I just finished reading this Newberry Honor award winning novel.
I will admit, I almost didn't finish it. This novel has many similarities to the story of Cinderella and I love the character of Cinderella. No matter what her evil stepsisters or stepmother dished out she remained gracious and unselfish. This book paints Ella in a very different light.
Ella is a young maiden from Frell. As an infant a careless fairy bestows a gift. The gift of obedience. No matter what she is told to do, she must do. Whether it's scrubbing the kitchen floor, or chopping off her own head, she must obey.
Ella is funny and likable. However, she is strong willed in spite of the horrible gift/curse of obedience.
In this story Ella's ultimate quest is to seek out Lucinda, the inconsiderate fairy who bestowed the "gift" upon her. Ella befriends a prince, meets friendly elves, attends a wedding for giants, and almost gets eaten by ogres. There she discovers she has the ability to charm them.
In spite of my early reservations I thoroughly enjoyed this maidens tale of trials, perseverance, and ultimate happy ending. The resolution was very well done. It came through the power of unselfishness. It was definitely worth the reading.
NOTE- I also saw this movie after reading the book. The book is nothing like it. So if you didn't like the movie (like I did not) give the book a chance. It is worlds different.