By Suzanne Selfors
Published: August 21, 2012
Publisher: Walker Childrens
Hardcover, 416 pages
Emmeline Thistle, a dirt-scratcher's daughter, has escaped death twice-first, on the night she was born, and second, on the day her entire village was swept away by flood. Left with nothing and no one, Emmeline discovers her rare and mysterious ability-she can churn milk into chocolate, a delicacy more precious than gold.
Suddenly, the most unwanted girl in Anglund finds herself desired by all. But Emmeline only wants one-Owen Oak, a dairyman's son, whose slow smiles and lingering glances once tempted her to believe she might someday be loved for herself. But others will stop at nothing to use her gift for their own gains-no matter what the cost to Emmeline.
Magic and romance entwine in this fantastical world where true love and chocolate conquer all. --Goodreads
In a terribly deprived world without chocolate, lies a fairy tale waiting to be discovered. The name of this fairy tale is The Sweetest Spell, and with it comes the yumminess and unsurprising taste of chocolate within the plot. Translation: Nothing really special, but enjoyable nonetheless.
Now, I'm going back to the normal talk. Chocolate language is exhausting, as well as describing The Sweetest Spell. As a retelling of the Ugly Duckling, it doesn't really deviate far from the ugly duckling besides the fact that Emmeline is not ugly but has a foot problem. That's where it kind of ends. Instead of focusing on physical beauty, this book focuses on the physical product that is produced by physical means. Confusing, I know. Basically, poor Emmeline is a useless thing until her chocolate comes out. Then she's now the idol of the world. Although it's distasteful to read this, it is realistic, so points for that!
However, it isn't exactly clear what the point of this story is. Is it to say that everyone's special in their own way? Is it to explore the greediness of humanity? There are a ton of people who were totally trying to mooch off the chocolate (which I don't blame them for). Of course there were characters who are exceptions to this generalization that outshone the protagonists by a long shot. They are the people who kept me hooked to The Sweetest Spell, not the whiny little star-crossed couple who had some weird moon-eyed relationship that couldn't see beyond day 1. It's unsurprising now to see insta-love, but that doesn't give any author an excuse for it. Not even you, Shakespeare (You have to admit, it's all his fault with R+J).
My main problem with this book was its lack of originality. Yes, the whole chocolate blah was unique. Then the plot twists come to try to force the reader to go "OMG." Unfortunately, it doesn't really work out that way. Sorry, but there are always people who will be able to figure out something from day one. Maybe people should stop stressing the points in the stories that are going to turn out to be the surprises. It makes it so obvious it's worth crying for! Sheesh people! We're spending time reading stuff that we could've just skipped to the end for!
As usual, it's important to note that The Sweetest Spell is not a "bad" book. There's just a lack of creativity that allows it to outshine the other retellings already out there. Otherwise, the writing is splendid and magical. Entrancing, Suzanne Selfors excels in spinning her tales out with the vigor that many authors lack. With The Sweetest Spell, Selfors churns a chocolate treat that will brighten the day up with its smooth and caramel consistency (if you can figure out what that means).