Just Ella (Palace Chronicles Series #1)

Just Ella (Palace Chronicles Series #1)

by Margaret Peterson Haddix


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The Cinderella legend gets a realistic twist in this enchantingly believable adventure from New York Times bestselling author Margaret Peterson Haddix that Booklist calls “provocative and entertaining.”

Ella dreams of going to the royal ball and marrying Prince Charming, just like every commoner in the kingdom of Fridesia. But after she is chosen to marry the prince—no magic involved—life with the royal family is not the happily ever after that Ella imagined. Pitiless and cold, the royals try to mold her into their vision of a princess. Ella’s life becomes a meaningless schedule of protocol, which she fears she will never grasp. And Prince Charming’s beautiful face hides a vacant soul.

Even as her life turns to misery, stories persist that Ella’s fairy godmother sent her to the ball: How else could the poor girl wear a beautiful gown, arrive in a coach, and dance in those glass slippers? But Ella got herself into the castle on her own—and that’s the only way she’s going to get out.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781481420211
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date: 04/07/2015
Series: Palace Chronicles Series , #1
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 146,268
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.60(d)
Lexile: 790L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Margaret Peterson Haddix is the author of many critically and popularly acclaimed YA and middle grade novels, including The Missing series and the Shadow Children series. A graduate of Miami University (of Ohio), she worked for several years as a reporter for The Indianapolis News. She also taught at the Danville (Illinois) Area Community College. She lives with her family in Columbus, Ohio. Visit her at HaddixBooks.com.

Read an Excerpt

A long, dull afternoon of needlepoint stretched ahead of me, so I dawdled leaving the dining room. That meant I was alone when I felt a timid tug on my dress.

"Please, miss. I mean, Princess."

It was the child I'd sent for the doctor.

"Me mum, she's the one tending to that lord now, she says he's got a fair to middling chance of making it, and if he pulls through the night, he could live another twenty years. Except nobody knows if he'll ever be really himself again, because he can't move one of his arms and one of his legs, and half his face don't move neither. But" -- the last words came out in a rush -- "me mum says he wouldn't be alive at all if you hadn't sent for help so quick and made sure he could breathe and all."

The child stood back on her heels, looking at me doubtfully, as if afraid I might punish her for speaking.

"Thank you," I said. "I hope somebody else thanked you too, for running for help so quickly. You're really the one who saved Lord Reston's life."

The girl hunched her shoulders modestly.

"That's what me mum says."

I felt the familiar stab of envy, hearing someone talk about a mother who obviously loved her. My own mother had died when I was born, and my father said it hurt to talk about her, so I had very little in the way of even secondhand memories. Certainly Lucille was no substitute for a loving mother. And I'd lost my father, too.

I dragged myself out of self-pity and directed my attention back to the child. Her dirt-colored hair was cut in a ragged circle around her face, and her cheeks and hands were so grubby it was hard to tell how long ago they'd been washed, if ever. And anyhow, her nose was too big and her mouth was too small -- no one could mistake her purpose in life to be providing beauty. But her eyes were lively and quick, and I found myself looking at them and forgetting the rest.

"What's your name, child?" I asked.


"I'm -- well, I guess you know who I am," I said. "How about if we make a deal. If you get a chance, could you let me know tomorrow how Lord Reston is doing? You're the _rst person who's been honest with me. I don't have anything with me now, but I'm sure I can come up with some reward for you."

Mary giggled.

"Oh, that don't matter. I just thought you'd want to know. I heard you ask at the table. Don't that Madame Bisset beat all?"

Mary's pronunciation of "Madame" was actually better and more French sounding than mine. She probably knew more about palace protocol too. I squinted thoughtfully. Mary wasn't more than four or _ve years younger than me. It didn't seem fair that I was now a princess and she would always be a servant, just because I looked a little prettier than her.

"Madame Bisset does beat all," I agreed. "You won't get in trouble for talking to me, will you?"

"Are you kidding?" Mary said. "Not as long as you don't mind."

"All right, then -- ," I started, when someone called from down the corridor, "Princess -- "

"See you tomorrow," I told Mary.

I went off to my needlepoint feeling a little cheerier.

