole different level. I’m pleasantly surprised to see that even if I kind of saw where the story is going, she still managed to shock me. I loved every page and hopefully, I can come across other books like this.

Rating: 5/5. It is a quick read. And because it is so engaging, time will definitely fly by faster.

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4 thoughts on “Review: The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon

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