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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 he 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.


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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 he 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.

30 review for The Sweetest Spell

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tori

    I'd read this just because the heroine has a mystic bond with cows. I'd read this just because the heroine has a mystic bond with cows.

  2. 4 out of 5

    B

    Well, if there's one thing you can say about this book, it sure is original. That doesn't mean I'll be reading it, though. I mean, have you read the blurb? Even the first few words: Emmeline Thistle has always had a mysterious bond with cows This is a joke, right? ...It's not? Well, if there's one thing you can say about this book, it sure is original. That doesn't mean I'll be reading it, though. I mean, have you read the blurb? Even the first few words: Emmeline Thistle has always had a mysterious bond with cows This is a joke, right? ...It's not?

  3. 5 out of 5

    Elevetha

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. It was okay. I didn't love it nor did I hate it. It was long and could have used some editing. Story: I love chocolate as much as the next person but the fact that the people in this book acted like it was Magic chocolate rather than chocolate made from magic was odd. I wanted more explanation as to why no one had actually figured out the recipe for chocolate and, instead, were reduced to having their "cow goddess"? grant them the magical power of making chocolate. Explanation, please. Also, husb It was okay. I didn't love it nor did I hate it. It was long and could have used some editing. Story: I love chocolate as much as the next person but the fact that the people in this book acted like it was Magic chocolate rather than chocolate made from magic was odd. I wanted more explanation as to why no one had actually figured out the recipe for chocolate and, instead, were reduced to having their "cow goddess"? grant them the magical power of making chocolate. Explanation, please. Also, husband market? Really? That's the worst idea I've ever heard. So once we figured out that Emmeline could make chocolate and that she was going to be a wanted girl for whomever had her in their possession could demand lots of money for the chocolate that she produced, then Emmeline is taken and we spend the next\last 3\4 of the book switching from Emmeline's POV; crying over Owen's supposed death, sitting on a log by the sea, escaping her captor, and trying to find the King so that she can sell her services to free her slave father, and Owen's POV; running across the country trying to find Emmeline and getting himself stuck as a slave in the mines. Nice job there buddy. Characters: Meh. Emmeline was decent but I never really cared about her. We didn't connect. The social pariah until she makes chocolate. Her whole village destroyed. I felt sorry for her but that was about it. She is only slightly more wary about Owen and their relationship than Owen is of her, and that is only before she knows his name. After that, they both are dreaming of having a life together. Owen is a dairyman's son that quite liked the milkmaids and dallied about with them; toying with some of their emotions without a care in the world. Till he met Emmeline. Then he is entranced by her red hair and beauty and falls in love her. Owen charges out to find Emmeline when she is taken. Mr. and Mrs. Owen: Awesome. Love those two. Mr. Thistle: Poor excuse for a father. Allowed his newborn to be fed to the wolves. Repents for it later ....but Still. Nan: Die in a hole, please. Griffin: Stuck up git that thinks the world of himself. Content: Kissing; though they actually only kiss twice and that's at the very end of the book. Mentions of Owen messing around with the milkmaids and possibly it having on with one of them when he was younger.

