If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I love a good fairy tale retelling. This week I read two new(er) releases, both mainly based on Cinderella-style tales, but with many others thrown in for good measure.
Enchanted by Alethea Kontis came out in May, and it is jam-packed with fairytale characters and nursery rhymes, plus some good old-fashioned magic. Sunday (“bonny and blithe and good and gay”) Woodcutter goes to the ball to meet her prince–only it’s three balls, and she’s already met the prince (as a frog). Making appearances are elements of the Frog Prince, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Jack and the Beanstalk, the Red Shoes, Rapunzel, the Old Woman who Lived in a Shoe, the Princess and the Pea, and Rumplestiltskin (Enchanted is supposed to be the first in a trilogy, so I can only imagine how many more we’ll be able to add to this list when it’s done). On top of this we also have various changelings and fairy godmothers and MANY branches of magic, so that sometimes it feels like TOO MUCH.
Also adding to the confusion are the prince’s year of missing memories and Sunday’s oldest brother Jack who was turned into a dog, but may have turned human again, or may be dead. I like some ambiguity for dramatic purposes, but the attempts to clarify these threads at the end of the book are not successful.
Overall this was a fun book to read, with good amounts of romance, action and suspense. Several supporting characters (Sunday’s brother Trix, Rumbold’s friends Erik and Velius) were particularly enjoyable. Kontis also has some very clever themes worked in, like “words have power” and “third time’s the charm,” that add a nice complexity to the story without bogging it down (mostly). I enjoyed the development of Sunday and Rumbold’s relationship, but the beginning scenes (with the frog) seemed a bit rushed. For a book that otherwise got relationships pretty well, three days is too short a time for two people to fall in love.
Bewitching by Alex Flinn returns to our favorite witch Kendra; we get some of her backstory (an interesting combo of the Black Death and Hansel and Gretel), as well as the stories of several other people she’s “helped,” which include nice twists on Cinderella (from the stepsister’s perspective), the Princess and the Pea (in Versailles), and The Little Mermaid (after the Titanic, probably my favorite of the lot). Flinn manages to keep us guessing despite the derivations–none of the stories has the happy ending we all know and expect. Sure, the witch gets pushed in the oven, but Kendra never sees her brother again. And she gets hanged. Bummer.
I would recommend all Alex Flinn’s books to all who love fairy tales, but this one seems to have a little less substance than some others. There are some cute references to Beastly, and the magic mirror features prominently (the mermaid is not the same one from Beastly, though). But as much as I like Kendra, this book kills the mystique around her a little. And while I liked the idea behind ending of Emma and Lisette’s tale (Cinderella), it seemed a little sudden and overly simplified, not as fulfilling as the rest of the (shorter) tales in the book. Also, I hated the cover art, as well as the other “new” cover art for all of Alex Flinn’s books. Seriously, the flowers were better. Don’t give in to the “girl in pretty dress” trend!!