Enchanted (Alethea Kontis)

February 18, 2015 Book Reviews 6 ★★★★

Enchanted (Alethea Kontis)Enchanted by Alethea Kontis
Series: Woodcutter Sisters #1
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on 2012
Genres: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, YA (Young Adult)
Pages: 308
Format: Paperback
Source: the library
Goodreads
four-stars

It isn’t easy being the rather overlooked and unhappy youngest sibling to sisters named for the other six days of the week. Sunday’s only comfort is writing stories, although what she writes has a terrible tendency to come true.

When Sunday meets an enchanted frog who asks about her stories, the two become friends. Soon that friendship deepens into something magical. One night Sunday kisses her frog goodbye and leaves, not realizing that her love has transformed him back into Rumbold, the crown prince of Arilland—and a man Sunday’s family despises.

The prince returns to his castle, intent on making Sunday fall in love with him as the man he is, not the frog he was. But Sunday is not so easy to woo. How can she feel such a strange, strong attraction for this prince she barely knows? And what twisted secrets lie hidden in his past—and hers?

Enchanted is a wonderful and wildly original reframing of several fairytales, stitched together into a tapestry that reminded me at various times of Patricia McKillip, Shannon Hale, and Jessica Day George. Kontis’s prose is sometimes lyrical, sometimes matter-of-fact, and shot through with flashes of humor and beauty; it always seems to suit the scene or moment.

Her main characters, Sunday and Rumbold, have more depth and the plot has far more complexity than in a traditional fairytale, but Kontis still maintains the fairytale tone and appeal. Magic in this world doesn’t follow rules, it just is, which only adds to the sense of mystery and enchantment. There is darkness here, as in all good fairytales, and it’s not glossed over. Even the good isn’t always what it seems or wants to be: Sunday’s mother’s magic is more curse than blessing, for instance, and the fairy godmother can’t always step in to save the heroine.

I loved the whole book, from Sunday and Rumbold to the secondary characters, who are less developed but equally interesting. I want to know more about Trix, the Woodcutters’ changeling son, for instance, and Saturday is clearly destined for her own book. (She got it, too – it’s Hero. Friday stars in Dearest, released this month. Reviews of both books to come.)

As you’ve probably gathered by now, the Woodcutter sisters are named for the days of the week, and their natures follow the traditional rhyme:

Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace,
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go,
Friday’s child is loving and giving
Saturday’s child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonnie and blithe and good and gay.

In addition to the rhyme, Kontis incorporates bits and pieces of “The Frog Prince” and “Jack and the Beanstalk”, along with several other less-well-known fairytales. There are tangential references to Cinderella; Thursday is a pirate queen (see “far to go” above); and the missing Jack, the eldest brother, seems to have accumulated quite a few of the “Jack” folk- and fairytales around his name over the years.

But it’s Sunday and Rumbold, together and separately, who take center stage, and their story delights, enthralls, and ultimately satisfies. Kontis knows how to spin a tale: I devoured the book in two sittings, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequels!

 

 

four-stars

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • 2014 TBR Pile Reading Challenge

6 Responses to “Enchanted (Alethea Kontis)”

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      This is excellent, and more original than many retellings. I hesitate to call it a retelling; it draws on and refers to a number of fairy tales, but isn’t a strict retelling of any of them.