{Review} BESPHINXED by Alethea Kontis

O P E N I N G   L I N E:

  Unlike the preternaturally gorgeous nymphs and mermaids and shifters at Harmswood, Heather had to actually work at being beautiful. As a witch, she could have just whipped up a simple glamour for the evening, but that sort of unapproved shellwork wasn't allowed at school. Plus, since the whole Nashville incident--when she'd accidentally cursed Kai Xanthopoulos's stupid wolf boyfriend, long before he even was Kai's stupid wolf boyfriend--the administration was watching Heather like hawks. She couldn't pull the "forgiveness instead of permission" card like she had in the past. With all these limitations imposed upon her, it was excruciating work to maintain an ordinary level of beauty and attention, never mind an extraordinary one.

(pg. 9, US e-ARC edition)

"For the first time ever, Heather felt as though it might be possible to survive in the maelstrom of her life without being torn apart. And in order for that possibility to remain, she needed to stay alive."

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Last year, Kristen Painter announced that she'd opened up her Nocturne Falls Universe and that various authors would dabble in the world with new original offerings. I wasn't sure what to make of this, especially since I'd never read the original NF titles. But I love Alethea Kontis, and I was willing to give it a try. I'm so glad I did! THE TRUTH ABOUT CATS AND WOLVES stood on its own and introduced me to a world of new characters. WHEN TINKER MET BELL was even better, and blends the contemporary with the fantastic in a way that made my heart sing and want to read more from Kontis right away--which always happens when I finish one of her books. I've been heavily anticipating the release of another book in the line, and when I found out about BESPHINXED, I was excited to get it in my hands!

While it's true that you don't have to read the books in order and they all stand on their own, I'll warn you now that BESPHINXED spoils two huge plot elements from THE TRUTH ABOUT CATS AND WOLVES. If you want to go into the first book blind and let a couple small mysteries unfurl, you may not want to read this one first. In fact, you may not even want to keep reading this review, or even a summary of BESPHINXED, because the very characters are spoilers.

So read on at your own peril!

When I heard that the main characters in BESPHINXED were Owen and Heather, I was really surprised. Heather, really? Evil, horrible Heather? Kai's mortal enemy? The witch who cursed Finn? Was I suddenly supposed to LIKE her??? Yes, readers, yes we are. But that's one of the beautiful things about Alethea Kontis. She can take a character you HATED and expose her flaws and walk her onto a redemptive path and suddenly you find yourself caring about that character and what becomes of her. I went into the book ready to give Horrible Heather a chance. I walked out of it happy I had.

Heather is the most popular girl at school, the trend-setter, the one everyone else revolves around...and she knows it. When she finds herself drawn to Owen, the best friend of her mortal enemy Kai, she's afraid of what it would mean for her reputation if she were to indulge in her own wishes and stop caring so much about what everyone else thinks. Owen is similarly worried about his feelings for Heather, only he's more concerned about how it will upset his best friend Kai. When a descendant of Arachne comes to town and threatens Owen, who was cursed into a cat's body by the original Arachne, Heather and Owen must team up and find a way to keep Kai's dangerous Fury feather out of her hands before it's too late.

WHEN TINKER MET BELL is still my favorite of the three books so far, but I've enjoyed reading them all. I really like the way BESPHINXED has a lot of resolution from the first book and comes full-circle. I also like the way we find out more about Heather's strange little cameo from WTMB. Like WTMB, BESPHINXED takes place at school. This time around, I found myself missing the glimpses of the strange Nocturne Falls citizens who have the wool pulled over their eyes every day and hope that the next book will involve a local again. And oh, how I wish there will be more books! The feeling of coming full-circle has me worried there won't be. There are so many characters that I suddenly want to know more about, like Heather's friend Poppy, like Ace and his mystery ghost, and of course, Maya is the only one from the initial friend group to still be matched up. At the same time, I start to get antsy after a while when ALL the friends in a group get matched up and live "happily ever after" because it's not true-to-life. Everyone doesn't find their match at the same time--especially as teens--and stay together. So I almost want to see future books focus on other teens in the school or in town that we don't know as well. Then again, I'll be happy with anything Kontis writes, because I always enjoy her books so much!

I really liked that this book focused more on mythology and answered a lot of questions I had early on in the series. Although I will say--if you are arachnophobic like I am, there is a battle scene that is NOT NICE! ^.~ There was also a really cool element revolving around Heather and a voice in her head that I can't touch much on because SPOILERS.

I should give you one last warning for when you go into BESPHINXED: You're going to need to have chocolate chip cookies on hand or else you'll have a fierce craving and no cookies to satisfy that need!

New to the world of Alethea Kontis?

I've previously reviewed ENCHANTEDHERODEAREST, TRIXTER, and TRIX AND THE FAERIE QUEEN, as well as her novella BLOOD & WATER, and chatted about Snow Whites role in ENCHANTED. From the Nocturne Falls Universe, I've reviewed both THE TRUTH ABOUT CATS AND WOLVES and WHEN TINKER MET BELL.

I've most recently reviewed her YA contemporary FISH OUT OF WATER, and Mandy has reviewed her YA horror novel HAVEN, KANSAS and had Alethea over for a guest post on how making horror movies helped give her the foundation to write HAVEN!

Alethea Kontis has also stopped by A Backwards Story several times to talk about her books, fairy tales, mermaids, and more because she's awesome like that! *loves her*

a flash fiction piece entitled "Well Behaved Mermaids Rarely Make Fairy Tales,"
a guest post on "Families in Fiction,"
and a guest post entitled "I Dedicate This Post to You!"

She's also shared two of her famous fairy tale rant videos, one about Rapunzel and one about Cinderella and how it inspired her novel ENCHANTED!

Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: G ( kissing )

Language:  G ( One "crapfest" and a couple of craps. )
Violence:  G ( The villain battle is tame and the injuries aren't bloody ones )
Other: --
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

These covers are really cute, though because of the branding, they remind me more of cozy mystery massmarkets than they do a YA fantasy. But that's the brand, and it's still really cute!

This cover doesn't fit the story quite as well as the other two, but I love that the image is of a witch and a cat on a broomstick because she's a witch and he's a cat-shifter!

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Alethea Kontis
Release Date: February 14, 2017
Publisher: Sugar Skull Books

Heather Hayden has everything a young witch could desire: beauty, money, popularity, and exceptionally strong magical powers. Too bad she’s also got a dysfunctional family that couldn’t care less about her and a Head Witch who’s watching her every move. Heather has no idea what she wants. But she’s pretty sure it’s not some low-rent cat shifter boy from goddess-knows-where, despite the fact that their paths keep crossing again and again…and again. 

Owen Liddell is in big trouble. A hundred years ago, a descendant of Arachne tricked him into staring into the eyes of the Great Sphinx, leaving him bespelled into the form a cat. Now Arachne’s sisters have found him again and placed one of their own as a substitute teacher at Harmswood. And if that weren’t bad enough, destiny got involved, tangling his heart up with the most popular witch in school: his best friend Kai’s sworn enemy. 

Can Owen escape the evil spider sisters, thwart the spell, rescue the girl, save his friendship and pass his finals all before Zombie Prom? It seems unlikely. But unlikely things are known to happen in Nocturne Falls… 

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