The often-foolish fairy Lucinda acknowledged Ella's birth with the gift of obedience. Only Ella's mother and their cook Mandy know about the gift and order Ella to never tell another for fear she would be abused in some way. As she grows up, Ella finds ways to deal with her obedience, such as obeying orders in a way that was not intended. She finds though that if she tries to ignore an order, she becomes ill and is forced to comply. Eventually a cruel girl named Hattie discovers Ella's obedience and uses it against her. Worse yet, Hattie's mother marries Ella's widowed father, making her life unbearable.
Meanwhile, a friendship Ella began with Char, the Prince, becomes one of the bright spots in her bleak life. While he is away in another kingdom, they write to each other. Although he is often confused by her odd behavior, they become close and Ella fears she is falling in love. She comes to understand that if they continue their relationship, her obedience could harm not only Prince Char, but the kingdom as well. When she realizes she can never marry Char, she seeks out Lucinda to remove her gift.
No doubt many of you have seen the movie version of Ella Enchanted and while I highly recommend this as a wonderful family movie, there are a few differences in the book. Most notably is the ending. In the movie, there is a very dramatic scene where Ella must choose between obeying her gift and saving Char's life. This is not how the book ends. The ending in the book is has a much quieter, more personal tone and while this works perfectly in the book, I can see why the scene was changed for a movie. Another difference if Ella's relationship to Char. In the movie, Ella was rather put off by the prince in their first meetings, but in the book they become instant friends.
Like the movie, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine is a wonderful book for kids and adults. The story has a definite fairy tale feel, but it goes beyond the original Cinderella story with quirky characters and a strong female lead, one who doesn't wait for her prince to save her. If you're a fantasy or fairy tale reader, this one is a must!
Ella Enchanted is available at Amazon.com
I reviewed Ella Enchanted from my own personal library