Review: The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon (Blog Tour & Giveaway)

Posted August 10th, 2013 in Blog Tour, book review, Giveaway / 12 comments

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by Carolyn Turgeon

Publisher: Touchstone (Aug. 6, 2013)
Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tale, Retelling, Young Adult
Format: ARC Paperback (288 pages)
Source: Free book from author for honest review
Find It: GoodreadsAmazon Print | Amazon Kindle | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3 stars)

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.

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.

At A Glance
You know the saying, “It’s not you, it’s me.” That pretty much sums up my relationship with The Fairest of Them All. It was a great book, but it wasn’t really for me.

The Good
Turgeon weaves together the fairy tales of Snow White and Rapunzel flawlessly. Though this is no Happily Ever After, it is a dark, interesting story that really left an impression on me. I won’t soon forget the surprises Turgeon had waiting for us at almost every chapter. Even with the foreshadowing, I was still shocked at some turn of events.

What surprised me the most was the strong feelings I had toward each character. Not one of them was perfect. They were all horribly flawed. Sometimes they were even hard to like. But I felt bad for each one. They have all done the unforgivable, but I didn’t care. I wanted them to find their happiness. I hoped that they would overcome their fear, jealousy, hatred, and naivety and find peace with themselves. We don’t always get what we want, but I liked that I felt bad for even the most villainous character in The Fairest of Them All. I saw their pain for what it was and was able to look past their wickedness and see people, not monsters. Sure, I had trouble liking any of them, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t see their potential for good.

I found Turgeon’s writing to be the most fascinating part of my experience with this book. She has a way of building a world that is both dark and light. Even though I proclaim that this book will leave you depressed (in The Bad section) I did recognize some of the light and love Turgeon inserted into some of the character’s lives. She didn’t leave our shredded hearts completely deserted to shrivel up and die. But what really stood out was the “grayness” of her writing. Their is no straight forward villain or hero, good or bad ending, wise or foolish action. Turgeon keeps us in the gray, because that means anything is possible in the future. I liked that sense of incomplete story, that there is more to it but we just haven’t read about it yet.

I think Rapunzel as the main character and having us follow her POV was a great idea. She is probably the most flawed but most redeemable character out of the whole story. We really see her grow as time goes on and we feel bad for her even when she is doing the most horrible of things. Because we understand deep down she comes from a place of love, even if it’s desperate love. Without being stuck in her head, this book wouldn’t have been the same. Job well done, Turgeon

The Bad
I was bored for almost half this book. I am still not us to the slow times fantasy books tend to have. We wait with Rapunzel as years pass until the prince returns. I’m not into reading about a character passing time doing nothing of importance.

The characters were hard to like. I don’t really mean this, but I feel like saying, “You all deserve what you got!” Which is a horrendous thing to say since some things that happen to these characters are really bad. But I can’t help but feel like if any of them were a bit nicer, they wouldn’t have had such a crappy life. It pays to be humble, kids. I will say though, by the end, I found these troubled characters to be pretty interesting, but during the read, they were hard to take.

One word: depressing. Don’t go into this book expecting to walk away with a smile on your face. Sure, I knew the story was going to be dark since we all know the gist of the fairytale of both Snow White and Rapunzel, but this book takes it further. The Fairest of Them All is dark as dark can be. And usually I like that, but not this time.

The Snuggly
Yeah, um, don’t read this book for the romance. There is none. Well, there is but it’s not a happy romance. Spoiled, pompous characters getting with naive, low-moral characters is not my idea of a great romance. At least we get a little bit of a romance near the end. I liked that Rapunzel got to be with someone that seemed to be of pretty good character.

Final Thoughts
As you can see, I have conflicting feelings for this one. The things I praised are only a fraction different from the things I hated. I can see the potential of this book, it’s uniqueness that others will love, but in the end, I didn’t really enjoy it that much. I am just not sure if retellings/fairytales are my thing. But I do think a lot of people will love this book. So yes, recommended overall.

Favorite Quotes
Even at his most hurt, his most lonely, he contained this wonder inside him, a passion for the world and all its beauty. People loved him for that, I realized. I could love him for that.

“I like knowing that these plants can do so many things.”

“It’s important to know what they can do,” I said. “You could walk right through this garden and have no idea, and all the while, the plants are scheming and plotting.”

“Now I know their secrets,” she said.

“You don’t understand,” she said. “I’m ruined.”

“People do not het ruined!” I said, though even as I said it I did not believe it.

Author Bio
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.

Question of the Day
Answer in the comments section below
Have you ever felt bad for the Villain in a book?
Other Tour Stops for Today
After Dark Rendezvous-> Review + Interview
Literary, etc. -> Review
Paranormal Book Club -> Review + Favorite Quote
This is a Tour Wide Giveaway

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12 Responses to “Review: The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon (Blog Tour & Giveaway)”

  1. Sarah Elizabeth

    I’ve had a few books like that recently, books that there isn’t anything awful about, but they just haven’t done it for me.They take ages to read as well cause you don’t feel like reading them!

  2. Jaclyn Canada

    I have noticed that you don’t get into the fairy-tale retellings as much. I know I generally enjoy them, but I want there to be some good romance and happy endings involved after the duration. I like the idea of Rapunzel being the narrator, she is one of my favorite fairy-tale characters. I’m not quite sure how I feel about this one just yet since I really don’t like being depressed. Thank you for a great review! Jaclyn @ JC’s Book Haven.

    • Jennifer Bielman

      Yeah, it’s a sad tale but if you like retellings, which I know you do, then you would really like this one. It’s very well done.

      As for me, I think I am done with retelling and fairytales. I will read Scarlet though.

  3. Coranne

    This post has come up like 5 times in my Bloglovin’ feed. Well played, it is officially stuck in my head and I am off to go get it. I am sorry that you didn’t dig this one as much- fairy tale retellings are my favorite so I hope I fare better 🙂

  4. April @ My Shelf Confessions

    This sounds really intriguing! It sucks that some of it bored you.. I’ve always been fascinated the most with characters who are not all black and white – because they’re more real to me. The mash up of fairy tales sounds interesting – going to check this one out!

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