A story that is perfect for readers 12 and up
I’m not a fan of The Wizard of Oz (flying monkeys anyone?) but I do love my mash-up stories and Spelled by Betsy Schow promised to have plenty thrown into the mixing bowl. There are pop culture references (Wrong Direction, Hans Christian Laboutin shoes) as well as influences from Alice in Wonderland, Beauty and the Beast, Jack and the Beanstalk and even Frozen, the influences and insets are frequent and often bring a giggle. No flying monkeys from the rather insecure wicked side – no it’s a flock of flying puppies, far easier on the imagination.
Dorthea isn’t a wonderfully sweet or engaging heroine at the start of the story: she is selfish, snotty and over the top spoiled, and as the Princess of Emerald, everyone just allows her to be as horrid as she can be. All hope isn’t lost for her though, she’s given the opportunity to prove herself useful by finding her parents who, with the aid of a spell, were relocated to Kansas. Most of Dorthea’s issues stem from her boredom (she’s not particularly fun to hang out with – so she doesn’t really have friends) and her fears. See – she’s only been minimally trained in self-defense, and there are, contrary to the popular saying, more things to fear than just fear itself: trolls and gigons and dragons and even wicked witches. Yep, plenty to fear.
But, despite all of the pitfalls and only having a reluctant, tell it like it is servant Rexi who frequently injects some reality into Dorothea’s life, and her hand chosen suitor Kato the three move off to find her parents, save the Kingdom’s many ills, and most importantly, how much she really can change to put her kingdom and people first, and lose the shallow, selfish self she had hung on to for so long.
With people and events and puns mixing in frequently, driving the action forward, the characters are not particularly complex, although both Dorthea and Kato do develop an affection as the story progresses, and Dorthea does change for the better. Frequent nods to the “storyteller” give an interesting perspective from the characters, “I’m not bad, I was written this way’ sort of offhanded excuse is offered, giving the sense of a story that dropped from the air into the author’s hands, fully formed. In reality, the storyteller becomes one more element embroiled in the direction of character behavior and personalities, with everyone in the story being aware that he/she exists. A uniquely placed element, it displays yet another perspective on writing a story, while cleverly placing blame for bad acts on some other entity.
Fast paced and frequent puns, pop culture and witty moments, lovely quotes at the start of each chapter and plenty of characters and elements to keep straight, the story moves forward with a laugh, never taking itself too seriously. With an ending that really is open for more, I expect this is the first of at least two books and the lack of a love triangle or even an insta-love trope was refreshing and unique in the world of teen / tween lit. A story that is perfect for readers 12 and up who want a little different sort of tale, it’s a perfect summer read.
I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.