Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Fairest

Go To

Fairest, by Gail Carson Levine, is a 2006 meta-sequel to Levine's Ella Enchanted, set in the same world and with the sister of Ella's best friend Areida as the main character. Fairest is a warped Snow White, set in the singing country of Ayortha. Aza is an adopted, abnormal-looking child in a country obsessed with beauty. Her parents are innkeepers, and since Aza is expected to do her part in taking care of the inn, she often falls victim to rude staring and remarks by the guests — except for the gnomes, one of which becomes her close friend. She has a singing ability that can be done by no one else, called 'illusing', which is actually a voice-throwing skill made magical in a way. Through an interesting course of events, she becomes the companion of the Duchess of Olixio one night thanks to her cat, and makes her way to the castle for the king's wedding.

The catch? 40-something-year-old King Oscaro has married a 19-year-old Ivi of Kyrria (Ella's country), a commoner who people distrust at first for that very reason. However, her radiant beauty eventually wins over the court. Ivi discovers the shy, withdrawn Aza while she illuses in private, and forces her to use the talent to provide a singing voice for Ivi in public appearances. (Ayortha has a tradition of public Sings, and the rulers are expected to have the best singing voices of all; Ivi's singing voice isn't very good, and she doesn't want anyone to find out.) When the king falls ill, Ivi uproots the kingdom with Aza in tow with deception dragging at her every day. Aza's story winds around falling in love, getting over her weakness, and learning to accept herself for who she is.


  • And I Must Scream:
    • The fate of everyone who gets trapped with Skullni. You end up trapped in a mirror, unable to talk to anyone unless you can figure out how to manipulate the mechanics, and stay there until he returns from his travels.
    • Aza narrowly avoids this when she recites a magic spell to try to make herself beautiful and winds up turning her entire body into stone instead. Fortunately, the spell eventually wears off completely with the exception of one of her toes.
  • Beautiful Tears: When Ivi cries after her beauty potion wears off, Aza comments that Ivi used to look like a tragic heroine when she cried, but now she looks like anyone else, with a red and blotchy face.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: Aza is heavily implied to be one, being abnormally wide as well as abnormally tall. Ijori likes that aspect of her as well, avoiding a preachy Beautiful All Along message and instead opting for Just the Way You Are.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: When Aza meets Queen Ivi for the second time.
  • Bizarre Alien Senses: There's a color called "htun" that gnomes can see but not humans, sort of like black with opalescent tones. The gnome zhamM tells Aza her hair is this color, though to her it just seems plain.
  • Convenient Coma: King Oscaro ends up with one after Taking the Bullet for Ivi during a sporting event.
  • Converse with the Unconscious: Ivi does this with Oscaro, and he recalls this when waking up from his coma, providing evidence that Aza was telling the truth. Oscaro when he wakes up ends up in quite a conundrum as a result.
  • Cool Old Lady: The Duchess of Olixio. She helps Aza fit into a better-looking outfit for the royal wedding, and gives fitting comments on the procession.
  • Crazy Cat Lady: The Duchess of Olixio. Though she's a lot more sane than others.
  • Deal with the Devil: If you drink Skullni's potions, you become beautiful, but in exchange he will goad you into either getting killed by your stupidity and jealousy like Aza or induce a Despair Event Horizon like in Ivi. Then your soul is stuck in his mirror chamber, unable to escape or communicate except to living people through the mirror, while he gets to go out and explore the world. You only get to rest in peace when he comes back, which can take a long time.
  • Disney Death: Aza has one in the strangest way possible. You could also call her predicament a Big Sleep, because it's unclear whether she died after she was poisoned, even though her trip into a magic mirror and becoming an apparition (except while singing) certainly implied this.
  • Doorstop Baby: Aza is a variation, as she was left in a room in the inn rather than actually on the doorstep, but with the same general idea.
  • Dub Name Change: In the Hebrew translation, Aza's name is Kyra, presumably because the name Aza in Hebrew provokes associations to the Gaza strip.
  • Easily Forgiven:
    • After receiving a letter from Ijori after Aza has run away and sought refuge with the gnomes, Aza is able to forgive him. Averted with the Duke Uellu, who had accused Aza of being an ogre and only apologized when the king confirmed her story about Ivi.
    • King Oscaro does this with Ivi as well, especially given she was confessing everything she did while he lay in a coma.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Aza, to keep within the Snow White theme. However, in Ayortha that combination of hair colour and complexion is considered ugly.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: The fact that the prince, who is Aza's friend and love interest, allows her to be taken to prison once her secret is revealed.