  4. 4 out of 5

    ILoveBooks

    This book taught me a value of the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover.” When reading the back of the book, I thought the book seemed silly and too young for teen readers. After reading The Sweetest Spell, I quickly realized that I was wrong. Selfors wrote a fun book, with a good plot, strong characters, and good lessons. The plot of the book is about a collapsing kingdom with two defined groups of citizens. The lesser citizens, the Flatlanders, are blamed for the loss of a delicacy, chocol This book taught me a value of the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover.” When reading the back of the book, I thought the book seemed silly and too young for teen readers. After reading The Sweetest Spell, I quickly realized that I was wrong. Selfors wrote a fun book, with a good plot, strong characters, and good lessons. The plot of the book is about a collapsing kingdom with two defined groups of citizens. The lesser citizens, the Flatlanders, are blamed for the loss of a delicacy, chocolate and are persecuted because of it. One Flatlander girl is seen as completely undesirable. Emmeline Thistle was born with a curled foot and was left in the forest to die, but did not. She survived because of four local cows that kept her warm and fed until Emmeline was returned to her family. The event caused Emmeline’s community to think of her as unlucky and strange. Emmeline now must face another hardship. Her village has been washed away by a raging river and she is one of the only survivors. This is where the second main character comes into the story. Owen Oaks found Emmeline in the river, alive, but near death and saves her. He does not care that she is a Flatlander. As they spend time together, he helps her discover that she possesses a rare and highly desirable talent that could save the kingdom. Selfors has a great talent. She is able to tell a memorable story. The Sweetest Spell would most likely be enjoyed by female readers, but female readers of any age. I don’t think we ever out grow a good story with good messages. Love whoever you want and be the most you can be. This book earns five out of five stars.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Misty

    When I covered this for Fairy Tale Fortnight, I only did a silly little review-teaser that consisted of my weird, random notes on the book, since publication was still quite a ways off. But now publication is right around the corner, so it's time for me to actually give you an idea of whether you'll like this quirky little book. First off, I have to mention it's a retelling of The Ugly Ducking, so points for that. And it's certainly...non-traditional, and requires quite a bit of WSOD. But if you When I covered this for Fairy Tale Fortnight, I only did a silly little review-teaser that consisted of my weird, random notes on the book, since publication was still quite a ways off. But now publication is right around the corner, so it's time for me to actually give you an idea of whether you'll like this quirky little book. First off, I have to mention it's a retelling of The Ugly Ducking, so points for that. And it's certainly...non-traditional, and requires quite a bit of WSOD. But if you're willing to go with the weirdness, the story is actually quite charming. I think the characters are what make it so easy to connect to this story. You like them, so you go with it. Emmeline is a fantastic ugly duckling heroine; she's plucky and stalwart and even though she continually finds herself at a disadvantage, she fights to make things right and to keep her spirits up. She's very loyal and smart, and I couldn't help but like her. And as silly as the whole "she has a connection to cows" thing sounds, I actually loved that. It was so unexpected and quirky, but actually perfectly suited to fairy tales (I mean, how many tales have MCs who can talk to some kind of animal? Lots and lots, they've just never been cows, which makes it seem silly at first, but actually ends up being warm and sweet.) Owen Oak, the man from the "good" side of the kingdom, who is set up as Emmeline's love (very quickly, but not wholly unrealistically), made me a bit leery in the beginning, but it wasn't long before I was rooting for him just as I did for Emmeline. And - unexpectedly - I liked the treatment of the villains. I like villains who are either somewhat rootforable (you can understand their motivations, or they show doubts, or they grow - anything that makes them dynamic), but with fairy tales you don't often get dynamic villains. Instead, you tend to get the mustache-twirling blackguards that you know will be defeated, because that is their purpose. And the way a couple of people were set up in this book, I figured that's what would be the case here. But eventually new sides of these characters are revealed that makes them a bit more understandable, and at least lest detestable, if not rootforable. (Able. I just wanted to say it again.) Though I guess it turns out they were actually only pre-villains, because the main Big Bad - she's not so dimensional... I think the world is what requires the biggest suspension of disbelief. The magic of churning milk (plain milk) into chocolate, well...that requires you to ignore logic and real-world facts, pretend there's not a cocoa tree in this world (or even necessary), etc. Though the idea that chocolate is the most prized thing in the kingdom isn't hard to believe. I have a feeling that most people who read fairy tales aren't going to be too put off by this, but I'll admit that, as much of a fairy tale lover as I am, I did struggle with this - it kept threatening to break me out of my suspension, and that's not a good thing. It never did, but it threatened, so those less disposed to be forgiving of fairy tales will probably be put off by some of the shaky logic of the world.  That said, I think the other aspects of the world-building make up for it. I love the political aspects, and the forced segregation of society to the point that Emmeline didn't even realize there was more to the world, or people unlike her. The world of the "dirt-scratchers" was a really good contrast to the rest of the country (which is loosely England-like), and I really liked that there were bigger issues at play than just Emmeline's story. All said, I think those who are willing to go with it will find a really enjoyable story in The Sweetest Spell. Unfortunately, I worry that the really bizarre cover synopsis will keep a lot of people who would enjoy it, from even picking it up to begin with.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Heidi

