(Woodcutter Sisters #1)
by Alethea Kontis
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
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?
(synopsis from Goodreads)
Once upon a very long time ago, I started to read a fairytale retelling. I laughed at the absurdity. I longed to weep out of boredom. But, as all heroes must do, I persevered... and was rewarded with the worst book I've read so far this year. I will probably not live happily ever after; at least, not until I can expunge this pile of steaming goose poop from my mind.
Please, dear author, I want some more...
There's nothing I like about this book. Absolutely nothing. Well, maybe the cover... but that just rubs salt in the wound, because it's so pretty. The story is most definitely not.
It's all a matter of taste...
I hated pretty much everything about this book. The plot is all over the place. I went into it thinking it was a retelling of "The Frog Prince". But I should have known I'd be getting a lot of filler in a book of this length, as there really isn't much to that particular fairytale. While Enchanted does start out as a variation on that story, it incorporates quite a few others... and most of them come into play near the very end of the book, which makes the story seem unbalanced.
I hated all the characters because I couldn't connect to any of them. The author seems to have this phobia about emotions that she projects onto her characters. The men aren't allowed to have any (or else they're "weak"). The women's emotional displays make them look like hysterical idiots. The overall impression is one of an undercurrent of sexism. Yes, Sunday has to "rescue" her frog prince by breaking the curse. But the girls also spend quite a bit of time being rescued. More than once, the sisters have to be prevented from injuring themselves (as if they're so stupid and helpless that they can't help but damage their own bodies by accident). Because I couldn't connect to any of these silly stereotypes on an emotional level, I didn't much care what happened to them. Sunday was especially obnoxious... which is problematic, considering she's the main character. She's immature, selfish, and shallow. Rumbold, the prince, is as bland as unsalted oatmeal. I really didn't care what happened to him, because I never got to know him. I felt sorry for him once, near the end, but only because I realized he had fallen for a girl with the IQ of a turnip.
Then we've got the golden boy, Jack, who is Sunday's oldest brother. We never see him, but he is made out to be the bee's knees... even though he killed a puppy and caused Rumbold (the prince) to be cursed. Yes, Jack is so wonderful and didn't deserve anything bad. His killing of the prince's puppy is justified with the excuse that Jack's kick wouldn't have killed any other dog (as if that somehow makes it okay). This horrible specimen of humanity is actually the impetus for the whole stupid plot, as his punishment for killing the dog is to be cursed by Rumbold's fairy godmother. In response, Jack-the-puppy-killer's fairy godmother turns around and curses Rumbold! So, basically, the whole plot comes down to a pissing contest between two fairy godmothers, with a child prince caught in the middle.
There was a lot of irrelevant garbage thrown in just for padding. Like the episode with Sunday's father telling her the story of a talking cat. She interrupted the whole time, which made me want to slap her, and then the exchange ended with this little gem:
"She got another cat."
"Yes indeed," said Papa. "For the only things in this life more selfish than beautiful little girls are cats."
Sunday wrung her hands. "I'm so sorry, Papa," she said, her voice choked with invisible tears. "I am so very sorry that we never had a cat."
This, by the way, is completely irrelevant to the story. Actually, there's probably a lot that's irrelevant to the story, but the plot is so convoluted and confusing that I really can't say for sure. By the end of the story we've got people turning into swans, a princess losing her shoe, a giant and a beanstalk, and sisters with miraculous healing powers (that conveniently come about at just the right moment). It's all too much. The story lacks focus, and I spent a lot of time going back and forth in the text, checking to see if I'd missed something because I felt utterly lost.
Let's get technical...
About the only good thing I can say about Kontis's writing is that she doesn't use a ton of said bookisms or comma splices. But that's about it. Her prose is purple. It tries so hard to be flowery that it comes across as forced... and really, really twee. On top of all that, the editing (in my Kindle edition, anyway) was absolutely appalling. There are typos all over the place. I think there was even a missing paragraph break at one point, which really threw me.
Some of the language is inappropriate for the genre. I don't like seeing modern terms in old-fashioned fantasies. Words like "workaholic" and "lover boy" just don't belong in a fairy tale. I was also thrown by the characters' use of phrases like "Our Lady of Perpetual Shadow", which seems to smack of Catholicism... while subsequently making references to their multiple gods.
And there was also this annoying thing that the author did, where I continually felt disoriented, like I'd been dropped into a new scene in the middle of the previous one. She'd mention something as if it had already been mentioned before, and then I'd spend the next few minutes scanning the previous pages, trying to figure out where the scene was taking place or what had already happened or even who was in the same room (because it wasn't always clear). This made for one exhausted reader.
I am baffled as to how this book got published in the first place. It's the weakest fairytale retelling I've read so far, with a confusing plot, unlikeable characters, weak pacing, and more technical problems than I care to think about. Stay far away from this book... unless you want a really great example of how not to retell a fairytale.
There would be songs sung about this night, and stories told around fires for generations to come. Sunday would have wished herself into them if she thought she had half a chance of being remembered.
Overall Rating: 0.38 out of 5 ladybugs