{A Twist in the Tail} Reviewing SPELLED by Betsy Schow

Love fairy tales and mythology?
Fans of mermaids, dragons, unicorns, and other mythical creatures?
Enjoy when a beloved classic tale is retold?
A Twist in the Tail Thursdays features all this and more!

Last month, I took place in the blog tour for SPELLED and posted an excerpt from the book. I've re-posted that information below so you don't need to look at two posts today ^.~

O P E N I N G   H O O K:

"Rule #17: To rescue a princess from magical imprisonment, a handsome prince must first slay the dragon. If one is not available, a large iguana will do in a pinch."
--Definitive Fairy-Tale Survival Guide, Volume 1 

Chapter One: 
Dragon Slaying for Dummies 

  "Stupid princes," I muttered as I stalked down the green-flecked quartz-and-marble hallway. "Why is it that when I don't want them, they're practically popping out of the closets? But the one time, the one time, I actually need a knight in overpriced armor, they're nowhere to be found?"
  I checked the guidebook in my hand one last time, to make sure I hadn't missed anything. My plan was perfect--so brilliant, in fact, that I was amazed none of my other ancestors had thought of it. The fact that it took me seventeen years to come up with it was moot. For once, I was grateful that the world of fairy tales and magic adhered to such strict rules. Still, the entire thing hinged on finding a single prince willing to help me end my lifetime of house arrest in the emerald palace.  

(Pages 7-8 , US e-book edition)

Princess Dorthea has never left her palace--and with good reason. There's a curse on her family:

"Girl of Emerald, no man can tame. Burn down the world, consumed by flames."

Dorthea is upset because, seriously, what are the chances that she could be the girl in the curse? She wants to get out. When her parents offer her hand in marriage to the vexing Prince Kato, she decides she'd rather take her chances with the curse than spend one minute married to him. She wishes on a star, not knowing that it's cursed, and her selfish wish destroys her entire kingdom. Now, there is only Kato and a servant girl named Rexi to guide her on a journey to figure out how to reverse her wish, save her kingdom, and escape the evil Gray Witch determined to see to her destruction.

SPELLED by Betsy Schow sounded super cute when I first heard about it, and I'm always up for a good retelling!  There are so many fun things in SPELLED. From the beginning, I was engaged because of all the clever fairy tale references. I mean, Hans Christian Louboutin slippers, Glenda original gowns, social media apps such as Flitter, and quirky sayings like "Are you blinder than all three mice?" I was hooked! And the chapter headings were all so clever. I couldn't wait to see each new title: "When You Hex Upon a Star," "A Nightmare Is a Wish Your Heart Makes," "If I Only Had a Head," "The Haunted Acre Wood." These are but a few of the 36 titles present in the novel. Each chapter also begins with a quote or statement from handguides, magazines, etc., and hint at things to come in the new chapter. I loved it all! These are the elements that kept me engaged and wanting to turn pages. It was all just so clever.

SPELLED is being billed as a clean alternative to DOROTHY MUST DIE by Danielle Paige, and I've got to say, I'd agree. I'm a little surprised this book is being published by Sourcebooks Fire and not Sourcebooks Jabberwocky because it has a very middle-grade feel to it. It reminds me of middle grade novels such as THE 13TH SIGN by Kristin O'Donnell Tubb and FLUNKED: FAIRY TALE REFORM SCHOOL by Jen Calonita (Which ironically WAS published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky). It's one of those books where the adventure is so full that readers constantly go from one event straight into the next and then the next and then the next. All three of these books are very similar in that vein. For me, such consistent action makes me start to lose focus because there isn't as much character development and action happening. It feels like when, growing up, I'd watch animated TV shows and there would be all these battle scenes and so little "normal stuff." The "normal stuff" was always my favorite part and I couldn't wait to get to the beginning/end of an episode and would wish I could cut out the middle. That said, I was a weird kid. A lot of kids LOVE that jam-packed action. I think SPELLED will appeal to many such readers. It's just not a style I personally love.