    When I first heard that there was a YA fairy tale retelling of The Ugly Ducking, I immediately got excited. When I read the blurb for The Sweetest Spell, I knew I had to read it. A fairy tale retelling of an oft-neglected story centering around the power of chocolate? Why, I haven’t had that sort of fun since reading The Chocolate Touch back in 3rd grade (Patrick Skene Catling’s middle grade retelling of King Midas about a kid whose touch turns everything not to gold, but to chocolate! Totally f When I first heard that there was a YA fairy tale retelling of The Ugly Ducking, I immediately got excited. When I read the blurb for The Sweetest Spell, I knew I had to read it. A fairy tale retelling of an oft-neglected story centering around the power of chocolate? Why, I haven’t had that sort of fun since reading The Chocolate Touch back in 3rd grade (Patrick Skene Catling’s middle grade retelling of King Midas about a kid whose touch turns everything not to gold, but to chocolate! Totally fun and recommended). The Sweetest Spell is a fairy tale story to its core, vacillating between the utter hopelessness of depression and the bright eyed wonder of youth and happiness. It begins with Emmeline’s recounting of how she is an unwanted. Left to die of exposure after being born with a curled foot, Emmeline survived only because she was guarded by some local cows. Thereafter, cows show affection for the girl who none of her people want around. When events turn and it is discovered that Emmeline possesses the power to make chocolate, an ability that has not existed for generations, Emmeline finds herself the most sought after woman in the country. Emmeline is a charming and likable character with the sense of humor that develops in those who are largely scorned by society but remain good at heart. Her willingness to love and resilient hope counteract the downfall of events that becomes more and more depressing until you question whether there is any power that can lift this story out of it. Emmeline shares her story with a young man, Owen Oaks, son of a dairy farmer and champion bare fist fighter who finds himself an unlikely protector. Both our hero and heroine were easy to like and root for, and though half the story is narrated through Owen’s perspective, this is unarguably Emmeline’s tale. Through Emmeline we see the transformation of one who is cast aside as nothing into that which is most desired. I loved that while The Sweetest Spell was a rags to riches story, Emmeline did not fall victim to the sort of character changes we often see in such tales. Emmeline retains her heart, knows when to say no, and what the best riches in life truly are. That said, there were things about The Sweetest Spell that didn’t work for me. For example, some of the story elements seemed poorly constructed. When Emmeline has at one point not eaten anything for three days after a full lifetime of eating very little, she downs a huge glass of milk and eats a bigger meal than she’s ever had all without getting sick. These sorts of impossibilities always take me out of a story. The romance is quite insta-lovey, and there are some plays at a love triangle which I never felt really bloomed into the full on thing, but were certainly neared. Also, there was that cutesy tactic where our main characters just keep missing each other and we’re supposedly left incredibly frustrated at how near they come over and over until things finally come together in their proper time. I suppose it worked on me, I was frustrated, but I was annoyed more than anything. I think as a younger reader I would have enjoyed this element, but it was just too coy for me in my jaded old age. My final complaint was that I’m just not a huge fan of the dual perspective his and hers narration that flips back and forth between the male and female leads. I feel it was necessary for this story because of how it unfolds, but initially I found it quite jarring, and actually set the book aside for several weeks as a result before coming back to finish. Still, I was quite satisfied with how The Sweetest Spell came together in the end, and I am happy to say it was worth coming back to. It was a story with unexpected depths, charm, and managed to take the skeletal message and story of The Ugly Duckling and transform it into something wholly original. There was chocolate, romance, an evil queen, hot air balloons, lots of red heads, and a husband market (yes, I had the bachelor auction scene of Groundhog Day running through my head throughout). Quirky, and at times ridiculous, not everyone will fall under The Sweetest Spell, but those readers who do will find it very sweet indeed. Original review posted at Bunbury in the Stacks.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lili

