Unlocking the Spell by E. D. Baker
Series: Wide-Awake Princess #2
Genre: Middle Grade, fairytale retelling
Published on October 2, 2012
Published by Bloomsbury
Read From: 1.17.13 - 1.18.13
When Princess Annie helped her older sister, Gwendolyn (aka Sleeping Beauty), wake up from that pesky hundred-year curse by finding her beloved prince, did life get back to normal? Not a chance!
Unfortunately, that beloved prince, Beldegard, is stuck in the body of a bear. And as much as Princess Gwendolyn loves him (a little too much, Annie thinks!) it soon becomes clear that only Annie, with her amazing ability to fend off magic, can find the evil dwarf who cast the spell.
Luckily, Annie has assistance from the handsome prince Liam, and for a girl with no magic, she certainly has a few tricks in her repertoire.
Cover Blurb: Yes or No? For the age group the book is intended, it works. It’s cute and indicates a story with charm and humor, which Unlocking the Spell has. It’s rather girly, but it is a girl book, so I can’t fault it for that, either.
Characters: Annie continues to be a great protagonist: witty, wonderfully practical in all matters (including romance), and even tomboyish to an extent. Liam is like a male version of her, and he’ll always be a favorite. Though I did not dislike Beldegard, I never got especially attached to him, and Gwendolyn was horribly spoiled and useless - which she was supposed to be, so I didn’t mind.
The Romance: I share Annie’s opinion of her sister Gwendolyn’s constant infatuation with her intended, Beldegard: it was annoying. But her and Beldegard’s romance was mostly there for laughs, so it was a good kind of annoying. Annie and Liam’s attachment was sweet, though at times Annie was too sensitive when Liam didn’t pay her enough romantic compliments. It felt like the Author was trying to create tension between them, but it was a halfhearted attempt and fell flat.
Plot: While Annie’s goal in this installment was different from The Wide-Awake Princess, the plot’s progression was almost identical. She and Liam, along with Beldegard and Gwendolyn, go on a road trip to find the dwarf who turned Beldegard into a bear in the first place. Along the way, they stumble across multiple fairy tale characters, which seem to serve no other purpose than to solidify the story into the fairytale-retelling genre, and to create weak moments of humor. There is no purpose behind the characters running into Puss in Boots, Little Red Riding Hood, or any of the others; they just do, and the Author doesn’t even attempt to disguise the fairy tales in any way. Just like with The Wide-Awake Princess, while the encounters are somewhat amusing, they’re also not clever, and a lot of times just clutter up the story. I did, however, like how she integrated Snow White and Cinderella into the story; they had a bit more purpose to the actual plot.
Believability: Not applicable.
Writing Style: There’s nothing special about the writing. It’s entertaining, and has a nice humorous flair, but it didn’t particularly strike me as especially good or especially bad.
Conclusion: The end was, to say the least, extremely tidy. There was nothing momentous about it, and if the story had been building up a tremendous showdown, I would have felt disappointed by how easily things were resolved between Beldegard, his brother, and the dwarf. When Beldegard’s brother was introduced as a potential villain, I had hopes that things would get more exciting, and the Author could have even had a third book right there. But unfortunately, she chose not to do this, and so we’re left with an end that fit the story well enough, but was nothing spectacular. Despite my complaints, though, I admit that I did find some enjoyment in Unlocking the Spell. It was a relaxing, sweet, and somewhat entertaining read, just like its predecessor.
Recommended Audience: Girl-read, appropriate for any age, though eleven to fourteen-year-olds would probably enjoy it the most.
Others in This Series:
1)The Wide-Awake Princess
2)Unlocking the Spell
3)The Bravest Princess
3)The Bravest Princess