* I received this book in exchange for my honest review *
When I agreed to read and review this book, I did so because I thought it would be a sweet story with a good moral tone behind it. And it was - but at the beginning I thought I would end up giving it a 3/5 rating, for being sweet and not much more. But what I didn't expect was how it would move me before the end. I think that it doesn't matter if you are beautiful, ugly, or something in between, at some point every girl has an inner little voice that tells her she might not be good enough. And this story is more than an enchanting fairy tale about a magical ugly princess, it is a tale about finding true beauty within yourself, despite of what others may think. It's a story about what true love really is: seeing someone for their strengths, instead of their faults. I loved it and it brought me to tears.
Olive is an ugly princess, but she doesn't mind. She knows her ugliness is a sign of her powerful Winnowwood magical heritage. The world she lives in, much like ours, is very driven by beauty. And her resolve to mantain her own beliefs is what makes Olive a great heroin. But even though I thought this was a sweet story with a good main character from the beginning, it took me a while to get into it and truly feel it. This is written in Olive's point of view, and she tells this story in the past tense. That is usually fine with me, except you only feel and live the story with her about one quarter of the way in. But once Olive stops telling you what happened somewhere in her past, and starts telling you what is happening inside her, suddenly the past tense doesn't matter anymore. She is brave, genuine and generous, which all make for a main character I would love to introduce to my future children someday.
The rest of the characters are not as well developed as her, though. In fact, in terms of character development and world building, this book felt like it was more of a short story. I liked the characters, kind of understood their motivations when it came to how it concerned Olive, but I felt I hardly got to know them. The world is not very different from ours, so you do understand it too, but little bits and pieces were disjointed for me. I should say, though, I believe this book was meant for a younger audience, in the competence of a "true fairy tale". When you take that into consideration - which I did - you won't let it affect your opinion of this book.
The reason I gave it such a high rating - despite of it's slight faults - is because it felt like a true fairy tale. It could have been written by the Grimm Brothers, or it could be a Disney movie, it felt so right! I could picture myself telling this story to my nieces and future daughters to insure they don't let the harsh superficiality of this world crush their spirits. I could guess the ending, of course. But like a true fairy tale, you guess it, you hope for it, and when the ending you hope comes, you cry and you are glad all is right with the world. It's a beautiful thing and you are glad for it.
From the epilogue, it looks like this book is the first in a series, but it stands alone for itself easily. It's a beautiful book and I give it a 4.7/5 rating, because it moved me so much. I strongly believe emotion counts more than literary accuracy, so there you are.
My rating: 4.7/5
Would I read it again? Yes! Especially for children.
Do I recommend it? Yes! To people of any age that like to be enchanted by fairy tales.