Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Review of Enchanted by Alethea Kontis

Most fairy tale retellings are built around just one story, occasionally two. Enchanted gives us the Woodcutter family, whose children—most named after days of the week—appear to be the stars of a bunch of well-known fairy tales: The Princess and the Frog, Rumpelstiltskin, Cinderella, The Princess and the Pea, and Jack and the Beanstalk, to name just a few.

Sunday is the main focus of the book. She befriends an enchanted frog, visiting and talking with him more than once and really enjoying their conversations. When she agrees to kiss him, nothing happens. What she doesn't know is that the kiss works, only a little later. All she knows is that her friend disappears and she misses him.

Meanwhile, the frog prince, Grumble-now-Rumbold, has returned to his palace, where not everyone is glad to have him back. The Woodcutter family knows Rumbold as the prince who was responsible for their son and brother Jack disappearing. Rumbold's father, a suspiciously youthful king, appears to be tangled up in some kind of dark magic. When the king throws three balls, ostensibly in honor of his son, and begins to woo Sunday's sister Wednesday himself, Sunday is very worried. Her aunt, a fairy named Joy, begins teaching Sunday magic, but what of the fairy named Sorrow, who lives in the palace? It's all very complicated.

Take a look at the beanstalk, its seeds planted, not by Jack, but by Sunday's fey adopted brother, Trix. The stalks are growing up around a huge old tree.
Magic and monsters, all before breakfast. Sunday wouldn't have it any other way. She bravely cupped a hand around a budding leaf; its new velvet skin tickled her palm as it unfurled and continued to stretch its way heavenward. The monster stalk's leaves yawned above the tree's top into the breaking light of dawn. The vines plaited themselves into a mass as thick as the trunk of the tree at its base. Sunday's feet itched, remembering her own waltz as she watched the vines dance.

There is magic around every corner in this book, and sometimes it seems a bit cobbled together, even frenetic: How many fairy tales, tropes, and even nursery rhymes can we jam into one book? Each of the Woodcutter siblings should be an entire book, and maybe that's where Kontis is going with this. It's as if, magically speaking, you had a family in which one sibling was Sandra Day O'Connor, another was Yo Yo Ma, another was Kobe Bryant, and so on. All of it is fascinating, but there's just so much going on. I would also say that the plot feels middle grade, but the romance and character interactions come across as YA (the book's apparent market).

Of course, Enchanted cries out to be read without too much analysis—the thing to do is just enjoy the ride and cheer for the good guys, waiting for Sunday and Rumbold to defeat the villain and share a happily-ever-after kiss. I suspect that Kontis can only get better—she has a wonderful imagination. (12 and up)

Note for Worried Parents: The villains' scheme is creepy and there's some violence and peril, but I would say the book is just fine for upper middle grade and tween readers.

Also: I requested a copy of this book from the Amazon Vine program.

1 comment:

Adriana said...

I love a good fairy tale book! Authors who do there own spin on classics I just want to hug sometimes because they make a classic come alive. Thanks for the review (: