Fairy Tale Survival Rule #32: If you find yourself at the mercy of a wicked witch, sing a romantic ballad and wait for your Prince Charming to save the day. Yeah, no thanks. Dorthea is completely princed out. Sure being the crown princess of Emerald has its perks―like Glenda Original ball gowns and Hans Christian Louboutin heels. But a forced marriage to the not-so-charming prince Kato is so not what Dorthea had in mind for her enchanted future. Talk about unhappily ever after. Trying to fix her prince problem by wishing on a (cursed) star royally backfires, leaving the kingdom in chaos and her parents stuck in some place called "Kansas." Now it's up to Dorthea and her pixed off prince to find the mysterious Wizard of Oz and undo the curse...before it releases the wickedest witch of all and spells The End for the world of Story.
Spelled is a truly fun novel. It takes place in a world where fairy tale kingdoms are melded together like squares on a quilt. This allows for some really amusing connections between the various characters and worlds. There are connections to The Wizard of Oz, like Dorothea's love of designer footwear and her guardian/witch named Verte, that are bound to make any reader smile. The author also makes references to modern day words, but with a fairy tale twist. And ebook is an enchanted book where the pictures move. The storage area for all things is, literally, the cloud. These pepper the plot with humor and were such an amusing touch.
The main characters are interesting, if not overly complex. Dorothea's character development is the standard spoiled brat learns to be a better person, which is fine. She also has some internal turmoil over the use of her powers and whether she is the hero of the story or the villain. Kato is a little dull as love interests go. I think I liked him more when he couldn't talk. Rexi, on the other hand, has some of the best lines in the book. Despite being a servant, she is certainly not subservient and refuses to bow down to the royals and is constantly sniping at one or both of them. She also has a serious issue with stealing anything that isn't nailed down, which sometimes comes in handy, and other times gets them into trouble. I am really hoping that any subsequent books go a little further into her backstory as I am curious how she came to live at the palace with such an anti-royal attitude.
Where Spelled really shines is in its side characters. We have a wizard with a serious Dorothy obsession, a massive Chimera with a heart of gold and Hydra - who switches heads AND personalities (not to mention mixing spells in a crockpot!) The world these characters inhabit is equally strange and wondrous, with new surprises around every turn. I was slightly disappointed in the villain. We just didn't spend enough time with Griz (at least when she wasn't tossing lightning balls) to really flesh out her character and make her truly terrifying.
Each chapter in Spelled starts out with a quote or rule from fairy tale characters or books. My favorite was:
"There's nothing really to fear but fear itself. And trolls. Fear and trolls. Oh, and I guess gigans and dragons too. And can't forget wicked witches. Yeah, I guess there really is a lot to fear."
- Prince Charming, excerpt from an interview in Hero Beat
These add an extra sense of amusement and charm to the novel. The plot is non-stop, with lots of action. We have Kingdoms being torched, houses falling from the sky and a giant tinman bent on destruction. The main characters face traitors and deception from all sides and the reader is left guessing who they can trust up to the very last minute. While nothing has been mentioned about this being the first book in a series, it is pretty clear from the ending that there is more to the story and we have yet to see the last of Dorothea, her shape shifting fiance or their foul-mouthed friend. I, for one, will definitely be waiting on the next one.