    If you are anything like me, you grew up listening to your parents read you fairytales. Fairytales, next to Dr. Seuss, was what created your desire to read, they were the first stories you ever heard, thus the most important type of stories that will forever be a part of you later in life. Their sheer creativity, imagination, and hidden morals prove to be unforgettable and take up permanent residence in the back of your mind. Thus, I believe that one of the toughest challenges an author can tak If you are anything like me, you grew up listening to your parents read you fairytales. Fairytales, next to Dr. Seuss, was what created your desire to read, they were the first stories you ever heard, thus the most important type of stories that will forever be a part of you later in life. Their sheer creativity, imagination, and hidden morals prove to be unforgettable and take up permanent residence in the back of your mind. Thus, I believe that one of the toughest challenges an author can take on is the task of writing a fairytale retelling. Such stories are so close to our heart that the story can either be a major success or a major disappointment because they don't live up to the original tale. However, Selfors met all of my expectations and then some with her re-telling of a fairytale favorite: The Ugly Duckling. Selfors weaved a beautiful tale about looking at what is within a person instead of what is on the outside. Filled with beautiful morals about how you should never judge a book by its cover, this book re-writes an adored fairytale while combining it with serious themes such as racism, poverty, greed, forgiveness, honesty, and the desire to good in the face of evil. In all honesty, it was very hard to not fall in love with every and all aspects of this novel. And while I already knew how it would end based on my love of the original tale as a child, Selfors skillfully wrote plot twist after plot twist to keep me guessing as I continued my journey alongside Emmeline. Emmeline is now one of my favorite characters of all-time. She was judged by all due to her disfigured foot. She did not have enough room when in the womb, so her right foot was curled. When she walks, she has to painfully put weight on the edge of her foot instead of the bottom and hobble along clearly with a limp. Believed to be a bad omen, she accepted her fate as an unwanted and did her best to block out the taunting and superstition surrounding her and focus on her life and her beloved cows that always watched over her. When she met Owen and allowed herself to realize that she is allowed to be desired just as she is able to desire others, I felt nothing but immense joy for such a kindhearted soul. And when it came time to realize that her gift was rare and unique, she wasted no time in deciding that it was time for her to risk her own freedom for the release and freedom of her fellow dirt-scratchers, despite the fact that her fellow dirt-scratchers did nothing but look down on her throughout her entire life. In other words, the world would be a better place if we had more Emmeline's in it. The romantic entanglements in this book were amazing as well. Owen risked his life and went on a journey of discovery to save the girl that he loved, despite her lower status. The fact that many wished to marry Emmeline for her gift was interesting as well. And to make it even more interesting, the mere fact that others claimed to have a right to her because she would be the richest woman in the land was even more surprising. People's true colors come out in times of greed, but Emmeline was able to see through it all and know true love when she saw it. With the help of the rebellious Prince, she was able to realize that despite her mangled foot, she was capable of being loved and deserved to be loved just like everyone else. This book is a must read for anyone of any age. Beautifully written with amazing detail, this book will take you back to your childhood while telling you a sweet tale of first love and the discovery of self-worth. This gem among young adult literary re-tellings will easily captivate you under the world's most sweetest spell.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ash

