Saturday, September 22, 2012

How Else Could It Be, Anyone Would Notice Me

Published: August 21st, 2012
The Sweetest Spell
By: Suzanne Selfors
Walker Children's Books
ISBN-13: 9780802723765

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.


    Emmeline Thistle has a shameful heritage - she is descended from the Kells, invaders of the land of Anglund, who killed a beloved Queen in a bid to take over the land (or so all the Flatlander descendants have been led to believe) and as such were banished to the  most uninhabitable tracts of land found, that flooded easily and were a harsh place to grow crops.  Due to the fight for survival, Emmeline's people are known as dirt-scratchers and have a harsh, physically demanding life.  Which is why when she was born with a twisted foot, she was put next to the woods to be taken by predators.  But the cows of the village saved her and ever since she's had a special bond with them.  Emmeline is ostracized because of her deformity and called a witch because of the cows, so she thinks marriage is just a dream.  But at the yearly marriage market her Father and all the unmarried men are taken by the King to supposedly fight in a war (they are not allowed to leave the Flatlands unless summoned).  That night a rain starts and within a few days the village of Root is washed away in a flood, taking Emmeline down the river with it and into adventure.  When Emmeline discovers that she has a magical talent, it puts her very life in jeopardy.  Will she be able to find love and freedom when almost everyone only values her for her gifts?  And can she find freedom for the rest of the Dirt-Scratchers from the nefarious purposes they are being forced to serve?  I was wary about this, because I didn't see how churning butter into chocolate could be all that interesting - boy was I wrong!  I love that the book starts out with Emmeline explaining how she was cast out and the cows saved her.  I love that she is such a strong willed girl, even though the other villagers treat her horribly and speaking out just gets her more ridicule.  Never once does she just sit down in defeat.  Emmeline is always fighting to survive and more than that, to be free.  When she's saved by Owen Oak, son of a dairyman, from dying on the riverbank where she washes up it really shows the distinctions between the Flatlanders (a.k.a. dirtscratchers) and the rest of Anglund's people.  They're viewed to be barbarians and no better than animals.  Emmeline blooms when the oaks treat her as an equal, even after they discover her gift of making chocolate after it's been a myth for such a long time.  I liked the side characters of Prince Beau, Duke of Lime, Peddler, Griffin, Emmeline's Father and Owen's parents.  The King and Queen were deliciously evil and the shocking reality about Anglund's history was a truly fun plot twist.  The romance was very sweet and I was pleased with how it developed over the book, which shifted between Emmeline's POV and Owen's.  It was definitely one of my favorite reads of the year and I liked it a lot more than I thought I would.  Plus, for once in a YA novel the cover is actually highly representative of the story within and doesn't make me want to vomit from looking at it's insipidity.  It was enchanting, magical and beautifully descriptive.  I highly recommend it to fans of fantasy that showcases alternate histories, originality and a whimsical quality that is a breath of fresh air.  

VERDICT:  5/5  Stars

*No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book is now available in stores, online, or maybe even at your local library.*

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