That evening was my time to meet with the prince. We had an hour together just about every other night, depending on his schedule. I saw him at the banquet table every night, of course, but that was often from a distance, because the seating chart always changed. In the beginning, they always placed me with Madame Bisset and my other instructors, so they could correct any horrifying error I made before it attracted too much attention. I could tell someone thought I was learning something, because in the last few days I'd occasionally gotten to sit near people who hadn't heard anything but the castle's of_cial story -- that I was a foreign princess who'd disguised herself as a commoner, because I wanted to win Prince Charming's love on my own merits, not because of my father's vast lands. I thought anyone who believed the castle's of_cial story had to be several logs short of a roaring _re, but nobody asked me.

Now I sat in the prince's vast antechamber, waiting. The protocol of these visits was strictly regimented. Someone -- usually one of my older and therefore more mature ladies-in-waiting -- had to walk me down the hall and make sure there was a chaperon in attendance. My lady-in-waiting would curtsy and discreetly remove herself. Then the door to the prince's bedchambers, a place I'd never seen, would open, and I'd catch my breath and try to make conversation with the prince, the man I was going to marry.

I studied the tapestry on the wall, a dramatic scene of huntsmen killing a wild boar. There were dogs yapping at the boar, blood pouring from his sides, a nobleman with a sword poised above him, ready to deliver the _nal thrust. Women must have stitched this gory scene -- needlepoint wasn't for men. How did that _t with Madame Bisset's notion that women must be protected from all unpleasantness? I dismissed her ideas as too silly to even think about.

Behind me, tonight's chaperon, an ancient retainer of the king's, snuffled. He sounded like he had a bad cold. The candles sputtered in their sconces. The old grand-father clock by the door donged eight times. Not twelve -- not midnight, the hour I had dreaded and run from on the most exciting evening of my entire life...

Remembering the ball, I almost missed the opening door. But then there was the prince, in all his glory: clear blue eyes, high cheekbones, rugged jaw, blond hair precisely the right length because it was cut every fourth day by the royal barber. Tonight the prince was wearing a deep blue waistcoat that exactly matched his eyes and showed off his muscular chest and trim waist. My heart quickened, as always. Dizzily, I thought back to a summer afternoon years ago, before the Step-Evils entered my life, when several of the other girls in the neighborhood and I were wading in the creek behind our house, talking of whom we would marry.

"This is posh," Vena, a gloomy girl none of us really liked, had muttered. "We'll all settle for whoever asks us. We'll just be lucky if we don't get someone like my dad."

Her father was a well-known ne'er-do-well, who spent most of his time in the village tavern.

"Not me," I said. "I won't settle. If the right person doesn't ask, I won't marry at all."

Some of the girls gasped, I remember. What would they have said if I'd vowed to marry a prince?

Now I murmured, "Your Majesty," trying to sound properly digni_ed and feminine and loving. I bent forward and extended my hand for kissing. Charm took it, and the brush of his lips on my skin sent shivers down my spine.

"Princess," he said.

His voice was low and deep, just as you would expect. Perfect, like everything else about him.

He sat down beside me, his left leg a scant inch from my skirt.

"Have you had a good day?" I asked.

"Yes," he said. "And you?"

I hesitated. Had he heard about Lord Reston? Would I be violating some etiquette rule by bringing up his condition? I didn't know if Prince Charming realized that Lord Reston was tutoring me, or if Prince Charming even knew who Lord Reston was. No wonder I kept making so many gaffes -- I never thought to ask the important questions until it was too late. Tonight, I decided, the less said the better.

"My day was _ne, Your Majesty," I murmured.

"Good," he said.

The chaperon coughed behind us. The clock ticked. I saw the time on its face: 8:03. And already Prince Charming and I had run out of things to say.

I often wished, during these stiff meetings, that I could skip ahead in my life, past the glorious wedding, to maybe a year from now. Then, after many hours together without a chaperon, I could picture the prince and I cuddling cozily on these cushions instead of sitting stiffly an inch apart. We'd share our deepest thoughts and dreams, forgetting there was a castle or a kingdom or anything outside our love for each other. We'd call each other Charm and El, not "Majesty" and "Princess."

So far I'd called Prince Charming "Charm" only in my mind.

Prince Charming gave me an innocent, adorable smile. He didn't seem to realize that the chaperon made me feel awkward, or that the silence between us was uncomfortable and unnatural.