Because of all the consistent action, I'll admit that at time, I did some skim-reading or flipping forward, but one thing I enjoyed was seeing the way Dorthea didn't CHANGE as a person, but still GREW. In so many books, a character's flaws are nipped in the bud and by the end of the book, they've grown and evolved so much. In Dorthea's case, her flaws help her to grow and her positive aspects start to shine as some of the attitude falls off. Her characterization is well-done, and I like the way Schow uses small changes to create a better person while still retaining so much of that original character. You don't see this kind of characterization often, and I really enjoyed Dorthea's evolution. This is also the first book in at least a duology, if not a series, so know that it's not a stand-alone and there will be more books to chronicle Dorthea's changes even further.

SPELLED is definitely a book that's for some readers and not others. I know readers who adore it, as well as some who started to lose interest. I think that, in the right hands, SPELLED can be a fantastic, engaging, hilarious read. It's full of fairy tale influences and inside jokes and had everything I wanted in a book. It just wasn't stylistically for me, and that's okay, too, especially since there were elements that I enjoyed a lot. It won't be for everyone, but it will be fantastic for many people, especially kids and tweens!
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

The SHOES. The MAGIC MIRROR. The SMOKE. The funny message stating "Somewhere over the rainbow, all spell is about to break loose..."

Oh yeah, this cover caught my eye from the very get-go!

I love the two-toned heels that represent the ruby red of Dorothy's slippers from the movie AND the silver of the original shoes from the novel. SO CREATIVE. I love how the title is in "Wicked Witch Green" and covered in a plume of smoke.

I love, I love, I love!

And is that confetti on the ground!?

This cover had me intrigued from the very start!

Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance:  PG ( kissing )
Language: PG ( made-up fairy tale-themed cursing such as "Mother of Grimm!" and "mind her own glammed business" and What in the spell" and various uses of pixed/pix 'em/No pixing way/pix that/pix yourselves/etc. )
Violence: G ( Mild battle climaxes, nothing graphically violent )
Other: --

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Betsy Schow
Release Date: June 2, 2015
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Received: For Review

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.

Now, take a peek at this excerpt:

by Betsy Schow

     Most of the crowd had dispersed. The final few stragglers looked at me with the all­too-common look of fear mixed with trepidation. Pix ’em. They were just servants. It wasn’t like their opinion mattered.
     Only one remained, watching me with open curiosity. He looked to be in his late teens or was magically enhanced to appear so. He could have been a hundred for all I knew. I’d never seen him before in my life. He was handsome enough, for a commoner, even in his worn leather pants and cracked work boots. A foreigner, his hair was unruly and dark auburn, which complemented his tanned but dirt-smudged complexion, though the tall, dark stranger vibe was ruined by his piercing pale blue eyes.
     Well, I’d had enough of being a sideshow for the day. “If you’re the new gardener, the hedges are overgrown and in need of a trim.” I pointed in the direction of my father. “While you’re there, you can help the king with the wisps.”
     The young man’s expression clouded over, but he didn’t move.
     I stamped my foot and pointed more forcefully. “Off with you. Courtyard’s that way. Be sure to clean those awful boots before coming back in.”
     “Someone told me I’d find a princess of great worth here. One with the strength to be the hero this realm needs.” He stared at me with those unsettling blue eyes. They were cold, like ice water—made me shiver from head to toe. Then his gaze seemed to search even deeper. Finally, he looked through me, like I was nothing.
     In brisk steps, he strode across the marble to the courtyard. But before crossing the threshold, he turned back to glare at me with his lip curled ever so slightly. “It seems she was mistaken.”
     Just like that, I had been sifted, weighed, and found wanting.
     I felt my own lip curl in response. How rude! Who the Grimm was this peasant to judge me? I was wearing a Glenda original. Original! Not some fairy-godmother knockoff worn by those servant girls turned royal. I was a crown princess, for the love of fairy, and no one dismissed me.
     Before I could put the boy in his place—down in the dirt, where he belonged—a clatter came from behind, making me nearly jump out of my shoes. I checked and was relieved that Sterling had simply dropped his sword. By the time I looked back, the gardener was gone.
     After stowing his blade, Sterling held up his shield, not in defense of the entrance but so he could look at his reflection. “Clearly he’s blind and doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
     I didn’t ask for Sterling’s opinion, but it made me feel better.
     Until he opened his mouth again.
     “Worth, pffft. I mean, look around at all the jewels. Your palace has everything you could ever want. Honestly, I don’t know what you’re fussing about. Why would anyone want to leave?”
     Because a cage is still a cage, no matter how big or glittering the bars are.
     And I would find a way free, no matter the cost.