Happily never after. Or so it seems at first. Just Ella is a rewritten take on the famous fairy tale Cinderella. Only in this story Ella takes herself to the ball, evading a wicked stepmother and sweeping Prince Charming off his feet without any outside help of the magical or furry little creature kind. Once she gets everything she has ever dreamed of, through hard work, cunning and ingenuity it is just to discover that she is just another naive princess after all. The fairy tale she’s worked so hard to achieve is not what it’s cracked up to be.
And yet, I felt a surge of exhilaration just thinking about that night. Not just because I’d met the prince and fallen in love and started on my course toward happiness ever after, but because I’d made something happen. I’d done something everybody had told me I couldn’t. I’d changed my life all by myself. Having a fairy godmother would have ruined everything.”
The Prince turns out to be a slow, stupid bore. No one considers her princess material as she is outspoken, smart and insists on doing things herself, just as she’s always done. This leads her into constant trouble and eventually she figures out that this is not the type of life she wants to lead. Wanting to be more then an ornamental princess she sets about trying to break the engagement and that’s when it comes to light that Princess Ella is in a tighter bind than she ever would have been under her step mother’s wing. Now it’s just a question of whether she can get out alive.
I was reading this novel at the same time as I was reading The Sound of a Silver Horn and so drew a lot of similarities between the premise of the two books: what it takes to make a real true heroine, or “female hero”. In a typical fairy tale this involves a lot of sitting around and being, well, ornamental. Both of these books say there can be more expected out of women and go on to show how. Just Ella is a great fairy tale showing a heroine who lives the adventure of a prince using quick thinking, problem solving, sly tricks, bravery and sheer nerve to get out of a series of binds in the quest for her happily ever after. Never once does she settle, even when it becomes dangerous to not do so.
I even thought the bit of metaing thrown in was well done, where she actually talks about her situation and the misapprehension everyone is under that she only was able to get there with outside help. She doesn’t understand why people would not only think that, no matter how improbable a fairy godmother or talking creatures might be, but that they would prefer it to the reality of an independent female able to achieve her dreams all by herself. This novel tells the more probable story of a female that does just that.