In the delightfully twisted tale, When You Wish Upon a Star, from Elizabeth Lim we take another look at the story of Pinocchio. But in a really huge twist, Lim’s tale focuses on an important but often overlooked character, the Blue Fairy. Pinocchio and his trials are kind of peripheral to most of the story, although his fate is extremely important for the Blue Fairy. Find out what would have happened if the Blue Fairy was never supposed to fulfill Gepeto’s wish in the first place in When You Wish Upon a Star.
[Warning: My review of Elizabeth Lim’s When You Wish Upon a Star contains some spoilers!]
A mostly familiar beginning for the Blue Fairy
Lim begins by introducing us to the Blue Fairy as she covertly visits the little village of Pariva. It is the night of the Wishing Star but the Blue Fairy wasn’t supposed to answer wishes in Pariva. She knows this so she just listens to the different wishes until one wish stops her cold.
Sweet, kind Geppetto is all alone. He brings joy to all the children of Pariva with his amazing toys but when they go home to their families he stays in the shop by himself. Now he calls out to the Wishing Star, asking that the little puppet he’s created could be a real boy to call his son.
The Blue Fairy knows that she should just move on. Not only is she not allowed to answer wishes in Pariva, but the gift of real life? That is magic that is beyond her. Even if she brings it to the fairy counsel they will deny the request.
But still, Geppetto is so very deserving that she can’t help herself. She grants his wish, sort of. The Blue Fairy cannot make Pinocchio a real boy, but she can bring a sort of life to his wooden form. She’s sure that if Pinocchio proves himself to be a worthy boy that the other fairies will agree to help her truly grant life to him.
A dangerous bet in When You Wish Upon a Star
Unfortunately for the Blue Fairy, she’s caught in the act by the Scarlet Fairy. The Scarlet Fairy isn’t a true fairy like the Blue Fairy. Instead, she is a Heartless, someone who has destroyed their heart and now spreads misery and fear in order to harvest magical power from them.
The Scarlet Fairy threatens to tell the other fairies about what the Blue Fairy has done. Unless the Blue Fairy enters into a bet with her. If Pinocchio proves himself to be worthy in three days’ time, the Scarlet Fairy will help the Blue Fairy to change him into a real boy and she’ll recover her heart. But if he fails, the Blue Fairy must destroy her own heart and become one of the Heartless!
The Blue Fairy could have turned down the Scarlet Fairy’s bet. But the good fairies are very strict about the rules. The Blue Fairy knows that if they find out what she’s done they will most likely expel her from the Wishing Star. She will become mortal and forget that she was ever a fairy in the first place. In all honesty, the Blue Fairy is trapped in a cage of her own making. The only real chance she has is to accept the Scarlet Fairy’s offer. So she does and the games begin.
A nested story in this Disney Twisted Tale
After Pinocchio is used to set up the fairies and their rivalry, we leave him behind and travel back in time 40 years. Most of the book is spent here, learning the story of Chiara and Ilaria, the sisters that become the Blue and Scarlet fairies. We don’t return to Pinocchio until the very end of the book for the highly emotional ending. But that’s fine because the story of these two sisters is much more heart-wrenching.
Chiara is the “perfect” sister, made even more perfect because she is genuinely sweet and caring. She helps everyone because she likes helping and everyone loves her for it. Ilaria is the spoiled younger sister who is intensely jealous of how everyone sees Chiara. Still, the two are very close and love each other dearly.
Then Chiara gets noticed by the fairies. Agata invited her to come apprentice with her. After the apprenticeship, she can choose to become a fairy! Everyone is so proud of Chiara and extremely happy for her. Everyone except Ilaria. She is jealous that Chiara was chosen in the first place. And she’s sad that her sister will be leaving her. These conflicted feelings make her the perfect prey for the Heartless.
Chiara tries to help her understand and a young Geppetto tries to give her all the love and attention she could desire. But it’s not enough to overcome her pain. Will her bet with Chiara finally save her from an eternity of hate and sorrow? Or will she manage to drag her sister down with her? It all comes down to whether a little wooden boy can be brave, truthful, and unselfish.
A worthy tale from the world of Pinocchio
I always found it a little odd that Pinocchio had to prove himself in order for Geppetto to have his wish granted. I mean why? If Geppetto made the wish shouldn’t he have to pass the test and be proven worthy? But I like Lim’s reasoning of why. The magic was too big, it upset the natural order too much.
The Blue Fairy couldn’t do it on her own. So she needed to convince others that it was a good idea so they would help her. It might not have been the original reason (let’s face it, telling a story with a few good morals was the original reason) but it makes such logical sense that I love it. I will forever see it as the true reason for Pinocchio’s adventures.
The tale of love, choices, regrets, and redemption that Lim created is beautiful. The sister’s love (and yes, Ilaria only hated Chiara so much because she actually loved her so much) is so strong and their pain so poignant that I teared up at times. You want to reach through the book and just shake Ilaria, but you also want to hug her tight and make her feel better. And Chiara is such a beautiful soul that you just know she’ll find a way to save her sister no matter the cost.
It was a great story about a character that everyone overlooks. Except Elizabeth Lim I suppose. And I’m so glad she didn’t!
My Rating: 8/10
When You Wish Upon a Star: A Twisted Tale by Elizabeth Lim is available now! Interested in reading it? Let us know on Twitter or in The Cosmic Circus Discord! And if you haven’t already, check out our review of Straight On Till Morning, another twisted tale!