  • Fatal Flaw: Aza's desire to be pretty. It very nearly kills her thanks to Ivi.
  • Faux Death
  • First-Person Smartass: Aza in a few instances when she's referring to people she dislikes.
  • Food Porn: Done twice, although the second time it's done disgustingly.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • During their first conversation in the book, zhamM tells Aza that by gnomish standards she's less ugly than most humans. The physical features that make her appear ugly to humans turn out to be signs of her gnomish ancestry.
    • While living with the gnomes, Aza is disgusted that a gnome that stole a pickax is allowed to go home with it and suffer no punishment, because the gnomes saw that if he were punished a worse future would happen. She later helps Ivi achieve a Karma Houdini so that King Oscaro can recover and rule the kingdom properly, since Ivi being punished would only result in political chaos.
  • Genki Girl: Ivi, especially when it comes to fashion.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Ivi again. To the point of needing protection from her own subjects, which has apparently never happened before in Ayortha. She dissolves the council, imprisons people for minor crimes, refuses to help countries in need, and apparently studies the art of effective blackmail. Later on in the book, she tries to murder Aza. It very nearly works.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Several ancient Ayorthian singers are speculated to have ogre ancestry, and Aza herself is accused of being part ogre. It turns out Aza is a Half-Human Hybrid, but it's with gnome, not ogre, ancestry.
  • Happily Adopted: Aza with her parents, who found her after she was left abandoned in their inn and raised her as their own. Not only does her mother get angry at the royal guards who imply that their daughter may have ogre's blood, but her father writes a note to Aza saying that he knows her too well to believe she may be a traitor to the crown. Summed up when another character learns Aza is adopted and says he hadn't realized they weren't Aza's true parents, and she replies that they are her true parents, just not her birth parents.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Ijori, for the first half of the book. He takes a fancy to Aza when they meet, then gets angry upon finding out she isn't a noble, as she allowed him to believe, and is to be Ivi's lady-in-waiting. He forgives her when they bond over the songs they wrote for his injured uncle. They spend time together and fall in love, and he is thinking of marrying her, but then Aza's illusing for Ivi is revealed and he is repulsed thinking she is an part-ogre and/or supporting or causing Ivi's takeover. After realizing his rashness (see Parting-Words Regret), he asks her forgiveness and then remains loyal to her.
  • Hollywood Tone-Deaf: Averted with Ivi. She is a bad singer who tries to hide this by feigning sickness and then blackmailing Aza to use ventriloquism to mime singing. When she finally sings for herself, it's portrayed realistically: her voice is weak and she misses some notes.
  • Humans Are Bastards: The beautiful, ethereal-voiced Ayorthaians are snobbish to the point of being xenophobic, and god help anyone who isn't attractive or can't sing.
  • Humans Are Ugly: Some gnomes have clairvoyant powers, and Aza asks one if she will ever be pretty. The immediate answer is "Never," followed by a clarification that, to gnomes, all humans are ugly, and in fact Aza is less ugly by gnome standards than most humans. Aza is later discovered to be part-gnome.
  • Idiot Ball: After being accused of being an ogre, Aza finds the magical mirror and the potion that made Ivi beautiful. Instead of using the evidence to show that Ivi is a liar by putting all the blame on Aza for the ventriloquism, Aza drinks a few drops of the beauty potion. Unsurprisingly, she gets carted to jail anyway.
  • I Feel Angry: Aza, when the tailor ruins all her new clothing in an attempt to rebel against Ivi, who has appointed Aza her lady-in-waiting and therefore her right hand woman. Ijori helps out with this quite a bit.
  • I Just Want to Be Beautiful: Ivi is revealed to have felt this, since she was worried that Oscaro would stop loving her, and Aza feels this all the time.
  • I Just Want to Be Loved: Ivi's motivation for most of the book. When King Oscaro falls ill, she tries to seduce Ijori just so that she can have someone else to love her.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Ivi after poisoning Aza almost poisons herself when she sees Aza in the mirror. Aza stops her, both because she doesn't want Ivi to meet the fate that would await her and because Ivi's death would potentially free Skulni.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Aza's immediate reaction to any insult. Outgrowing this and learning to own her actual beauty is her key character arc.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Lucinda the fairy, for her role in causing the story by giving Ivi the Magic Mirror and beauty potions. Although in Ella Enchanted she gets some Laser-Guided Karma for her "blessings," here the Ayorthians only stage a quick wedding so that she doesn't arrive.
