Review: Ella and the Elf

Ella and the Elf by Anabelle Raven was an unexpected treat from this month's Valentine's Day promotion. It is a sweet reimagining of "Cinderella" set in a world of elves and magic. The human/elf romance dynamics are similar to Tara Grayce's Elven Alliance series, but the characters and their stories are very different. This is a "Romeo and Juliet" style romance about an interracial relationship between two star-crossed lovers and the obstacles they must face to be together against all odds. Though the story touches on slavery, it never gets as dark as Celeste Baxendell's Runes of Pain and Peace series. The romance is charming, and the characters are refreshingly straightforward about their feelings toward each other.

Ella and Altair's "Meet Cute" begins similarly to Andrew Lloyd Webber's recent "Cinderella" adaptation in which one lover finds the other tied to a tree and releases them. In this case, Ella discovers that her father has imprisoned Altair in the hopes of a financial reward from their king for the blood or capture of an elf. At first, Altair is rude to Ella thinking that she was the one who drugged and restrained him, but he apologizes after learning the truth. The two fall for each other quickly, and Altair is horrified when he learns that Ella is sold into slavery five years later to his wicked mother, the elf queen. Since he is unable to break the magical bond, he uses his magic to tie himself to her instead and does his best to find a safe haven for her. She gets a job at a tavern where she can see the full extent of the racism between elves and humans.

My favorite thing about this book is how honest Ella and Altair are about their feelings toward each other. Many fairy tale retellings and star-crossed lover stories like this one take a while for the main couple to admit that they like each other. Bound by truth, Altair swiftly repairs his initial rudeness and assures Ella of his genuine intentions, leaving no room for doubt. Ella is afraid to get too attached after dealing with unsavory souls throughout her life, but she is not afraid to tell Altair that she cares for him even if she isn't sure she should trust him. This gives their relationship a strong start that prevents them from keeping any dangerous secrets from each other or struggling with future misunderstandings.

The racism subplot is also handled well. The events of the story reveal that not everything is black and white. Even though there are humans who hate all elves, not all elves are evil, and vice versa. Ella and Altair understand what a rare blessing their relationship is because many elves and humans would not be willing to open up their hearts to the opposing race. With Ella's help, Altair teams up with a group of rebel elves who dare to stand against his mother and end her reign of terror and slavery on humankind. They know that change will not happen overnight, but they are willing to spend the rest of their lives working together to create peace between their people.

Ella and the Elf offers a delightful mix of familiar fairy tale elements and exciting new twists. The romance is honest and refreshing, the characters are complex and relatable, and the themes of love and unity resonate deeply. If you're looking for a captivating fairy tale adaptation that celebrates diversity and challenges prejudice, then this book is definitely worth adding to your reading list. For even more enchanting reads, keep an eye on the Once Upon 2024 web party tomorrow for National Tell a Fairy Tale Day!


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