First in a series
By Betsy Schow
Available now from Sourcebooks Fire
Read an excerpt
When you see the cover, you might think SPELLED is a Cinderella story; however, it is a fractured fairytale version of The Wizard of Oz. It draws from both the original novel and the movie adaptation, down to Dorthea wearing a pair of ruby and silver heels. She's a rather spoiled princess who makes an unwise wish that banishes her parents and starts unraveling the magic of her land. Together with the prince she's been betrothed to against her will and a servant girl, she must defeat the evil witch and restore the land's magic.
Oz fans will enjoy seeing familiar situations twisted into something new, particularly when it comes to the ways water might defeat someone. I did feel that Betsy Schow never came up with something quite as twisted for her telling as L. Frank Baum. For all their whimsy, the original Oz books were chock-full of the stuff from nightmares.
I liked how Dorthea, Kato, and Rexi grew throughout the story. All three of them rise to the challenges they face (often from the sidelines for the practical Rexi). I also liked that SPELLED didn't make it all about Dorthea needing to be less spoiled and Kato and Rexi's first impression being right. Dorthea is definitely spoiled, but she also has good instincts and cares about people. She's not someone who writes others off as collateral damage. Nor is she someone who kills easily, even when given reason and power to do so. It was fun to watch her grow into more of the best person she could be.
SPELLED is a fast-paced book with one adventure happening after another. True to the source, that. It reaches a mostly satisfying conclusion, until you read the epilogue setting up the next book. They've still got a long way to go to save the world, and I look forward to seeing how this rag-tag trio does it.
SPELLED will appeal to fans of modern fairytale retellings and other modern takes on classic literature like the Splintered series by A.G. Howard. It's a book with a nice balance of plot, character development, and romance. Schow's debut young adult novel is a good 'un.