{Review} An Early Look at FAIREST OF THEM ALL by Carolyn Turgeon

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FAIREST OF THEM ALL will be available on August 6th, 2013, 
but you can pre-order your copy now!

Check out today's guest video post as author Carolyn Turgeon reads an excerpt from FARIEST OF THEM ALL!

I've previously reviewed two of Carolyn Turgeon's three other adult novels, GODMOTHER and MERMAID, as well as her debut middle-grade novel THE NEXT FULL MOON

I've previously featured an author interview with Carolyn Turgeon, had her drop by during my annual Splash into Summer event with mermaidy goodness, and had Carolyn interview me about Splash!  I look forward to working with her again in the future.

O P E N I N G   H O O K:
I WAS THE GIRL WITH THE LONG LONG HAIR, trapped in the tower.  You have no doubt heard of me.  As a young woman I was very famous for those tresses even though I lived in the middle of the woods and had never even been to court, not for a feast or a wedding or a matter of law.

My hair was like threads of gold flowing down my back and past the floor.  if I didn't tie it up, it would sweep across the stone and collect dust like a broom.  I could lean out my tower window and it would fall out like an avalanche, gleaming like the sun hitting the water.  It was as bright as sunflowers or daisies, softer than fur, stronger than an iron chain.

Every night I took horsetail and aloe from the garden, spoke words over them, and boiled them and mashed them into a thin pulp, which I then combed through my locks to make them strong and healthy and almost impossible to break.  I would sing, and inhale the rich scent, to make the work go faster.  To this day I love that feeling, of fingers running through my hair, the weight of it as it falls on my back.

Poets and troubadours sang of my beauty then.

It was sorcery, that hair.  Sometimes now I wonder if things would have been different, had I been plain.

It is a hard thing, not being that girl any longer.  Even as I sit here, I cannot help but turn toward the mirror and ask the question I have asked a thousand times before:

"Who is the fairest of them all?"

The mirror shifts.  The glass moves back and forth, like water.  And then my image disappears, until a voice, like a memory, or something from my bones and skin, give me the same answer it always does now: 

She is.

I turn back to the parchment in front of me and try to ignore the ache inside.  The apple waits on the table next to me, gleaming with poison.  All that's left to do is write it down, everything that happened, so that there will still be some record in this world.
(Pages 13-14, US e-ARC edition;
changes may occur before the final version releases)

Last year when THE NEXT FULL MOON debuted, I was lucky enough to meet Carolyn Turgeon.  She whispered secrets about how she was working on a book about Rapunzel that had an unexpected twist: Rapunzel grows up to become Snow White's Stepmother.  What a stunner!  I immediately wanted to know more, and I'm so excited to share an early review of the book, FAIREST OF THEM ALL, with you now.  One thing I love about all of Turgeon's books is the way she mixes fairy tales in new, innovative ways.  There's heart, there's motivation, there's...humanity.  Fairy tale characters are more than just sweet, kind souls who live Happily Ever After.  There's betrayal and heartache, too, just like in real life, and this infusion makes Turgeon's books more realistic to me.  I talk a little bit more about this element when discussing GODMOTHER and MERMAID in a guest post I wrote during the inaugural Fairy Tale Fortnight.  Turgeon's books, as with the vast majority of fairy tale retellings, are period pieces, yet hers have a more historical feel than many others I've read.

It amazes me to see how different Turgeon's books are from one another, yet how easy it is to point her tone out from everyone else's.  I could do it blindfolded.  GODMOTHER features magical realism and leaves you questioning so much, MERMAID features a dual POV from not only The Little Mermaid's very own mermaid, but the human princess destined to marry the prince.  Even THE NEXT FULL MOON is unique, revolving around the Swan Maiden's daughter as she begins following in her mother's footsteps.  Now, with FAIREST OF THEM ALL, readers are treated to a tale of love and heartache as the story of Rapunzel is turned on its head and twisted together with Snow White in a way you wouldn't expect.  There's also a twist that brings in an additional fairy tale toward the very end of the book, but it's very blink-and-you-miss-it, and since it's at the end and a secret, I obviously can't say anymore on the topic.

It's very easy to sympathize with Rapunzel, who falls instantly for the traveling prince she can never have.  She's grown up sheltered by Mathena Gothel her entire life, safe in the knowledge that Mathena saved her from a mother who didn't want her, carrying only for her rapunzel-addiction.  She mixes herbs and plants alonside Mathena for women wishing to forget heartache, looking to terminate a pregnancy, increase fertility, etc.  She never realizes that Mathena is more than she says, harboring deep secrets of her own.  When Prince Josef visits and meets Rapunzel, the attraction is instant.  Mathena forbids them from seeing one another again and locks Rapunzel away in the tower, but the prince comes back and climbs her hair.  When he leaves again, he gives Rapunzel both a child and the knowledge that he's destined to marry another woman.  There is no happiness for her.  When she later loses the baby, Rapunzel falls into a deep depression.  Over time, she learns to live again, and then the day comes when Josef returns.  His Queen has died and, having never forgotten Rapunzel, he returns to ask her hand in marriage.  But court life isn't what Rapunzel envisioned it would be, especially when every time she looks at her lovely stepdaughter Snow White, she sees the face of her dead rival, a woman she had a hand in killing...

As with all of Turgeon's books, there are twists and turns and unexpected surprises that no reader will see coming, try as one might.  There were realizations that left me reeling in ways both familiar and unexpected, having previously seen the way Turgeon likes to be twisty in both GODMOTHER and MERMAID.  Fans of either books will be pleased with FAIREST OF THEM ALL.  There's even more to savor this time around, because there's so much motivation.  I love the backstory of a villain as much as the next person, but I never envisioned a villain who was formerly a heroine, craving nothing more than her own Happily Ever After.  And the way destiny is ultimately shaped works in a fashion similar to MERMAID in the fact that it's a mesh of both the original fairy tale and a deviation of the author's own imagination.  We understand so much about the woman destined to become Snow White's Stepmother, see what makes her tick, why she thinks and feels the way she does.  Most of all, we emphasize with her, root for her, sympathize as we watch her heart break.

And that's really all I can say about FAIREST OF THEM ALL without giving too much away!
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

The model's hair is the perfect color, very Rapunzel-like.  There's a very doll-like quality to her skin, as though she isn't quite real.  It makes sense in the world of someone too beautiful for words, too unearthly compared to everyone else.

I really like all the blue, too, and the shifts in shading that come from it.

When I first look at this cover, I don't necessarily think it's an adult novel, though, and it' not my favorite cover of all Turgeon's books, perhaps due to the doll-like quality of the model.  But that's just me!
O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Carolyn Turgeon
Release Date: August 6, 2013
Publisher: Touchstone / Simon and Schuster
Received: For Review

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.


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