Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Enchanted - Alethea Kontis (Woodcutter Sisters #1)

Enchanted (Woodcutter Sisters #1; Books of Arilland #1)Enchanted was one of the first books that I added to my to-read list on Goodreads, all the way back in 2011.  And guess what?  I apparently owned it for a significant amount of time but never realized it.  I must have bought it when it was on sale for Kindle one day and then promptly forgotten.  But it works out, because it means I had it on hand to finally read for my 2017 reading challenge, for the category of "A book that's been on your to-read list way too long."

Honestly, this had been on my list for so long, but I never really made any serious moves towards reading it.  It was something about the cover.  While the premise sounded interesting--it's a fairy tale adaptation, which is basically my favorite trope--something about it just seemed like it was going to come across as very juvenile.  So I braced myself for that when I finally started reading.  And guess what?

I loved it.

This starts off like it's going to be an adaptation of "The Frog Prince."  But it's really pretty much every fairy tale rolled into one.  "The Frog Prince" is the beginning and base, but much of it is quickly resolved.  Elements of "Cinderella," "Jack and the Beanstalk," "Sleeping Beauty," "Rapunzel," and others are all woven into the central story.  The main character is Sunday Woodcutter, the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, who befriends a talking frog in the magical Wood one day when she's writing in her journal.  Sunday only ever writes about her family and things that have already happened, because if she writes about things that haven't yet happened, they have an uncanny way of coming true, but not in the way she wanted.  She starts sharing her stories with the frog, who introduces himself as Grumble, and every day she leaves him with a kiss in hopes that it will break the curse that binds him to frog form--Grumble can't remember who he was as a man.

And one day, the kiss works.  But Sunday doesn't know it, because she's already gone, and when Grumble wakes up as Prince Rumbold, he comes to the realization that Sunday will probably want nothing to do with him, because her family blames him for the breath of Sunday's oldest brother, who was turned into a dog after he accidentally killed Rumbold's puppy years ago, and then vanished and presumably died.  So he sets up an elaborate scheme to win her back, involving a series of balls to which every eligible maiden in the kingdom is invited.  Meanwhile, he's plagued by voices and the ghost of his mother, and something sinister is going on with his father, and it seems to involve Sorrow, his fairy godmother...

...who is the sister of Sunday's fairy godmother, Joy.  And also her aunt.  It's all wonderfully woven together, why Sunday's family is the way it is, what has been going on in the castle, the menace that's lurking over the entire kingdom.  I loved pretty much all of it.  The world is exquisite, with so many background strands going throughout it.  I want to know everything--what happened to Monday, about Thursday's adventures as a captain and the wife of the Pirate King, what happened to Jack Jr. All of it.  But I did have a few reservations.

For example, after Rumbold's curse is broken, what's up with all of the people suddenly trying to kill Sunday?  And why do they just up and give up after a few attempts?  People with fey-purple eyes offering her combs, apples, ribbons--these are all classic fairy tale death traps, as Joy neatly illustrates.  But exactly why it's happening is never made clear.  And I also found myself disappointed in how little impact Sunday had on the climax and end of the story.  Despite her seemingly amazing power, despite the fact that she's the main character, despite that she's the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter and so supposedly has a great destiny...she doesn't do anything at the climax.  Instead, she stands by and watches as others take care of the mess.  Rumbold, Joy, Friday, Saturday, her father--all of them play bigger roles in the end than Sunday does, which was strange and a bit sad to me.

However, I still really enjoyed this book.  There's so much promise in this world and in the characters therein.  The way that Kontis wove together so many different story tropes into a coherent whole was every bit as magical as I had hoped it would be, and so much more than I thought it would be.  I definitely look forward to reading the others in this series.

4 stars out of 5.

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