This book marks another first: my first Gail Carson Levine book! Somehow I missed her when I was younger, and I clearly have a lot of catching up to do!
In the kingdom of Ayortha, Aza is an innkeeper's daughter who is ashamed of her looks - she is too tall and too wide, and people always stare. Her compensation is that Ayortha is a kingdom of singers, and her voice is among the most beautiful. Her life changes when she gets an opportunity to attend the wedding of the king and the new, stunningly beautiful queen singles Aza out to be her lady in waiting - but there's more to Queen Ivi than beauty, including the tendency towards fits of jealousy, complete inability to rule effectively, extreme vanity, and a very interesting magic mirror . . .
I somehow missed before reading this book that it was a new take on the Snow White story (one of my favorites!), so I was pleasantly surprised by the twists in the tale. Levine's characters are well-drawn and interesting, particularly zhamM the gnome (gnomes capitalize at the end of their words, to be exact) and Aza herself. A great, engrossing story for fans of fairy tales and those wise enough to know that looks aren't everything.