By: Betsy Schow
Release Date: June 2nd 2015
*Beware: Spoilers ahead!*
Fairy Tale Survival Rule #32: If you find yourself at the mercy of a wicked witch, sing a romantic ballad and wait for your Prince Charming to save the day.
Yeah, no thanks. Dorthea is completely princed out. Sure being the crown princess of Emerald has its perks—like Glenda Original ball gowns and Hans Christian Louboutin heels. But a forced marriage to the brooding prince Kato is so not what Dorthea had in mind for her enchanted future.
Talk about unhappily ever after.
Trying to fix her prince problem by wishing on a (cursed) star royally backfires, leaving the kingdom in chaos and her parents stuck in some place called “Kansas.” Now it’s up to Dorthea and her pixed off prince to find the mysterious Wizard of Oz and undo the curse…before it releases the wickedest witch of all and spells The End for the world of Story.
All Princess Dorthea needs is a prince…to slay a dragon, that is. As far she’s concerned, once the curse on all the royal women of the Emerald Kingdom is broken, the prince can pix off and leave her to her Glenda Original ball gowns and Hans Christian Louboutin heels. So when her parents arrange for her to marry the rude and hygienically-disinclined prince Kato (whom she’s not truly convinced is a prince at all), Dorthea makes one innocent wish to change her fate…and ends up breaking the rules of her fairy-tale realm and throwing her world into chaos. Now it’s up to Dorthea (in her fabulous silver heels), her prince (who’s been transformed into some sort of puppy with wings), and a kitchen maid (who spent the last day as a frog) to find a way to reverse the curse and stop the Gray Witch from releasing an ancient evil, one that would bring a permanent end to everyone’s Happily Ever After.
Just FYI, this is how I pictured Dorthea: self-centered, mildly disgusted with most of the world, and always well dressed. Previews for Inside Out were constantly showing when I read Spelled and the image just wormed its way into my brain. Funny enough, the comparison went even further once Dorthea went all “Flame on!” and ended up with green hair.
Dorthea is the epitome of spoiled brat. Her personality would be bad enough in anyone, but Dorthea is a princess, which makes her royally spoiled. It was hard for me to like Dorthea at first, although as her circumstances were explained, I was sympathetic to her imprisonment. It wasn’t her fault that her family’s curse has trapped her inside and away from fire her entire life. Right at the beginning, we see Dorthea taking advantage of a loophole in her curse to finally get some fresh air—and taking advantage of an air-headed prince to slay a ‘dragon.’ I love loopholes. They always equal lots of trouble but lots of fun, and this one was no exception. Unfortunately, Dorthea’s parents manage to put a stop to her escape, and to top it off, they break the news that they’ve arranged for Dorthea to marry the filthy, rude gardener. Except he’s not the gardener. He’s Prince Kato, ruler of a neighboring kingdom, and an alliance between he and Dorthea is needed for the protection of the entire realm of Story. This is too much for Dorthea, and frankly, I don’t blame her. She’s lost her last hope of ever going outside and now she has to marry this unhygienic, smart-mouthed jerk? I can totally forgive Dorthea her temper tantrum and for wishing that things could be different.
Unfortunately, Dorthea’s wish comes true, and the rules of magic go up in smoke, leaving everything upside down and backwards. Her parents are gone, an evil witch has taken the throne, and Dorthea is on the run for her life. Of course, since it was her wish that changed everything in the first place, it’s her job to change everything back. She’s joined by her fiancée, now a little fur ball of a chimera, and a servant girl, Rexi, as they make their way across Story to find the spring over the rainbow and save the day.
As far as character development goes, Dorthea does a lot of growing up during their journey, although she doesn’t lose her appreciation for fancy footwear. She learns that there’s more to life than gossip magazines and expensive ballgowns, and she puts herself on the line more than once to save her companions. Once she gains her fire power (courtesy of her family’s curse), she learns self-control, which is required if she wants to avoid fulfilling the prophecy and torching the world. Dorthea also learns to accept that everyone is different and that those differences make every person special. Well, she at least learns to accept Kato and Rexi, who are as different from Dorthea as possible. I liked the ever-evolving relationship between Dorthea and Kato. They go from being betrothed but hating each other to being reluctant partners to finally being betrothed and in love. Despite the introduction of their romance early in the story, it’s never shoved in your face. The trio’s journey to fix magic is more important than the impending and unwanted nuptials, and it’s only really at the end that the two royals admit their feelings for one another. And that’s when we see a side-effect of the still broken rules of magic: every time the couple kisses, the prince transforms back and forth between his human and chimera forms. That’ll make for an interesting happy ever after.
And speaking of HEAs, this book takes fairytales to the next level. Dozens of different fairytales are referenced, most obviously the Wizard of Oz. Practically everything is an allusion to Oz, although this time, the green witch is one of the good guys. The chapter titles are all fairytale related, and each chapter begins with a rule from the guide to being a proper princess or a quote from a fairytale character or a tip from the fairytale survival guide. Each one is cute and clever and adds a little extra magic to the story. Even the cursing has been fairytale-fied: what the spell, pix off, what in Grimm’s name. Some people complained that these phrases were annoying, but I thought it made Dorthea’s world that much more believable and also kept things decidedly PG. And like every fairytale, Spelled has the quintessential battle of good versus evil. Yes, we have the wicked witches who are responsible for Dorthea’s family curse in the first place and are now on a mission to destroy the world—you know, typical fairytale villain fare. More interestingly, though, we also have Dorthea’s internal struggle with her new powers. The fire power she’s been cursed with is powerful—more powerful than anything they’ve ever seen—and it takes all her willpower not to cross over to the Dark side and let her power control her. It wouldn’t take much effort for her to become a powerful villain, but Dorthea fights to remain a hero, which shows us that her heart’s in the right place, no matter how spoiled she may be.
So is this a book that will change your life? Not likely. Will this book make you smile and cringe and laugh and roll your eyes and sigh? Spells yes. Any fan of the Wizard of Oz or of fairytales in general will find this read delightfully fun. And the ending sets up for a sequel, so I’ll look forward to watching Dorthea create more craziness in her fairytale kingdom and grow into a young woman worthy of one day becoming queen.
• “True love is like a stalactite meeting a stalagmite. Complete opposites, but with time, calcium, and a healthy drip system, they meet in the middle. Or one crushes the other. It really depends.”
• “I always put tracking spells in all your shoes because they’re the only thing I can count on you handing on to with your last breath.”