Review Courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales
Quick & Dirty: This first installment of the Kendra Chronicles has some interesting, if unsatisfying, retellings of classic fairy tales.
Opening Sentence: If you read fairy tales, and who doesn't, you might believe there are witches all over the place-witches baking children into gingerbread, making princesses sleep for hundreds of years, even turning normal boys into hideous beasts to teach them a lesson.
Mis-marketing might be the biggest problem with this book. After reading the synopsis you might think this story is going to be about Kendra, the badass witch we've met in Alex Flinn's other books. After the first 45 pages, it's not. It becomes a montage of Kendra's other curses and spells gone wrong. Some of them are pretty funny, if not clever, but with the exception of Lisette and Emma's story nothing was very engaging. We weren't given enough time to like the characters, much less care about them. I think the series is supposed to be more about Kendra's life, with little snippets provided in each book. Personally, I don't like it. I don't really like Kendra in this, and though it's supposedly her story, she's not the main character. After the short story about her beginnings as a witch at the start of the story, we really only get paragraphs from her perspective.
Hansel and Gretel transforms into Kendra's own story, but other's featured are Little Mermaid, Princess and the Pea, and most prominently Cinderella. Lisette and Emma's Cinderella story is broken up between Kendra's retelling of her other fairy tale mishaps. Except here, Kendra epically fails at playing fairy godmother-to Emma, the step-sister. Both girls are in high school, and Emma's lived with her step-father since she was three. Lisette's mother just died, and her father takes her in. He's really sweet, loves Emma like she was his own, but is very excited to have Lisette living with them. Emma's excited to-at first. She's always wanted a sister, she's never really had a best friend. Emma is a great narrator for this upside-down fairy tale. She's quirky, loving, wants to see the best in people, and she's really smart.
Kendra, on the other hand, is not a character you end up feeling sympathetic towards, though Flinn certainly tried. She's just a snarky centuries old witch who chooses to relive high school and meddle in other people's lives-no matter how horrendously her previous exploits have gone. She's funny and insightful, but she's also vengeful and a little stupid-not a good combination. But as I said, she's not the main character; she's just retelling all her exploits to the reader.
The conversation of this book really kept it moving for me, because honestly everything else was a little blah or rage inducing. The blah factor comes in because we don't get a chance to like the characters. I really liked Beastly, Flinn's Beauty and the Beast book, and would probably have liked her retellings of these stories if they had been less two-dimensional, if she had more pages to develop the characters. The Little Mermaid retelling happens post-Titanic sinking chaos, which was so cool, until she reached the end of Doria's story and I wanted to strangle something or someone. There was nothing technically wrong with it, which my grammar-oriented self appreciated greatly. It's the narrative format that makes it easy to read, and I did like Emma a lot because she sounded like the kind of girl I'd have been friends with in high school.
This brings me to how this book made me feel, which was horrendous. The theme throughout the novel was "If you don't have a boy, your life isn't worth anything." I wish I could say I was exaggerating. The only character who isn't portrayed as pathetic without a boyfriend is Kendra-who is described as pathetically lonely. So while this book fulfills the characteristics of a romance, it is horrendously degrading to teenage girls. It was a really easy read, and it was a relatively short book, but even the fairy tale aspect-which I usually adore-isn't enough to make me recommend this book.
This Kendra Chronicles Series:
FTC Advisory: Harper Teen provided me with a copy of Bewitching. No goody bags, sponsorships, "material connections," or bribes were exchanged for my review.