This review is part of my awesome MARCH FANTASY MONTH project with the lovely Lili of Lili's Reflections. Click here to see Lili's review of The Sweetest Spell, and follow both of us so you don't miss any of the fantasy madness!
Review: The Sweetest Spell by Suzanne Selfors
Rating: A sweet, simple fairy tale, with a lovely fantasy world and CHOCOLATE. Lots and lots of chocolate and cows and, unfortunately, some insta-love. But chocolate!
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.
The cover: Pretty! I like the swirly bits and the floaty dress and the castle. The transition to from the forest to the castle is a little awkward, but I LOVE the look on her face and her hair. It's so very fairy tale-ish. Dreamy and whimsical and ethereal.
The story: I hadn't heard to this book until Lili challenged me to read it, and I'm glad she did. I started it on a plane, just as I was taking off from LAX, and finished it before I landed at JFK. It was very enjoyable and very, very cute. The definition of a light and sweet fairy tale with lovely whimsical elements, such as Emmeline's affinity for cows and her ability to churn milk into chocolate, and the fact that chocolate is the basis for the entire mythology of Anglund.
Anglund, basically, is a fantasy version of vaguely old-timey England. I will say that the country names drove me crazy. This is a very light-hearted, fun sort of book, so I understand why Selfors decided to have fun with the various European countries, but honestly they were just silly. The city of Londwin and the countries Londwin, Germundy, Anglund, Franvia, and Italiand (Italialand!)? Okay in theory, but the actual names themselves I just handle. The other major drawback was, for me, the insta-love. However, that began to straighten itself out as the book progressed.
Emmeline and Owen are admirable if not entirely complex heroes. Actually, that's not quite true. I ended up adoring Emmeline, who is gutsy, never mopey, and very strong. She and Owen have some serious insta-love going on-- like, he is just to taken aback by how gorgeous and sweet and rehaired she is and bada boom, true love-- but they're pretty adorable together, and this is a fairy tale, so I accepted it.
They are such lovely twists on fairy tale tropes. Owen is the every man, the lowly son of a dairy farmer, true of heart and spirit who ended up growing in personality, until he was very banter-y and I was cheering him on like no tomorrow. Emmeline is the Ugly Duckling, Cinderella type. She's a dirt scratcher, a red haired race of people deemed barbaric by the rest of the Anglunders. I simply looooooved the isolated dirt scratcher world, with their superstitions and husband markets. They're kept separate from the rest of Anglund, because the Anglunders are big dirty racists (they could possibly be analogous to the Scots or the Irish or even the Welsh, if one chooses to read it that way, and you shouldn't, because one of the strengths of this book is how little thinking it requires. It's a fairy tale. Just go with it, Gillian).
|Yep, that is definitely Emmeline|
I loved the Griffin character, and the royals. All those characters managed to both buck their respective cliches and embrace them. The narrative is utterly charming and quick-moving. Both characters have quests, and stop at nothing to see them through. Nobody sits around waiting for their prince of princess to come. Even when one or both of the main characters is technically imprisoned, they still make decisions for themselves.
The language is beautiful, frothy, and chock(olate) full of imagery. It really felt like I was reading and expanded, idealized children's fairy tale right out a leather-bound, gilded book that smells like old paper and is embellished with full color illustrations. There's humor and wit and a few surprising reveals-- just enough to keep you on your toes. I liked the POV switches-- the book is told in first person, alternating between Owen's and Emmeline's POV, giving you great insight into all they're willing to go through for each other. It's so dang cute.
If you're a hyper-logical sort of reader, unable to overlook shaky magical logic and other fairy tale story telling elements, this probably won't be the book for you. But if you, like me, are just ready to be enchanted, then I recommend giving The Sweetest Spell a shot. Just make sure you've got a chocolate bar