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The Fairest of Them All    by Carolyn Turgeon order for
Fairest of Them All
by Carolyn Turgeon
Order:  USA  Can
Touchstone, 2013 (2013)
Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Anita Lock

Rapunzel, our storyteller, recounts her life-changing experiences after she meets Prince Josef for the first time at her humble cottage. He invites her to the Harvest Ball and she gladly accepts. However, her adopted mother Mathena (who is also a witch) forbids Rapunzel to attend as the prince is promised to Teresa of the East. Rapunzel plans otherwise, but realizes that Mathena has locked her inside her tower. The prince returns the following day, climbs her hair, and passion overtakes them. But the prince marries a few days later, leaving Rapunzel distraught; she finds consolation when she discovers she is carrying his child.

The plot continues to darken. Rapunzel kills a stag while hunting, but the dying animal changes into a man. Mathena tells her that killing the stag has altered her future and that she needs to be ready, but for what? Soon afterward, Rapunzel miscarries, and the loss of her son only deepens her grief when she receives word that Queen Teresa has given birth to a beautiful child named Snow White, the heir to the throne.

Seven years pass. Rapunzel has perfected the craft and now works alongside Mathena to assist those in need. During one visit, a lady-in-waiting divulges that she has lain with the king and believes the Queen is aware of it. Mathena gives her magical herbs to erase the queen's memory, but in truth, they are intended to kill her. She shares this spicy tidbit with Rapunzel, proclaiming her destiny as the new queen. As foretold, King Josef seeks her out and proposes marriage. Mathena presents Rapunzel with the enchanted mirror from the tower as a wedding gift to protect her power and beauty - it can be asked any question. Mathena suggests, 'Mirror, mirror, who's the fairest of them all?' Rapunzel is stunned by its response, 'Rapunzel is fairest of all.'

But all is not fair! There is unrest throughout the kingdom because word has spread that Rapunzel is a witch. Her happiness is limited to Josef's love, time spent with Snow White, nurturing the fallow wheat fields, healing peasants, and hunting with Gilles, the king's falconer, who happens to be in love with her. With each passing year, Rapunzel and Snow White grow more estranged, and tension increases with Josef since Rapunzel has not produced a male heir.

Mathena reveals that it is impossible for Rapunzel to conceive at least with Josef, but flippantly suggests Gilles as an alternative. Before long, Rapunzel suspects her husband of infidelity. Tired of being unloved, she goes to Gilles, and passion, again, comes into play. It is the first time in years that she feels free, and with her confidence high, she consults the mirror only to find, to her horror, that Snow White is now the fairest. Obsessed, she turns to Gilles, asking him to kill Snow White and bring back her heart. How it all ends? Only Rapunzel will tell.

The Fairest of Them All is more than a cleverly devised blending of two fairy tales. It is a powerful story of one girl's determination and her obsession with finding happiness, no matter the cost. Turgeon has taken Grimm's Fairy Tales to a totally different level if the brothers were alive today, they would unequivocally each put two thumbs up.

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