The Sweetest Spell

First Lines: I was born a dirt-scratcher’s daughter.  I had no say in the matter.  No one asked, “Wouldn’t you rather be born to a cobbler or a bard?  How about a nobleman or a king?  Are you certain that dirt-scratching is the right job for you?”

On Goodreads, I constantly make a random list of 20 books that I want to give higher priority to reading.  There’s not really much of a reason for this except it gives me a goal.  And a lot of times, I end up reading books I would have forgotten about otherwise.  Like this book.

As a dirt-scratcher, Emmeline’s life has been far from easy.  But still, she’s managed to avoid death twice.  The first was as a newborn baby and the second was after her entire town was washed away in a flood.  Alone, Emmeline struggles to find what to do with herself and accidentally discovers she can turn cream into chocolate, a sweet more precious than gold.  Now, everyone wants Emmeline when just months before, she was the most unwanted girl in all of Anglund.  But all Emmeline wants is Owen Oak, the dairyman’s son.  His kindness and slow smiles made her believe someone could love her for her.  None of this matters, though, if Emmeline falls into the wrong hands.  They care only about the chocolate, not the cost…no matter what it does to Emmeline.

So I heard that this was a retelling of The Ugly Duckling.  I can see that, and this book absolutely has a fairy tale feel to it, but it never really seemed like it was that close to the source material.  Of course, Emmeline isn’t actually a duckling so…

I really liked that this did feel like a fairy tale.  It feels like it’s been a while since I’ve found a fairy tale I could really fall into.  (I just read Cruel Beauty like a week ago, but they feel completely different in tone.)  This had all kinds of typical fairy tale lore, magic, and sweetness (chocolate!) that I associate with fairy tales.  You know, the sanitized ones, not the Grimm ones.  Anyway, it was a nice break from what I have been reading lately.

I think the premise is really cool.  I loved the idea of chocolate being worth something more than gold.  (Some days in my house, that feels like the truth.)  The story was mostly just fun and lighthearted, even though there were moments of seriousness in it. I flew through it.

There were some issues, though.  Some of the characters felt stereotyped.  The “villains” in particular.  They were one-dimensional and cliched.  I didn’t really know what to do about that.

Also, I started losing interest in the story somewhere around the halfway point.  It had my interest right up until that point and then I felt like it lost its magic.  The pace started to slog and I’d take frequent breaks before I came back to read again.  That kept up for a while before I finally got into it again for the ending.

Overall, it’s a cute fairy tale read.  There’s just not a whole lot of depth to the story.

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