Review: Ogre Enchanted

Long before the bumbling fairy godfather Mortimer bestowed troublesome magical gifts on his changes in the Entwined Tales seriesGail Carson Levine graced us with the incompetent fairy godmother Lucinda in her captivating "Cinderella" adaptation, Ella Enchanted. Today, she is writing as much as ever. Last week, she released a prequel to Ella Enchanted called Ogre Enchanted, which explores some of Lucinda's previous magical follies. The story is a very loose reverse adaptation of "Beauty and the Beast" about a healer named Mistress Evora who doesn't believe in getting married too young. When the troublesome fairy Lucinda overhears her turn down her friend Wormy's marriage proposal, she is cursed to live as an ogre with a time limit of roughly two months to agree to a marriage proposal if she does not wish to remain in this state forever.


Evie took some time to grow on me as a protagonist. Unlike Aza from my favorite Gail Carson Levine book, Fairest, Evie is a confident healer who doesn't easily get sad or frightened. Even when she was turned into an ogre, she found it more of a nuisance than a horrific tragedy. For someone from land of magic and fairy tales, she has some radical ideas about love. I was a bit miffed by her claim that the Beast from "Beauty and the Beast" settled for Belle because she was the only one he could find to break the spell and not because he truly loved her. Anyone who knows the story knows that isn't the case at all. However, Gail Carson Levine has always had strong opinions about classic fairy tales that inspired her cleverly irreverent novels. For instance, she originally wrote Ella Enchanted because she never understood why Cinderella did everything she was told despite how horribly her stepmother treated her. Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg mentioned in the author blurb that Gail thought Wendy was a fool for wanting to leave Neverland. My initial ire wore off as I continued reading about Evie's engaging and unexpected adventures.

Though not a princess by title, Evie exhibits all of the kindness and selflessness that you would expect from the protagonist of a princess story. She is extremely even after she is turned into an ogre and faces extreme prejudice. Though Evie ultimately does not want to be an ogre, she takes the curse in stride and uses it to learn more about other ogres and to protect the beings that they prey on. She struggles a little with her new urge to eat other people, but it never gets enough in the way her healing nature to become a true problem. The story is a fascinating look at what life is like for someone who appears intimidating and inspires fear but only wants to help people. Evie winds up staying at a castle that is plagued with an outbreak of a disease and does her best to heal everyone that needs help. Squeamish readers might be a little grossed out by her favorite ingredient called "purpline" that she regularly seeks and uses as the primary cure for most of her patients, which is comprised of purple dragon urine.

The romance in the book was downplayed since Evie spent most of her time as an ogre away from Wormy, her long-time patient and friend whose proposal she turned down at the beginning of the story. Despite her misgivings with the "Beauty and the Beast" narrative, Evie quickly thinks she is falling in love with Sir Peter, a charming and manipulative cad who I found to have much in common with Gaston from the Disney version. Her naive feelings toward him gave off definite Frozen vibes, but I was glad that it was not the main focus of the story. I felt awful for Evie's loyal friend Eleanor who was pulled in by Peter's charms as well. It was a shame that things did not turn out very happily for her in the end. My favorite cameo in the book was Mandy, Ella's real fairy godmother from Ella Enchanted, who made a sudden and unexpected appearance as Eleanor's fairy godmother.

Ogre Enchanted is a terrific character study about a cynical young lady who is so devoted to her trade that she is capable of continuing to heal scores of people despite having the appearance of something they fear. Evie inspires perseverance in the face of adversity and is a worthy predecessor for Ella, who was also forced to deal with Lucinda's curse to the best of her ability. I did not enjoy the story quite as much as Fairest, which is still my favorite Gail Carson Levine book, because reading about severed ogre heads and dragon urine was simply not as glamorous as the kingdom of Ayortha that values singing and music above all else. Anyone who enjoyed Ella Enchanted and wants to learn more about Lucinda's previous disasters will probably enjoy Ogre Enchanted.

Comments

Kit said…
Aren't Peter and Eleanor the parents of Ella?
Lisa Dawn said…
Hi Kit! That's really neat. Thanks for pointing it out! It makes a lot of sense since it's supposed to be a prequel. I haven't read that book since I was a kid. I hated the movie, though.

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