Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Book Review: Spelled

Title: Spelled  

Series: The Storytellers #1

Author: Betsy Schow

Genre: Fairy Tales, Teen, YA 

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars 

I finished reading this book about 3 days ago and I already feel like I've forgotten and don't care about more than half of what happened in it... so I’ve dropped from 3 to 2 stars. 

It wasn't a total disaster... so let's start with the good and work up to the not so good. 

The ok things

1) The absolute best part was not part of the story at all! They are these little snippets of cheeky quotes from well-known fairy tale characters (like Jack or Jill, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, etc.) in biography style or self-help fairy tale books. They are really witty and clever in many cases.

For example: “‘The Rule of Apology: Being royal means never having to say you're sorry.’ - Thomason's Tips to Ruthless Ruling”


“‘If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.’ - Gretel from Candy Kills: A True Story”

2) There are a couple clever takes on fairy tale characters and stories in Spelled. Betsy Schow has clearly read ALL the stories we all love. She even references a few obscure stories that I really appreciated! 


3) It’s witty. If you want to hear crazy witty comebacks or the driest of all sarcasm then you've come to the right place!

The meh things

1) The overall storyline was just okay. It wasn't that it was bad; but it just wasn't compelling enough (more on this in bad things below). 

2) Our lead gal is a bit naive. And while I can accept that this is meant to be a 'coming of age' novel for her (and that she's never left the castle) it feels a bit too forced for me. 

The ugh things

Here's the long list... 

1) This story should be interesting... but instead it's just so boring. I mean sooo boring. From approximately page 75 or so forward I just didn't care anymore. By the end they could have all blown up and I wouldn't have minded. Just nothing to connect me to the characters or their plight. 

2) Speaking of personalities... when everyone is the same type of witty, snarky, sarcastic character it gets old, fast. I realize that the prince was perhaps not as bad as the others but he still didn't charm me like I think he should have. 

3) The annoying fairy, pet, thing that hangs out with our lead gal is just that, annoying. Give me Toto back please (he certainly talked a lot less and was a lot cuter). 

4) Swearing. I know it seems cute to replace god with Grimm and hell with spell; but when your characters use the terms a lot it just gets tiresome. Maybe if Dorthea didn't say "What in the spell" every two chapters I would have been okay; but it's appeal got old fast.

5) An overdose of cuteness. When the writing tone wasn’t sassy it was overly cute and cliche. I’d compare it to the type of eye-roll drama and lame lines you expect when you read paranormal romance. Just because your genre is connected to a cliche does not mean you should write just like that cliche. 

6) The writing was sub-par. I had to force myself to pick this book up and pretend to care. I honestly should have DNF'd it; but I kept waiting for the amazingness that so many have raved about. I just didn't find it (except in the chapter quotes).

My ultimate pet-peeve

7) It seems that 95% of the fairy tales referenced (before it all gets cursed) are the versions we all know. Belle and the Beast, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, etc. So how come the story of Oz is all messed up! I never understood how our lead gal, Dorthea, could in anyway be Dorothy or was connected to Dorothy except for her shoe obsession (roll eyes) and the fact that she’s sheltered. And it’s not just her, every Oz character was seemingly turned into someone else and named. Like Schow didn't have to actually develop a new character or come up with unique names if she ripped them all off. As a big Wizard of Oz fan this really bugged me. Although... at least a house did fall on someone.


I definitely wouldn't re-read Spelled and I think there's just so much better 'updated' or 'pseudo' fairy tale writing out there for teens. 

Book 2 sounds like a lot more of the same boring characters and crap so I'm definitely skipping it. However... Book 3 has a different premise (our lead gal) Dorthea ends up in our world... maybe there is some merit there and maybe Schow got better at writing by her third book? I’m not going to hold my breath... 


Sandra B. said...

That's too bad. Spelled has been in my to-read pile for awhile, and I'll get to it eventually, but I'm not in a hurry.

Leonore Winterer said...

I guess with so many fairytale adoptions (how interesting that Oz counts as a fairytale already! But then Beauty and the Beast isn't Grimm'sh as well, so how are they all connected in a world where God is Grimm? Now I've gone and confused myself...) we really get to sugar pick the ones that are really good. Although I'm always glad when authors reference a few of the lesser known stories as well :)
That thing about the personalities all mushing together seems to be an issue with new/not (yet) so good authors often. I guess it's difficult to seperate your characters personalties from your own (or rather, I think, how you would like to see your own personality), and overly snarky/sarcastic is just the way to go for cool (if not to say mary-sue-ish) characters these days.
You know, since I started to read your reviews I've become much more critical of what I read as well! I can still enjoy a book, but I also see the flaws more clearly, although sometimes I will just love a book despite its obvious flaws. I'm not good at subjective rating yet ;)