Ella Coach has one wish: revolution. Her mother died working in a sweatshop, and Ella wants every laborer in the blue kingdom to receive fairer treatment. But to make that happen, she’ll need some high-level support. Prince Dash Charming has one wish: evolution. The Charming Curse forced generations of Charming men to lie, cheat, and break hearts—but with the witch Envearia’s death, the curse has ended. Now Dash wants to be a better person, but he doesn’t know where to start. Serge can grant any wish—and has: As an executive fairy godfather, he’s catered to the wildest whims of spoiled brats from the richest, most entitled families in Blue. But now a new name has come up on his list, someone nobody’s ever heard of…Ella Coach. This is the story of three people who want something better, and who work together to change their worlds.
Grounded was one of my favorite adaptations of the Rapunzel fairytale I’ve read, so I was excited to read Morrison’s latest work, this time taking on Cinderella’s fairytale—or so I thought. Instead, what I got was a preachy, “all rich people are evil” narrative without the faintest trace of Cinderella except for the main character’s name.
I mean, it was a good cause Ella was yelling about for the entire book, but it was the complete over-the-top descriptions and the numerous speeches (literally) that made it feel more like a pamphlet on fair labor laws and trade than a fairytale retelling. It was also completely devoid of almost everything from the Cinderella fairytale, except for miniscule aspects such as her stepmother and stepsisters. I get that Morrison is trying to be original here, but why even bother masking this as a retelling of Cinderella when it’s not? It would have been better to introduce it as an original story set in Morrison’s fairytale world.
Also, I think I would have been a little more sympathetic towards Ella if she had stopped acting like only she knew what the laborers were going through and that only she stood for what’s Good and Right in the world (not helped by the author painting every rich person as selfish, cruel, and completely devoid of compassion). Luckily, at least a few of the characters point this out to her, and by the end of the book she’s slightly better in terms of her overall attitude.
So, Disenchanted, while having an interesting world with several clever fairy tale elements woven into it, is far from a good Cinderella reimagining. I could barely recognize the original fairytale in the plot and world Morrison created. That’s not a bad thing that Morrison expanded on the world she built, but it would have been far better not to attach the Cinderella name to it at all. As a world with fairytale references, Disenchanted is clever and fun. As a Cinderella retelling, Disenchanted is irritating, preachy, and unrecognizable as such.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Fairy Tales
“Don’t tell on me,” he begged. “Please. I can explain.”
“You stole Ella’s contract. What were you thinking, Jasper?”
“The same thing you were thinking!”
“Oh? Enlighten me.”
“You thought it was wrong to ignore a child just because she couldn’t pay,” said Jasper. “You proved it by letting me come here, didn’t you?” His breath came fast. “We should do this together. We should help Ella.”
Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel is written by Megan Morrison. It was published in 2015 by Arthur A. Levine Books.
Rapunzel has never visited a fairy court, or won a jacks tournament, or slept under the stars. She hasn’t outwitted a Stalking beast, or made a friend, or adopted a very opinionated frog. She knows only her enchanted tower, which obeys her every command, and her wonderful Witch, who guards her against evil princes far below. Beautiful, beloved, and innocent, Rapunzel can’t imagine a happier life. But when a thief named Jack climbs into her tower, that happy life breaks open forever. Because Rapunzel learns then that Witch is in terrible danger—and to keep her safe, she must leave her tower and journey with Jack on a quest far across Tyme. There she finds a world filled with even more peril than Witch promised…and more magic, wonder, and excitement than she ever dreamed.
Grounded captures the innocence and naivety of Rapunzel in a way I’ve never seen and always wished a Rapunzel tale would do (Tangled almost gets it, but not quite). Not only does Rapunzel not know common vocabulary, she also doesn’t understand sarcasm or idioms or any other aspect of language that is obtained through observation—which she wouldn’t know because she hasn’t had the chance to observe people, and Witch would be careful. Morrison also tackles the problem of Rapunzel’s hair more realistically; again, Tangled almost gets it, but that Rapunzel never seems as weighed down by her hair as Grounded’s Rapunzel does.
Besides the brilliantly realistic portrayal of Rapunzel, Morrison deals with issues of betrayal and love very well. I noticed almost immediately that this Rapunzel was not motivated by any sort of rebellion, but of love—she left the tower because she wanted to save and protect Witch. And that love carries through to the very end (even after she learns just how much she didn’t know about Witch) where a touching display of forgiveness completes this excellent retelling of Rapunzel.
And the beautiful thing is that even after Rapunzel “loses” her innocence, from which in part her love and selflessness came, she still chooses to save others over herself and recognizes that sort of love and that sort of action is deeper than anything else. And her sacrifice inspires those around her to sacrifice, as well.
So, basically, a top-notch adaptation of Rapunzel, although there were a few confusing things: Prince Frog’s attachment to that one girl at the jacks tournament didn’t make much sense, unless Morrison was trying to point out his obvious background and make a sly joke in the process. Which could be what she was trying to do. I also thought the “switch” of White and Black from their usual archetypal meanings was confusing, but that was more of a deliberate confusion; Morrison likely wants that confusion.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Warnings: Some violence.
Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tale, Middle Grade
“The Bargaining,” Carmella repeated in a whisper, staring at Rapunzel. She looked thunderstruck. “I was a child of nine when it happened; I lived near the house….”
Rapunzel felt sudden, grasping hands on the back of her neck, and she cried out in alarm as Jack’s cloak was torn from her throat. Her hair was exposed, and the crowd gasped with one voice.
“There’s a wheel of hair on her back!” shouted the man who had stripped her of her cloak. He pointed at her. “She’s no hunchback! The child has a braid as long as the tower is tall, just like the stories!”
‘She’s the witch’s child!” shrieked a woman.
Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel deals with the character of Rapunzel in a far more realistic way, in my opinion, than most adaptations of the fairy tale. Some great messages about love, betrayal, and forgiveness are embedded in with the humorous and often tense adventures of Rapunzel (and Jack). A few things didn’t quite make sense to me, but a top-notch retelling all the same.