Monday, May 13, 2013

Review: Enchanted - Alethea Kontis

Enchanted by Alethea Kontis
Series: The Woodcutter Sisters #1
Genre: YA, fairytale retelling
Published on May 8, 2012
Published by Harcourt
Pages: 308
Read From: 5.9.13 - 5.9.13

It isn't easy being Sunday's child, not when you're the rather overlooked and unhappy youngest sibling to sisters named for the other six days of the week. Sunday's only comfort is writing storied, although what she writes has a terrible tendency to come true. 

When Sunday meets an enchanted frog who asks about her stories, the two become friends. Soon that friendship deepens into something magical. One night, Sunday kisses her frog goodbye and leaves, not realizing that her love has transformed him back into Rumbold, the crown prince of Arilland - and a man Sunday's family despises. 
The prince returns to his castle, intent on making Sunday fall in love with him as the man he is, not the frog he was. But Sunday is not so easy to woo. How can she feel such a strange, strong attraction to this prince she barely knows? And what twisted secrets lie hidden in his past - and hers?


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? I love the dress (yep, I'm a sucker for pretty dresses) and the curlicues and the pretty flowers, but the girl is still a character impersonator. At least she isn't staring at me. That makes the character impersonator a lot more bearable.

Characters: I loved the minor characters. Velius, Erik, Rollins, and Trix were all favorites. Velius was a likable cad who really was honorable at heart, Erik the steadfast friend and bodyguard, Rollins the amusing manservant, and Trix Sunday's mischievous and cunning brother who you can't help but love. I liked all of the sisters' different personalities - Thursday the fiery pirate captain, Wednesday the melancholy sister who would love Gothic novels, Friday the kind and loving sister, and Saturday the heroic and tomboyish girl. The king oozed creepy, and he made a relatively good villain. However, the two characters I failed to really attach to were the protagonists themselves: Sunday and Prince Rumbold. Rumbold was a nice enough guy, but he simply did not live up to any of the other princes in fairytale retellings; not even close. Sure, he seemed brave enough and kind and loved Sunday, but there was just something lacking in his personality that he desperately needed to make me care about him. Now, Sunday could have been a terrific heroine. She was adventurous, had powerful magical abilities, was sensible, and had a real gift for storytelling. And yet she seemed to do nothing but float through the story; a person with a name, but not really a character. I never really heard her voice in the story; never really got a sense of her expressions or reactions.

The Romance: In a word: very rushed. Sunday first meets Rumbold as Grumble the frog, and she forms a quick friendship because he appreciates her stories and makes her laugh. But in little more than three days, they've both fallen in deep love with each other. It didn't really bother me that Sunday only knew him as a frog, because when Sunday first meets him she automatically assumes that he was once a man, now enchanted. Living in a world of fairy godmothers and magic, it comes as no surprise to her, and I was all right with that. But in three days she's deeply in love? Really? Sorry, but I'm not buying it.

