by: Jackson Pearce
As a child, Gretchen's twin sister was taken by a witch in the woods. Ever since, Gretchen and her brother, Ansel, have felt the long branches of the witch's forest threatening to make them disappear, too. Years later, when their stepmother casts Gretchen and Ansel out, they find themselves in sleepy Live Oak, South Carolina. They're invited to stay with Sophia Kelly, a beautiful candy maker who molds sugary magic: coveted treats that create confidence, bravery, and passion.
I was hesitant to read this one because I wasn't crazy about Sisters Red (I didn't hate it, but I just didn't love it). But I'm so glad that I did because I loved this book. I connected to the characters in a way that I didn't in Sisters Red. At the same time I'm glad I read Sisters Red because I knew all about the Fenris to start out.
Smart and Brave Heroine: CHECK
I really loved Gretchen. She started out as this quiet girl who was scared of a lot of things. She needed Ansel to keep her strong and feeling safe. But by the end she was this kick-butt fighter who could stand up against a Fenris. I really connected with her in a way that I didn't connect with Rosie and Scarlett in Sisters Red. She held her own as a character and was complex and layered. She was trying so hard to get away from being the scared little girl that she once was, to get away from the guilt of losing her sister and the confusion of why it wasn't her that vanished; and in the end she succeeded. She became free. And that was her real journey through this book.
Brave and Intelligent Hero: CHECK
Ansel: So Ansel was fine. I was fine with him as a character. I was surprising neutral toward him. He had potential but I never felt like we saw him develop (that is until the very very end..). And I get that he was in love with Sophia so he was able to ignore all the clues that she was not what she seemed, but after awhile it got frustrating. And I felt like more could have been done with Ansel and Gretchen's relationship. The book kept telling us about it, but I never really felt it.
Samuel: I absolutely loved Samuel as a character. He was complicated and a little dark at first, but you get to know him and like him at the same time that Gretchen does. The romance in this book was such a small detail, it wasn't a focal point and rightly so, but it was so sweet. And the fact that he is Silas Reynolds' brother just makes him more awesome.
Excellent Supporting Character: CHECK
Sophia Kelly: Speaking of complex characters, Sophia Kelly was very interesting. She had two very different and very distinct sides to her (and I love how that was pointed out and addressed by the characters themselves). Even when you knew that she had to be the villain (as this is a retelling of Hansel and Gretel and she was the owner of a candy shop in the woods) you almost believed her. You almost trusted her every time because she seemed so sincere. I kept thinking that maybe in this retelling she was being used and that she wasn't a complete villain, but then you learn in the end how crazy she really was. (Also I'll just say that I pictured Sophia as a human version Marceline from Adventure Time, but that's probably just me...)
Original Setting and Interesting Plot: CHECK
From the beginning I had heard that this book had a lot of tie-ins to Sisters Red and the Fenris, but I didn't realize just how much until reading this. But it was never boring despite it having the same villains as Sisters Red because the mystery surrounding Sophia was always intriguing. And even though this was a retelling of a classic and well-known fairytale it always felt new and different. In the last half of the book it was very hard to put down.
Plot Twists and Action: NOPE
Even while the mystery kept things interesting, it also a bit obvious. I had guessed most of what was happening by around the halfway point. That didn't ruin the read or anything, but it just meant that many of the 'plot twists' weren't exactly surprises. And sometimes Gretchen's inner monologue felt a bit repetitive. But other than that, I had no complaints.
"You forget the number of wrens and sparrows you see every day, but if a macaw flies by, you notice her."
"There it is--the fear, crawling up through me from somewhere deep in my chest. It's darkly comforting and familiar, a friend I despise."
"Those chains aren't attached to them--but they believe they are, and that's enough to hold them there. Be strong, fight back..."
"I still wouldn't say they comfort--they challenge, they dare, they shine."
"That's what love is. It becomes a part of you. It holds you down sometimes; it becomes something you can't escape."
"It's scary in a different way. Scary because if this doesn't change me, if it isn't the last step away from being the scared little girl, I don't know what will be."