Chapter One I was born singing. Most babies cry. I sang an aria. Or so I believe.
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Chapter One I was born singing. Most babies cry. I sang an aria. Or so I believe. I have no one to tell me the truth of it. I was abandoned when I was a month old, left at the Featherbed Inn in the Ayorthaian village of Amonta.
It was January 12th of the year of Thunder Songs. The wench who brought me to the inn paid for our chamber in advance and smuggled me in unseen. The next morning she smuggled herself out, leaving me behind. I know what happened next. Father and Mother--the innkeeper and his wife--have retold the tale on the anniversary of my arrival since I grew old enough to understand the words. Imilli was our cat--kitten then.
Mother would burst in. I knew you were a singer, too. It was lovely. Mother would throw back her head and imitate my howl, a high pure note. Ayortha is a kingdom of singers. In our family and in Amonta, my voice isthe finest. Mother often said that if I tried, I could sing the sun down from the sky. Father and Mother would never mention that the blanket I had arrived in was velvet, edged with gold thread. The story would go on. Mother carried me into the Sparrow room, where my brothers slept.
No one has told me what happened next, but I know. I can imagine the sight I was. Yarry, who was five, would have spoken his mind, as he does to this day. They treated me no differently from their own children, and taught me to read music and songs from our treasured leather songbook, kept on its own high table in the entry parlor. I was an unsightly child. Mother always denied that I was ugly. I remember asking her a dozen times a day if I was prettier yet.
If anything, I became uglier. I grew large boned and awkward. My chubby cheeks were fine for a babe, but not for an older child. I resembled a snow maid, with a big sphere of a face and round button eyes.
I ached to be pretty. I wished my fairy godmother would come and make me so. Mother said we all have fairy godmothers, but they rarely reveal themselves.
I wished I could see mine. I was sure fairies were supremely beautiful and glorious in every way. Mother said fairy godmothers only watch from afar and sympathize. With no hope for fairy intervention, I wished for a magic spell to make me pretty. I thought I might stumble on the right combination of syllables and notes, but I never did.
I attempted to make myself more presentable by pinning my hair up this way or that, or by tying a ribbon around my neck. The results were streaky brown skin and a rash that lasted a month.
As bad as the ones who stared were the ones who looked away in embarrassment. We Ayorthaians are sensitive to beauty, more sensitive than the subjects in other kingdoms, I think. We love a fine voice especially, but we also admire a rosy sunset, a sweet scent, a fetching face. I developed the habit of holding my hand in front of my face when guests arrived, a foolish practice, because it raised curiosity and concealed little. Mother and Father mostly gave me chores that kept me out of sight, helping the laundress or washing dishes.
They did so to protect me. But it was common sense, too. I was bad for business.
To me, the next biggie after “Cinderella” is “Snow White.”
The book staggered under one major inconsistency: the main character is horribly ugly, but the prince falls in love with her very quickly anyway. Hopelessly romantic? But I call it an inconsistency because Aza was not only unlovely, but almost unlovable. Aza had none of these - she was whiny, miserable, thoughtless, and full of self-loathing throughout the entire book. Her amazing voice and ability to compose music are impressive to him I suppose, and her "ability to make him laugh" was apparently important
Synopsis[ edit ] Aza, the adopted daughter of innkeepers in Ayortha, has always hated her appearance. Besides being skilled at singing, Aza can also flawlessly mimic people and throw her voice without moving her mouth, a form of ventriloquism she calls "illusing". Still, Aza is flattered when a frequent visitor to the inn, a gnome named Zhamm, tells Aza that her hair is the most beautiful he has ever seen. While her hair looks black to humans, it is the lovely color htun, a dark purplish color, to gnomes. The incident does not deter her desire to be beautiful, which leads Aza to drink a beauty potion created by Skulni, the mysterious, evil creature living in a magic mirror given to Ivi as a wedding gift from the fairy Lucinda. Aza becomes beautiful, but still remains self-conscious about herself. In exile, Aza is welcomed by the gnomes ; Zhamm provides her with food, shelter, and a sense of heritage.