Charm and I hadn't talked much the night of the ball either, but then, we didn't need to. When we danced, he kept one hand on just the right spot on the small of my back, gently guiding me. His other hand held mine. We looked into each other's eyes, and it seemed like he already knew everything about me. He didn't let me dance with anyone else. He whispered in my ear, "You're the most beautiful girl here."

Hey, I was as susceptible to flattery as the next girl.

Sometimes he still told me I was beautiful, but it wasn't like he was really paying attention.

"What are you thinking about?" I asked.

He jerked his head toward me, jolted by the urgency in my voice.

"The hunt," he said, then looked puzzled. I may have surprised him into telling the truth.

"You went hunting today," I said, trying to coax more out of him. "Did you catch much?"

The word catch sounded odd. Back home we used to talk about catching _sh. That's what I was thinking of. But the deer and wild boars and other animals worthy of royalty's attention weren't "caught." Should I have said "killed"? Were ladies allowed to say that? How could Prince Charming and I ever talk the way I wanted to -- no holds barred, our thoughts as close as our bodies had been at the grand ball -- if we couldn't even use the same words?

The prince smiled indulgently.

"Don't trouble your mind about that," he said. "The kingdom is in _ne shape. Why, we throw away food here at the castle that would be a feast in Suala."

Suala was a neighboring kingdom. We had been at war with Suala for as long as I could remember, so maybe the prince was only showing bravado, the way street urchins brag about the number of maggots in the bread they steal. But still, I wondered....

"Why?" I asked. "Why throw away food when some of your own subjects go hungry each night? Why, I myself know -- "

The prince toyed with a ringlet that had escaped from the ribbon holding my hair in place. He wrapped and unwrapped my long blond curl around his _ngers. I wished my hair had feeling. I wished he were touching my hand instead. I couldn't remember what I was going to say I knew.

The prince chuckled.

"So my princess worries about the poor," he said. "If it pleases you, I'll order that our table scraps be set outside the palace gate each evening."

"It's that easy?" I asked. "Just like that?"

The prince shrugged.

"Why not? It matters not to me."

He smiled and I should have smiled back, given him the gratitude he deserved. But his last words stopped me.

Why didn't his own hungry subjects matter to him? What was wrong with this man?

