Thursday, April 3, 2014

Review: Hero - Alethea Kontis

Hero by Alethea Kontis
Series: The Woodcutter Sisters #2)
Genre: YA, fairytale retelling
Published on October 1, 2013
Published by Harcourt Books
Pages: 304
Read From: 3.21.14 - 3.22.14

For rough-and-tumble Saturday, it's no fun being the only one in the family without any magical talent. Too tall, too strong, too normal, that's her lot in life - until the day she accidentally creates an ocean in the backyard. 

Suddenly things are looking up. With her sword in tow, Saturday sets sail on the sudden sea, only to find herself kidnapped and whisked off to the mountain at the top of the world. Held captive by a blind witch who gives her a series of impossible tasks, Saturday is aided by a very appealing young man who knows all the witch's tricks. But he turns out to be under a spell that only Saturday can break - and that will only happen when this seemingly normal girl digs deep enough to find her own hidden talents.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? It has a character impersonator on the front, and despite the gorgeous dress she’s wearing, I don’t care for it all that much. It also looks like a bad photoshop job.

Characters: I like all of the Woodcutter sisters equally. They all have different personalities and bring something new to the story in their own way. But Saturday might be my favorite now. She’s a tough girl, tall for her age and strongly built. She’s the one sister who has had to work for everything in her life, since she was given no special magical talent or gift from their godmother. But Saturday doesn’t complain. Oh sure, she wishes she was like her other sisters, but she makes do. And because of her lack of magical talents, she’s also intensely practical. I don’t think I’ve stressed enough how much I love a practical female protagonist. Peregrine, the “prince in distress” (well, lord’s son), was an immediate hit with me, though I have the hardest time describing his personality. He’s honorable, resourceful, resilient, and stubborn – and yet, that doesn’t quite capture who he is. Betwixt, the chimera/pegasus/scorpion (he changes shape several times), was just adorable. What is it with mythical creatures being so cute?! I’m not complaining.

The Romance: Needless to say, Saturday and Peregrine fall for each other. I mean, this is a fairy tale retelling, and Saturday doesn’t think she’ll ever find anyone – she, in fact, has no interest in finding someone; romance gets in the way of the adventure (another reason I loved her!). And Peregrine is the respective male that she ends up having to go on an adventure with. I loved them together. Granted, it was a little . . . awkward at first. I mean, Peregrine has been magically disguised as a girl (more on that later). Saturday finds out very quickly that Peregrine is a he, but it was still hilariously odd. Hero has a good dose of romance, but it isn’t overwhelming, and the two are just too cute together.

Plot: When they were born, the Woodcutter sisters were given magical talents and gifts. Except Saturday, who was left with an axe that changes shape based on her destiny. After the incident with the giant beanstalk, Saturday’s handy axe has turned into a sword. But there isn’t much adventure to be had for a girl like her, and the royal swordmaster isn’t helping her much with her swordplay. But when Saturday’s brother Trix runs off, she accidentally causes a lake to be deposited right in her family’s backyard. Before she knows it, Saturday is off on the adventure of her life, as she tries to find Trix and bring him home, only to be captured by a witch demon high up in a mountain who mistakes her for her treacherous brother Jack. There, Saturday must join forces with Peregrine – a young lord’s son whom the demon witch thinks is actually her daughter, but has no idea that they’ve switched places. They have to stop the demon witch before she tears the fabric of the world apart and destroys everything. Yeah, so, getting accustomed to the idea that Peregrine had been “bewitched” to look like the demon witch’s daughter took a little while. I was confused about whether Peregrine truly looked like a girl in every aspect – was, in fact, actually turned into a girl. Or if he simply had long hair and fine features, and coupled with a skirt and the fact that the demon witch was blind, he passed as a girl. I’m still not sure which it was, but it was a rather amusing twist on the whole girl-mistaken-for-boy plot. And it was funny. Hero felt much more developed than Enchanted. I liked Book #1 well enough, but there were times when it felt exactly what it started out as: a mashup of several fairy tales for NaNoWriMo. In this, the Author focuses on a more specific fairy tale – and one that isn’t very well known, which I personally always enjoy – and not so much on a thousand different fairy tales pushed into one. Those other fairy tale elements are still there, but not as much as in Enchanted. Hero also moves faster (not that Enchanted was slow), and I liked Peregrine and Saturday better.

Believability: Not applicable.

Writing Style: Third person, past tense. The dialogue is very modern for a medieval/fairy tale-based world. But that’s my only real complaint against the writing style.

Content: None.

Conclusion: Not at cluttered as the climax for Enchanted. And therefore much smoother and enjoyable. The Woodcutter Sisters series is very enjoyable, and with this latest installment, it’s gone from merely fun to very good. Fairy tale mashups rarely work, but Alethea Kontis is getting better and better at it.

Recommended Audience: Girl-read, fifteen-and-up, great for fans of fairy tale retellings!

Others in The Woodcutter Sisters Series:


  1. I still haven't read Enchanted (and don't really plan to), but I have been looking forward to Hero. Time to start nicely nudging the librarians to order it. :)

    1. This is a series that you probably won't miss much by reading them out of order. HERO gives something of a brief summary at the beginning of the book, though it does skim over why the sisters were named after the days of the week, and everyone's special gifts, et cetera.


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