Review: Enchanted by Alethea Kontis

Enchanted Book Cover Enchanted
Alethea Kontis

But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day

Is blithe and bonny and good and gay.

It isn’t easy being Sunday’s child, not when you’re the rather overlooked and unhappy youngest sibling to sisters named for the other six days of the week. Sunday’s only comfort is writing stories, although what she writes has a terrible tendency to come true.

When Sunday meets an enchanted frog who asks about her stories, the two become friends. Soon that friendship deepens into something magical. One night, Sunday kisses her frog goodbye and leaves, not realizing that her love has transformed him back into Rumbold, the crown prince of Arilland – and a man Sunday’s family despises.

The prince returns to his castle, intent on making Sunday fall in love with him as the man he is, not the frog he was. But Sunday is not so easy to woo. How can she feel such a strange, strong attraction to this prince she barely knows? And what twisted secrets lie hidden in his past – and hers?

Review:

I can’t help but feel that Enchanted was written specifically with me in mind. As a rabid fan of fairy tale retellings, this chaotic but ultimately charming mishmash of stories appeals to me on every level.

This book is loud and silly and fun, like a big, boisterous family whose antics sometimes overwhelm you but also make you smile. There are about a zillion characters, all with peculiar names and quirks, thrown in with a jumble of fairy tale elements that cover everything from Jack and the Beanstalk to the 12 Dancing Princesses. At times it’s hard to keep track of it all, and you won’t always understand what’s happening, but that’s ok. Just go with the flow, enjoy yourself, and rest assured that everything will come together in the end.

As mentioned in the synopsis, Enchanted centers on the romance between Sunday, the daughter of a woodsman, and Rumbold, who meets Sunday as a frog but ultimately returns to his true form as the prince of Arilland. There’s definitely some insta-love between the two, but it was easy for me to overlook. For one thing, insta-love is a fairy tale convention, so it wasn’t unexpected or jarring. For another, there are so many strange things happening in this book – talking frogs, charmed beans, magic-cannibalism – that a rapidly formed romance doesn’t seem all that exceptional in comparison.

When I first began reading this book, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it; I was afraid the plot would end up being too light and sugary for my taste. As I read on, though, I discovered that Rumbold and the rest of the royal family add some much-needed seriousness – to some extent, even darkness – to balance the gaiety in the rest of the book.

My first indication that this book was more than fluff was the scene in which Rumbold turns back into a human after living as a frog for nearly a year. It isn’t a glorious, flashy transformation heralded by trumpets and a blaze of light. Rather, Kontis focuses on the pain and disorientation Rumbold experiences during the change, the nausea and agony that are caused by his body drastically changing its form. It was interesting and unexpected, and it was then that I knew Kontis’ novel wasn’t going to disappoint me.

After Rumbold’s transformation is complete, his scenes in the story explore the challenges he faces as he struggles to readapt to humanity. Rumbold must reconcile the person he was before becoming a frog with the person he is after, trying to remember missing pieces of his past and to decide what kind of man he wants to be going forward.

I’m happy to say that human Rumbold is about a million times more appealing than frog Rumbold, who I found to be rather boring and bland. As a prince, Rumbold is bold, charming, and funny, especially in the scenes when he’s with his friends. They rib and tease one another mercilessly and provide some of the best material in the book. Their relationship seems very natural, and the humor, loyalty, and honesty they have with each other are refreshing. I couldn’t get enough.

Something else I love about Enchanted is the writing itself. This book has striking descriptions and absolutely beautiful quotes. Here are a few examples:

 “Her voice was deep, sweet, and a little breathless, as Sunday imagined angels might sound. Or falling stars.”

 “‘Do you want to know why I danced with you?’ he asked into the music[…] ‘I want to be one of your stories.’”

“When sad she brings the thunder
And her tears they bring the rain
When ill she feeds a poison
To us all to feel her pain
Her smiles they bring the sunshine
And the laughter and the wind
And the birds they go on singing
And the world is whole again.”

I have a feeling Enchanted is going to be one of those books that I revisit again and again. It’s delightful, charming, and so very fun. I definitely recommend it, especially to anyone even remotely interested in fairy tales.

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