    • Ivi, for the most part, thanks to Aza vouching for her. She ends up exiled to his other castle, and she spends the rest of her life doing charity work for her home city. Though it's because the King has to tread the line between protecting his people and protecting his wife from charges of treason. At the very least she's exiled from the rest of a kingdom that she failed to rule and will go down as the worst foreign queen in history, staying in relative isolation. Not to mention that she is "no longer pretty" and only Oscaro will love her.
  • Kick the Dog: Ivi when she somehow manages to take the songbirds away from Ayortha.
  • Magic Music: Sort of. Aza can skillfully throw her voice without moving her lips, sound like an object or a person whenever she wants to, but no one else can except for the gnomes.
  • May–December Romance: The forty-year-old king Oscaro and 19-year-old Ivi. It's implied that Oscaro truly does love Ivi, though we never know why.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Ivi breaks down after she returns to the palace having just poisoned Aza. She later says, "I'm so glad I didn't kill you!"
    • Ijori also gets this when he thinks that Aza died helping a guard escape from ogres, after he let her be taken to prison.
    • Duke Uellu apologies to Aza when learning from the King that she told the truth about Ivi blackmailing her, looking genuinely remorseful, but she says nothing.
  • Naturalized Name:
    • Ayorthian names begin and end with the same vowel, so Ivy— who was born in Kyrria— changes her name to Ivi when she marries Oscaro and becomes Ayortha's queen.
    • zhamM calls Aza "azacH", the nearest equivalent to her name in Gnomic.
  • One-Word Title: A warped Snow White tale, with the title being based off the line "The fairest of them all."
  • Our Monsters Are Different:
  • Parting-Words Regret: Ijori feels this when he believes that Aza is part ogre and a traitor to the crown and dismisses her with disgust. By the time he's cooled down and realized that her story makes more sense than Ivi's and the Duke Uvu's, the guard sent to assassinate her tells him that Aza is dead. Good thing the guard was lying, which allowed Ijori to rescue Aza from a Disney Death . . . According to the guard that tells a (not-dead) Aza, Ijori let out a Skyward Scream.
  • Pinocchio Nose: Ivi licks her lips before she lies. Aza even mentions it.
  • Redemption Equals Life: Inverted. In a stark contrast to the original fairy tale, Ivi becomes (relatively) better after Aza kills Skullni and interrupts Ivi's Despair Event Horizon that almost ended in a suicide.
  • Rejected Apology: Aza doesn't accept Uellu's apology for accusing her of being an ogre and a traitor.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Sir Uellu correctly reasons that Ivi wasn't acting on her own; she was taking bad advice from someone who wanted to cause a rebellion and get her killed. He's incorrect that the someone was Aza, wanting Ivi to die so she could marry Ijori and become queen. Really it was the creature in Ivi's mirror, wanting her to die because that would temporarily free him from the mirror.
  • Take a Third Option: On waking up from his coma and becoming well enough to rule from bed, King Oscaro is faced with his wife having committed treason and taken orders from a spider in a mirror. A Sadistic Choice ensues: if he punishes her, he loses the love of his life, but if he pardons her then she is still free to rule by his side and make bad decisions. Choosing neither, he exiles her to one of his vacation palaces and decides to abdicate soon so that she will never have royal power again.
  • This Is My Name on Foreign: Ikulni, once a guest at the Featherbed inn, who was actually Skulni, the creature in Ivi's mirror.
  • True Beauty Is on the Inside: One of the book's themes, with Aza eventually telling Ijori, "People don't look as they behave." However, she's still uncomfortable with her appearance at this point, and Ijori notices and responds by complimenting her appearance and telling her he's found her beautiful since they met— thus adding a second Aesop, "Physical beauty is subjective."
  • Uncoffee: Ostumo, a common hot morning drink made with molasses.
  • Unnecessary Makeover: An in-universe variant; Aza does indeed become the standard definition of beauty, but both Ijori and the Gnomes find it almost grotesque. When it's undone, Aza's come far enough to appreciate her normal look.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Ivi with Skullni manipulating her. He gloats to Aza that his intention is to make sure that she dies, whether by her own hand or by rebellion.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Or Apples — Aza throughout the book emphasizes her hatred of apples, and she encounters a rather deadly one among gnome traders, courtesy of Ivi.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Once again, Aza, through no fault of her own. It's not forever, though.