Rating: a lovely pot of ginger tea with some honey in it
Highlight of note: Scents are an integral part of the descriptions in this book, both because ogres have a refined sense of smell and because they constantly reek. At the end I was left feeling I know exactly what an ogre smells like, which is sort of a mixed blessing.
Ogre Enchanted's cover bills it as a companion novel to the highly popular Ella Enchanted. It's really more of a prequel, however, as it is set in the time period where Ella's parents met. (I was a little exasperated with myself for how long Ella's father was on the page before I recognized him. I guess it's been a while since I read Ella.)
The tale is told with Levine's customary humor and clarity by a first person narrator, Evie, who is almost immediately turned from a human apothecary into an ogre. Readers of Ella Enchanted may recall that the ogres in this universe aren't exactly savory creatures. They're mean, smelly, and always hungry for human flesh. I was a little sad that ogre culture wasn't given more depth or civilization than it was, but doing so would interfere with the events in the later story. That said, I think Levine described Evie's shifting perspectives in an engaging and effective manner.
Also familiar to readers of Ella Enchanted is our main troublemaker, the fairy Lucinda, who uses big magics other fairies refuse to touch and who does so with disastrous results that she feels not the least bit of remorse for causing. In the opening chapter of this novel, she appears when Evie's lifelong best friend, who bears the unfortunate nickname of Worm, proposes to her. Even though he claims he was joking, then that he wasn't joking but expected her to say no and for this to be the start of years of dialog on the subject rather than a wedding in a month, Lucinda is offended on his behalf by Evie's refusal and decides to punish Evie for being so picky and so careless with Worm's heart.
Evie is a likable protagonist. Although only fifteen at the start (being too young to get married is one of her reasons for turning Worm down) Evie is established in and dedicated to a healing practice. This isn't just background filler but something that plays a crucial roll in the plot. If she could run her own small business, it seems to me that maybe she wasn't to young to be married, but it's a hard point to really argue.
As to the plot... Large chunks of it are quite predictable, even if you haven't read Ella Enchanted, but it's not really the type of book you read to be surprised. It's more the type of book you read because you want something cozy, something that's new yet familiar, or just something cute. And in that category, I think this is an excellent choice for an afternoon's distraction.
Below you'll find the notes I took as I read. Clearly, they contain major spoilers.
1% Wormy? What kind of name is Wormy? Is he human? It doesn't really say.
4% Apparently Wormy is short of Warwick. And he is human. And Lucinda has arrived! Looks like the plot is going to start quickly.
5% And now Evie is an ogre because she didn't want to marry her best friend at age fifteen. Lucinda never disappoints, does she?
9% Apparently the overwhelming sensations of ogreness are angry and hunger. Evie is sympathetic and her conundrum compelling.
14% Evie seems much more aware of how young she is than most teenagers seem to. Of course, her seriousness about healing does imply unusual maturity.
28% Evie fancies herself in love with Master Peter, who I'm pretty sure is actually awful. His donkey was starving and didn't like him. Also, I'm pretty sure calling elves greenies was established in Ella to be a racial slur.
31% Peter may be dead. I doubt it. I'd love to be wrong, but I'm pretty sure Evie realizing he's scum will be an important development.
49% Peter is, indeed, alive. And apparently scamming the king. Also, Evie saw Wormy a big ago and seems to be finding him more attractive than she remembered.
61% Evie is a hero healer I'm the capital! And Wormy has showed up again! (Also, how am I just now realizing Sir Peter is Ella's father?)
66% Evie figures the fact that Wormy says he's decided to never marry means he won't propose again when it's quite obvious it's because the girl he's in love with would rather be an ogre than marry him and he'll change his mind the instant she indicates otherwise. It would feel as though this could all be solved with communication except that Evie understands he heart so poorly, possibly because ogre emotions feel different.
73% Wormy is going about giving away money to families having financial trouble because of the plague, on account of how Evie told him she liked that someone else does charitable deeds. (The poor thing is trying so much harder than he needs to!) Evie is mad at him for not coming to see her while doing this, bit part of this self-centeredness is from being an ogre. Interesting enough, Wormy is accompanied by am unknown female.
75% There's a ball to show people Evie isn't threatening, but it seems a bit like a freakshow. The unknown woman is there with Wormy (Evie is quite jealous) and I'm wondering if maybe she's a fairy.
79% Evie has realized she's in love with Wormy! Huzzah! Of course, she doesn't tell him this because she thinks he's dating the new chick. I'm quite certain he is not. If nothing else, when Evie said she approved of his dance partner, his response was a genuine "Who?"
85% Peter has been declared heir. That's interesting... And we don't have too long to resolve it.
91% And the Peter problem is resolved! The true Crown Prince is identified. And Evie was briefly free of her curse, but then accepted it again by saying she isn't going to marry the prince after all since they're both in love with other people.
93% lol. So Wormy wasn't into the other chick, but she was into him. She proposed and now he's a squirrel.
95% Apparently Wormy had been leading the other girl on to get her to propose so he could say not and get turned into an ogre so he could be ogre with Evie. Then Lucinda turned him into a squirrel instead, because Lucinda. That really wasn't very nice of him.
THE END This ends cutely and happily, leaving a feeling of contentment. I don't think most of this book is going to prove particularly memorable, but I could be wrong. Certainly the descriptions of hunger will remain with me.