Goodreads: Ogre Enchanted
Series: Ella Enchanted #0.5
Evie enjoys working on her healing remedies along with her best friend Wormy. But then Wormy has to ruin everything by proposing. Even worse, the fairy Lucinda does not agree with Evie that she is too young to think of marrying anyone. As punishment for rejecting Wormy, Lucinda transforms Evie into an ogre. Now, she only has a few weeks to accept a proposal–or she will be an ogre forever. A prequel to Ella Enchanted that can be read as a standalone.
A prequel to Ella Enchanted?! Gail Carson Levine’s work has been a bit uneven over the years, but I was still excited to learn that we would be returning to some familiar places and characters. Perhaps she could recapture some of the magic! So I put Ogre Enchanted on hold even before it hit the library shelves and impatiently waited for tech services to process it. I am happy to report that the book lived up to expectations.
My experience of the book, however, is likely to be very different from many readers. Ogre Enchanted is never going to be Ella Enchanted and readers who feel strongly about Ella Enchanted may perhaps find themselves disappointed as a result. I allowed this book to stand on its own and judged it simply as a fun fantasy featuring a spunky heroine and a good dose of humor. Additionally, I was not expecting true greatness, but went into the book simply feeling hopefully expectant. In some ways, I think that Levine has never really matched Ella Enchanted or The Two Princesses of Bamarre in her subsequent books, so I was really just hoping for a solid story here, not a re-creation of Ella. Perhaps as a result of my modified expectations, I felt satisfied.
Readers who adore Ella Enchanted, however, will find much to love here. Though the book’s opening does give the possibility that Evie will simply reject the traditional formula for fairy tales, she actually does end up searching very enthusiastically for someone to propose to her, once it becomes clear she needs to do this or remain an ogre forever. The story is thus a gender-reversed retelling of “Beauty and the Beast,” with Evie starring as the hideous monster who must find someone to love her despite her appearance. Though I think it would have been interesting to see Evie find a way to outwit the curse without suddenly seeming to change her mind about love and proposals, I can appreciate that Levine seems to want to explore a different avenue here. The story is really about Evie discovering what she wants in life and learning how to distinguish between flattery and flirting and real love.
Fans of Gail Carson Levine and Ella Enchanted will, of course, want to pick this one up to rediscover some of the magic. Fans of fantasy in general, however, will also appreciate Ogre Enchanted for its strong and endearing protagonist and its unique take on a classic fairy tale.