Copyright © 1999 by Margaret Peterson Haddix

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Just Ella 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 235 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
THIS BOOK CHANGED MY LIFE FOREVER! I was 9 when I read this book and I couldn't put it down. This book made me realize that I love to read spinoffs of fairytales. This book makes you feel like your in the book. I reccomend this book to girls 11 yrs and up if you love to read if not 14 years and up. Also another book by Haddix that is well written is Palace of Mirrors.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book! Its mainly about a girl who thinks life will be perfect once she marries Prince Charming. WRONG! Ella is a great character who shows that you dont need magic to make your happily ever after.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Read a long time back. Reread it a few times definitly a favorite. I'm 24 now and still like this retelling.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I luved this book! I reccomend it to anyone!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ella from ella enchanted( except she doesnt have a fairy godmother) is engaged to prince charming. She realizes that his love is a show and tells him that she doesnt want to merry him. He reveals his true self and puts her in jail untill she comes to her sences about the subject. She digs her way out wih the help of her servant friend and reunites with her tutor who is helping the sick from the war. She realizes who she realy loves... This is a great book! I couldnt put it down! Very well written! I hope Mrs. Haddix writes a sequal! And soon! Oh and i there is one please inform me and title your review to bella123! Thanks, Reader :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is really good. It is about ella a poor girl who goes to a ball and dances with the prince. She ends up becoming the princess but learns she dosnt like that kind of life. This is a great spin on the origional cinderella story. Also by haddix i reccomend double identity and uprising. (Pardon my spelling) :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this princess cinderalla remix! I just didnt like the ending. Well i liked ut i just eish it was longer!!!!! Really good overall!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was really interesting at first and the main plot was simply marvolous. What would happen to cinderella if the happy ever after was a hoax? I thought the first hundread pages were very good but the end didnt capture me at all. No real feelings were shared with the prince , ella, and sorry-i-forgot-his-name ellas tutor u might say i guess. The end i found was very tedious waiting for something to happen when she escaped (spolier) and i ended just skipping pages with the same old event. I thought this was okay-but-good-as-well but i wouldnt stop u from buying the book except for SOME BORING PARTS i dont regret reading just ella.
erinmcewen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I like the premise of this story: an exploration of what "happily ever after" would actually mean. However, the inhabitants of the royal castle were more than usually rigid and cruel, I would say, and the average former peasant girl would have a better idea of forming alliances and leveraging royal favor. That wouldn't have been condusive to the story, of course, and the author was trying to contrast idealistic infatuation to someone with perfect looks against a real, personal attraction to someone you've actually gotten to know. I think she got that point across, and I especially like the resourceful, dirty escape that "Ella" has to make, but the ending left me hanging, thinking that a great many things could still go wrong before the heroine was united to her sweetheart.
Deisy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The book " Just ella" is kind of a drama story where this girl named Ella who's a princess knows the values of her life she wants whatever other princess wants meeting her prince charm, getting married and finally live Happily Ever After.The royals try to mold her into destroying ellas happiness and they do. Ellas life turns really misarable.In this story Ella dosent have a godmother she has to find a way to her happines, but the question is could she do it? This book has a familiar thing like cinderella but ellas happiness does not have what cinderella had ella has a lot to learn of life and she knows that you have to find your happiness sooner or later. Like any other girl cinderella was older and was just 15-years old.Who ever likes Drama and adventure this book has it because who wouldn't like a great fairy tell and how this one ends no one knows how could this book of just Ella could end i hust say it ends different from others.
bugs5 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A nice book that tells a version of Cinderella. I would recommend this to a young person.
Lyhenderson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great book!!! I loved it! Girly and full of adventure!!!! She gets us into the book and changes us into the charecters.
supersam on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A backwards cinderella story
AyannaRo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is written by one of my favourite authors Margaret Peterson Haddix. Just Ella is a Cinderella fairy tale without the magic, there is no fairy godmother to give her the glass slippers or magically send her to the ball. I think the title indicates that it was just Ella not the magical Ella from the fairy tale version and I knew it was going to be interesting before I even opened the book. The plot twists, wit, drama and Ella¿s personality, a very strong and powerful woman really makes the book unique to other books/movies telling Cinderella¿s story. I found it really interesting that the author made all the things that happened in the book very real and accurate. For example, the announcer at the ball said Cinderella instead of Cinders-Ella her nickname. I am a little disappointed about the ending. I wanted an epilogue, even though the story inferred that it was a happy ending for some reason I still wanted to know about their children, their marriage, their successes and if and when Jed came back. I learned that ¿Happiness was (is) like beauty¿in the eye of the beholder.¿
sapphire--stars on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was pretty cute. I wouldn't say I really liked it, but I did like it. It was a very quick read (even for young adult) but it had an interesting plot. I really enjoyed Haddix's Running Out of Time when I was younger so I figured this was worth a shot. I'm really in the mood for some fairytale retelling and this was like an appetizer rather than the main course :] (which I intend to get to soon!)A lot of the information in the book was neat, like the depiction of court life, the activities Prince Charming participated in (hunting etc.) all were very accurate. It was also interesting to hear how Cinderella (or Cinders-Ella) would have pulled off the whole attending the ball, glass slippers scenario without a fairy godmother. This is the case in this story and although it isn't as enchanting it was a bit refreshing.It's certainly no Ella Enchanted, but it was worth a read.
