Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Book Review: The Sweetest Spell by Suzanne Selfors

The Sweetest Spell

Suzanne Selfors

Publication Date: August 12th 2012

Publisher: Walker Childrens

Pages: 416

Genre:  Fairytale, Young Adult

Emmeline Thistle, a dirt-scratcher's daughter, has escaped death twice-first, on the night she was born, and second, on the day her entire village was swept away by flood. Left with nothing and no one, Emmeline discovers her rare and mysterious ability-she can churn milk into chocolate, a delicacy more precious than gold.

Suddenly, the most unwanted girl in Anglund finds herself desired by all. But Emmeline only wants one-Owen Oak, a dairyman's son, whose slow smiles and lingering glances once tempted her to believe she might someday be loved for herself. But others will stop at nothing to use her gift for their own gains-no matter what the cost to Emmeline. 

Magic and romance entwine in this fantastical world where true love and chocolate conquer all.
When you first encounter The Sweetest Spell, it almost seems like an author wrote it from a challenge that required the inclusion of: making chocolate, guardian cows and husband auctions. But, this book is much more than the sum of its parts.

Additionally, the summaries given for it officially do not do it justice. So let me try my hand at it. The Sweetest Spell is a retelling of "The Ugly Duckling". Emmeline, our main character, is born with a curled foot, and is left in the woods to die on the day of her birth due to the fact that a "dirt-scratcher", a low-caste farmer, cannot afford to raise a child who cannot work themselves. However, that night, the milkman's cows didn't come home, and instead they are found standing over the babe, guarding it. From that point forward, Emmeline is regarded with superstition and revulsion.

At sixteen a series of tragedies occur, leaving Emmeline homeless and thrust into another society, one that considers "dirt-scratchers"primitive, less than human. While there she discovers that she has an ability that has been thought to be lost forever: she can churn butter into chocolate.

Though the story is meant to mostly focus on "The Ugly Duckling" many, many fairy tale tropes are borrowed and incorporated into it. It honestly stands alone as it's own fairy tale, a new one. But, I think that what really sets The Sweetest Spell apart is the themes it deals with. There is racism, prejudice, and re-writing of history to benefit the race currently in power, among other things. Many of the characters carry layers to them (a few were very unexpected) and there is a light exploration of what the promise of money can do to people. Unfortunately, some that were not layered, ended up being rather caricatured (especially our villains, though it's hard to not caricature villains in a fairy tale retelling).

I definitely recommend this book for people who enjoy fairy tales. It is most certainly the storytelling style of one. I also urge prospective readers to not glance over this book because of the chocolate or cow thing, everything in the book has a reason and when it is explained makes absolute sense in a very natural way. It only sounds weird when you try to summarize it out of context. 



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