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Saturday, October 3, 2015

"Spelled" by Betsy Schow (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

OVERVIEW: Fairy Tale Survival Rule #32: If you find yourself at the mercy of a wicked witch, sing a romantic ballad and wait for your Prince Charming to save the day.

Yeah, no thanks. Dorthea is completely princed out. Sure being the crown princess of Emerald has its perks—like Glenda Original ball gowns and Hans Christian Louboutin heels. But a forced marriage to the brooding prince Kato is so not what Dorthea had in mind for her enchanted future.

Talk about unhappily ever after.

Trying to fix her prince problem by wishing on a (cursed) star royally backfires, leaving the kingdom in chaos and her parents stuck in some place called "Kansas." Now it's up to Dorthea and her pixed off prince to find the mysterious Wizard of Oz and undo the curse...before it releases the wickedest witch of all and spells The End for the world of Story

FORMAT: Spelled is the first novel in a series of books. It is a YA novel that is a mish-mash of fairy tales, romance, and adventure. It stands at 352 pages and was published June 2, 2015 by Sourcebooks Fire.

ANALYSIS: All too often when we see the worlds 'fairy tale retelling' it is simply an author taking the same old story – say Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty – and tweaking it just a little bit. Essentially, these authors are adding a tiny twist to make it their own, but the story is the same.

Spelled by Betsy Schow is a fairy tale retelling that breaks that trend. But whether or not that is a good thing will depend on what type of reader you are and what styles of writing you enjoy.

Before I even begin to analyze Spelled, I want to note that this is not a book that is for everyone. Spelled is like a YA version of Ever After High. It has cute little nicknames for things that represent the fairy tale world's version of things, such as a band that is very similar to One Direction or a cellphone that looks and acts just like an iPhone.

In addition to the cute little nicknames, the characters also constantly curse, but they do so in fairy tale style. For example, the characters will constantly say "Well pix me" or "Mother of Grimm". These sayings are cute the first few times they are done, but they are overdone. The overuse of these cute phrases/cursing may be just enough to turn off most readers.

If the fairy tale cursing and cutesy nicknames didn't turn you away from the novel, there is the writing style. Spelled is written in a sassy, extremely causal style that includes a lot of clich├ęs, side comments, and attitude. Readers expecting a straightforward, no-nonsense novel probably won't make it through the first few chapters.

That being said, if you can make it through the sass, the nicknames, and the fairy tale cussing, there is an interesting novel awaiting you. Betsy Schow has taken a little bit of everything from all the Wizard of Oz novels and sort of thrown them together to form a hodgepodge of a story. Longtime fans of Wizard of Oz will certainly see the similarities between some characters and their original counterparts, but for the most part Spelled is its own novel in both character development and plot elements. Think of Wizard of Oz and other fairy tales as more of a guidebook for the story.

I will admit, I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this mishmash of characters and stories. I appreciate what Schow was trying to achieve and I think it is absolutely wonderful that she went outside of the box, but I don't feel there was enough here to judge. Here's the problem, I found the first half of the book a bit annoying and very, very slow. Just when I went to set it down, it picked up and I really enjoyed the last half of the book. The enjoyment could be because the best character – Hydra – was introduced and she really made the novel.

I feel as if Schow started to find her footing and pacing in the last half of the novel. This redeemed Spelled for me and makes me actually consider reading the second novel. Unfortunately, it might be too little, too late. Most readers are either going to have abandoned the novel before it got good. This is unfortunate as it started to turn into a halfway decent novel.

Overall, I really feel Spelled is a book you have to try for yourself. Either you are going to like it or you aren't. There really isn't going to be an in between. I think those going into the novel thinking it is a 100% retelling of the Wizard of Oz will be disappointed, but those that know it isn't like that may be able to have the open minded thinking that could make this an enjoyable book.  


CTPhipps said...

Great review! Oz is something I love and this seems fun, if a bit cutesy.

Cindy said...

Cutesy and a bit cheesy. I think readers who go in knowing that it's got mega-cheese factor will enjoy it. If you are expecting a real novel, it would probably be a disappointment.


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