Plot: Sunday is the seventh of three sisters, all named after days of the week. One sister is dead, having danced herself to death in a pair of red slippers, the other is married to a prince. Still another has run off with the Pirate King and goes about pillaging and plundering, and sends her family gifts of riches on a frequent basis. Meanwhile, she and her remaining three sisters live at the "towerhouse" with their papa, Jack Woodcutter, and their bossy mother. Wednesday spends her time in the tower composing wretched and melancholy verses, Saturday goes and chops trees with their Papa and brother Peter, Friday tends to the poor and less fortunate, and Sunday spends her days writing and doing the countless number of chores about their shoe-shaped house (which is really too small for them), while her adopted brother Trix spends his time getting into mischief. There was once another member in their family - Jack Junior. But he had an unfortunate run-in with Prince Rumbold's favorite dog, angering Rumbold's fairy godmother Sorrow, and the resulting curse eventually led to poor Jack Junior's death. Ever since, the Woodcutter family has hated Rumbold, and in revenge for what Sorrow did to Jack Junior, the Woodcutters' fairy godmother Joy cursed Rumbold to live his days out as a frog for one year. At the end of a year, or if he found true love's kiss, he would return to his true form. The problem is if Rumbold remains a frog for too long, he'll forget everything about himself - including what it's like to even be human. So it's fortunate for him when he meets Sunday and strikes up a friendship with her. They fall deeply in love, and when Sunday kisses him one day before she returns home, Rumbold is transformed into his true self. But Sunday leaves before she can see this happen, which is probably better; because of Jack Junior's demise, Sunday must certainly hate him. But Rumbold is desperate to win Sunday's heart as himself, and he sets out to do just that by hosting three balls, which all of the eligible young ladies in his kingdom are invited to attend. But how can Rumbold possibly hope to win Sunday's reluctant heart when he can't even remember his life prior to being turned into a frog? There's also the added complication that he's been hearing a voice lately, begging him for help - the voice of his dead mother. Sunday isn't having an easy time of it herself. She's certain that her dear frog friend Grumble is gone for good, and now she's unwillingly falling in love with Prince Rumbold - her family's sworn enemy. On top of that, she's just discovered that she and her sisters have fairy powers - she and Wednesday being the most powerful of them all. And it's made them a target. The storyline itself is actually pretty good, but the way it's executed made it come across as rather bizarre. I loved all of the different fairytale the Author wove together - it's really awesome! But there were aspects that just didn't quite meld well in my mind. Jack Junior and Prince Rumbold's respective curses are the result of a feud between two Faerie sisters - Sorrow and Joy. Sorrow punishes Jack Junior for accidentally killing (or did he just hurt it? I never really did catch that) Rumbold's dog when they are just boys, and since Joy is Jack's fairy godmother, she can't let that slide, so she punishes Rumbold in retaliation. Twelve months as a frog . . . To be honest, it doesn't seem all that bad. Transformation into an animal in the traditional fairytale has always been like the ultimate punishment - and is for life unless (usually) a maiden can somehow reverse it. Even if Sunday hadn't kissed Rumbold, he still would have turned back into himself. I suppose maybe the Fairies weren't really trying to give either him or Jack this huge awful punishment - just reprimand. But it's made very clear several times that Sorrow is evil. Which brings me to another thing that kind of bothered me: for being the instigator behind so many things that happen in the story, I expected Sorrow to be in the book a whole lot more than she was. She's barely in it enough to even establish her personality! Let alone be a villainess.

Believability: Not applicable.

Writing Style: The style itself actually didn't impress me all that much. It was pleasant enough, but at times it actually came across as a little juvenile, and just didn't hold the magic that writing should for fairytale retellings. The scene where Prince Rumbold changes back into a person was also very confusing - far more confusing than it should have been. It took me a few minutes to figure out what was happening. However, where the story fell down, the Author's twist on the traditional fairytales impressed me. Normally when someone smashes together a bunch of different fairytales, it doesn't work. It makes no sense, there's not really a plot, and things just happen for happening's sake. But Alethea Kontis integrated stories like CinderellaJack and the BeanstalkThe Frog Prince, and even dashes of Snow White into an interesting plot. She referenced smaller stories like The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe and The Red Shoes in clever ways, and I never once felt like she had something happen just for happening's sake. The elements of each story she put in functioned as an actual part of the plot.

Content: None.

Conclusion: The climax was a little strange and actually a lot darker than I was expecting, but it was still good. Exciting, dramatic, and it threw in some last elements of Jack and the Beanstalk in a way that I really loved. Enchanted had its flaws - protagonists I didn't really care about, an overall bizarre feel that didn't quite work, unimpressive writing. But it also had its good aspects - fairytales woven into an intriguing plot, awesome minor characters, and a climax that, while strange, was definitely exciting. And these pros are, for me, enough to make me like Enchanted.

Recommended Audience: Girl-read, fourteen-and-up, fans of fairytale retellings.

Others in the Woodcutter Sisters Series:

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