altonams on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Muppets used to have ¿Fractured Fairy Tales¿. I almost see this as one of those. It is the ¿real¿ story of Cinderella as told by her as she goes to the ball and falls in love with the prince. But, before the wedding takes place she realizes she really isn¿t in love with the prince and when she refuses to marry him she is put in the dungeon. She manages to escape and find her true love, but during the 6 month wait to give him an answer to his proposal, he realizes that his duty to end the war really has to come before their own personal happiness. I read the ¿Palace of Mirrors¿ earlier this spring, and Ella appears in it, but there seems to be a piece missing at the end of the story and a gap between her story and the story of Celia. Overall I liked the book, but I would have ended it differently (or maybe I¿ll need to go back and reread Celia¿s story and see what happened to Ella).
debnance on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A more realistic look at what becomes of Cinderella than the traditional "happily ever after". But I like the happily ever after!
jjmcgaffey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Cute, not wonderful. Ella is a little too flatly drawn - so is Jed, for that matter (it is a kids' book, but still). The ideas are nice. And I'm rather amused by the fact that it sort of quits in the middle (well, the middle of the end), so as not to present her either with a sad future _or_ with living happily ever after...maybe she did and maybe she didn't.
StormRaven on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I figure that the working title for Just Ella was Cinderella: The Day After, because that is pretty much what the story is about. Ella is a plucky orphan living under her step-parents' thumb who makes her own dress and sneaks to Prince Charming's ball where the prince falls in love with her, tracks her down, and whisks her away to the palace to be his fairy tale bride. At that point, this book begins.Ella finds out that transforming from an active commoner into one of the idle nobility (actually, one of the idle female nobility, male nobles seem to be allowed to do things every now and then). She chafes at the enforced inactivity, the needlepoint, the etiquette lessons, and the religious instruction, looking forward only to her brief and boring visits with Prince Charming. At least until her aged religious instructor falls ill and has to be replaced by his far more interesting son. Over the course of much of the book, Ella comes to realize that her fairy tale ending isn't what she truly wanted. Eventually, she tries to break away, but learns that one simply cannot break a royal engagement - some fairly unpleasant pressure is brought to bear on her to relent and agree to marry Charming anyway. That doesn't deter our plucky girl though, she just shoulders on, saving herself from her predicament right up until the ambiguously happy ending.The story is little more than modern revisionism applied to a traditional fairy tale, but it is reaonably well done revisionism. The only real problem with the book is that Ella is to a certain extent a little too perfect - she is beautiful AND an industrious worker AND improbably well-educated for a sullery maid AND extraordinarily compassionate and on and on. Her list of extensive virtues is coupled with no discernable faults resulting in a character that stretches credulity. On the other hand, this is a book aimed at younger readers, and one that built upon a fairy tale foundation, so this is probably to be expected to a certain extent.As a side note, even though this is properly tagged "fantasy" (taking place in an undefined alternate world of princes, princesses, castles, carriages and royal balls), there isn't anything magical or fantastical about the story itself. Ella makes her own dress, finagles herself some glass slippers, gets to the ball herself, and has to leave by midnight for an entirely mundane reason. But while there is no direct magical elements to the story, most of the characters around Ella behave as if there should be, and behave with a kind of fairy tale sensibility.In the end, the central message of the book - that one should be independent and judge others according to their character - is one that is fundamentally benign. This, coupled with decent storytelling makes this a perfect book to hand to a young girl interested in reading about plucky, independent, admirable heroines.
thespiandelirium on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A real & empowering look at the classic story of Cinderella and its"ever after". The writing is very much simple & geared toward younger readers, but the message and ideas in the story are absolutely fantastic. Gives me hope that perhaps some young people might develop ideas of love and life that haven't been Disney-fied.
Danie88 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
very interesting twist on the cinderella story...
silverwing2332 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As far as I remember (its been a while since I read the book), this book is very interesting and a great read. I really was intrigued by the fact that its a what happened after the "happily ever after" ending, very imaginative and creative. Not that memorable though...I'm going to have to reread this...
the1butterfly on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is, of course, a Cinderella retelling. Ella has gotten the prince and is in the castle as a princess in training, but she¿s finding out that being a princess is boring and tedious, her story has become a far-fetched fairy tale, the prince she¿s marrying is not what she¿d hoped for, and that life is, if anything, worse than before. Now she finds herself in love with someone else and unable to escape. Through her own inginuity she digs out, hides, and makes it to the boy who she really does love and decides to marry.
exlibrisbitsy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.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.Favorite Quote:"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." -Ella
onebookshy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have always enjoyed the Cinderella tales - never wanted to be her, but liked the story. This is an interesting take on the classic as Ella isn't the normal simpering princess type. This Ella was a strong female who wasn't afraid of hard work and wasn't afraid to make use of her brain.There were several interesting characters introduced such as Mary, a young servant (reminds me of the mice in the original) and her instructor's son, Jed. I don't want to give the storyline away, but this version of happily-ever-after is much more satisfying to me because Ella gets her head straight and stands up for herself. It's a good, quick read with a much better message for young girls - you don't have to wait for a Prince to save you - do it yourself!