Enchanted by Alethea Kontis
Release Date: May 8, 2012
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: Fantasy, fairy tales, princes & princesses, family drama
Format read: ARC received from HMH! (Thanks!)
Summary: With hopes of leading an interesting life, Sunday never would have known that befriending a frog in the forest would give her just that. Distraught when her frog disappears, Sunday has no way of knowing that he has transformed back into Prince Rumbold, someone her family is not too fond of. Nor does she know that the announcement of three balls could mean the prince is on the search for her, his one true love.
Even though I mostly read contemporary fiction, I like to think of myself as an open-minded reader. (Hey, I’m finally reading Divergent!) As a huge fan of fairy tales, I thought picking up Enchanted would be a nice way to transition into reading more of the fantasy genre. Based on The Princess and the Frog, one of my favorite stories (I used to love Faerie Tale Theatre’s The Frog Prince too), I couldn’t wait to see how this retelling translated on the page.
Main character Sunday is a writer and a dreamer who meets a frog named Grumble one day in the forest. As they spend more time together (him eager to hear stories of her family), feelings develop, she kisses him and soon he disappears. And here is where the conflict arises. Sunday is heartbroken over her missing frog friend and Grumble is actually Prince Rumbold, an enemy of Sunday’s family. Even though he is aware of this “minor” detail, Rumbold is set on finding Sunday and spending the rest of his life with her.
Love story? Semi, instant love but check! Family drama? Double check!
So here we have a sort of Cinderella story with other well-known tales woven through like Sleeping Beauty, Rumpelstiltskin, Jack and the Beanstalk, and many others. While it was nice to encounter familiar tales, I’m not sure including all of them was the best choice in a book that already contained a lot of story. The history/secrets of Sunday’s family were one plotline, as well as Rumbold’s own back story which included much drama (and horror) regarding his father, the King. Plus, there were many supporting characters, which at times caused me to flip back through the pages so I could be reminded of who they were and how they connected to the story.
Kontis is a beautiful writer. She has created a majestic world with gorgeous imagery but too much time was spent on developing that background and not enough on the characters. (This also slowed down the pacing of the book and made me feel frustrated as a reader. I wanted to get to the meat of the story.) While I liked Sunday, she wasn’t multi-dimensional. There were only a few times when I felt what she was feeling. (Surprisingly, her affections for Grumble when he was a frog, this unattainable thing, felt very realistic.) Mostly, I would have loved to read more dialogue. When there was dialogue, it was delightful, funny, and quirky, and gave me true insight into these characters. The scenes I truly enjoyed were between Rumbold and his men (the banter was great) and also Sunday and her “brother” Trix. In addition, not enough attention was paid to key moments in the story and the impact was lost, like when Sunday’s aunt rolls into town with revelations about their family and we are told about it in passing afterwards. I wanted to be IN that moment and maybe then I would have felt more linked to these characters and their stories.
I wonder if Enchanted would have worked better as a multi-book series so more time could have been focused on each of Sunday’s siblings (such fascinating stories!) and this later storyline that pops up with Rumbold’s father. Again, I don’t want to reveal too much but I felt this storyline could have been planted from the beginning instead of just appearing toward the end. I feared, even after the book started at a turtle’s pace and maintained it pretty much throughout, that the ending would come too quickly. And it did.
Mostly I feel Kontis’ strengths as a writer were not utilized in the right way and if they had been, I might be writing an entirely different review.
Despite this, Enchanted did a number of things that I liked. In ways it felt like an organic fairy tale – comparable to Ever After where most characters get to really be themselves instead of a figment of what royalty or a princess-to-be should be. Instead of Grumble morphing right back into a strapping young prince, he is weak once he transforms and struggles to get back to where he used to be (although with a nicer heart). Even though it is based on a story (or stories) that most people know, these were details that made Enchanted unique.
Have you read Enchanted? I would love to hear your thoughts and also any other reading suggestions in the fantasy arena.