    So I get that this sounds like a strange book, but it's actually a really sweet and original read. It's more of 4.5, but I can't give myself enough reasons not to just give it 5 stars. Quick Overview: Emmeline Thistle is the outcast of the Flatlands. Everyone is convinced that she is unnatural since she survived the night of her birth after being cast out into the woods because of her “defect” (a curled foot). Not to mention that cows follow her everywhere and she even seems to talk to them. Th So I get that this sounds like a strange book, but it's actually a really sweet and original read. It's more of 4.5, but I can't give myself enough reasons not to just give it 5 stars. Quick Overview: Emmeline Thistle is the outcast of the Flatlands. Everyone is convinced that she is unnatural since she survived the night of her birth after being cast out into the woods because of her “defect” (a curled foot). Not to mention that cows follow her everywhere and she even seems to talk to them. The people of her village don’t talk to her if they can help it and avoid her if at all possible, and Emmeline has come to accept that this is her life. But after her village floods Emmeline is saved by a kind dairy farmer’s son and his family, where she finds that she has a gift even more valuable than gold. Unwanted, unnatural Emmeline can churn chocolate out of cream. And in a world where chocolate no longer exists, Emmeline is the most valuable girl in her entire kingdom. Trust me, I thought the whole chocolate-cow-talking-thing sounded weird, but it really isn’t. Don’t get me wrong, this is a unique quirky book, but in the context of the story it really doesn’t sound as strange. Not to mention that the cow talking thing hardly shows up at all. What I really loved about this book was that Emmeline was so strong and tough without being mean or having any exceptional physical abilities (in fact, because of her curled foot she has a limp). She's a warm-hearted and kind person. It was good to see a change from all these tough girls who also happen to have really abrasive personalities. All the characters were well rounded, even the villains, who can sometimes get really cartoon-y in their evilness. You get to see why they do these bad things, which thankfully does not involve world domination (I don’t know why people still use this). It was also nice to see Emmeline and Owen build a believable friendship. A lot of times (especially in fantasy) characters will fall in love with each other after a total face time of about 5 minutes, which can feel very unbelievable to us living in the real world. The blurb is a little misleading because it makes you think that the book is all about falling for the hot dairy farmer guy and Emmeline churning some chocolate while she laughs it up with the cows, but there is a lot more involved. Emmeline actually goes on an adventure (more like stumbles on it) and has to deal with the views that her people are seen as barbarians and an inferior race. The book is also told from the perspective of Owen, so you get to see other things that Emmeline doesn’t. I liked the history behind the chocolate and the reason for its sudden disappearance. The way it was weaved into the story made it that much more unique and interesting. Some of the things were unbelievable, but it’s a fairytale, this is no place for scientific facts! It would’ve been nice to see a little bit more of how things turned out, but I get that it could’ve looked a little too cheesy so I think it’s probably for the best. In the end, the book just made me happy while I was a little down. So, if you’re thinking about reading this I’d say don’t let the weirdness keep you from picking it up. It’s not your typical fairytale, but in this case it’s a good thing.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    I got this book months ago and read it almost right away because the summary just grabbed me. Once you read said summary for this book, y’all are going to think I’m crazy for recommending it. BUT I hope you give it a chance because it really is a cute, sweet story, though kind of silly, but isn’t that what most fairy tales are anyway? In case you can’t tell from the summary, this is a retelling of the Ugly Duckling with Emmeline as the Duckling. This poor girl didn’t have the best life growing up I got this book months ago and read it almost right away because the summary just grabbed me. Once you read said summary for this book, y’all are going to think I’m crazy for recommending it. BUT I hope you give it a chance because it really is a cute, sweet story, though kind of silly, but isn’t that what most fairy tales are anyway? In case you can’t tell from the summary, this is a retelling of the Ugly Duckling with Emmeline as the Duckling. This poor girl didn’t have the best life growing up, but she perseveres through with her father and her favorite cows, who are pretty much her only friends. I felt so bad for Emmeline at the beginning of the story. As the book progresses, her circumstances change, especially when her special gift is discovered. Btw, magically making chocolate from milk has to be the best superpower EVER. It may not be good enough to save the world, but it would save me from rampaging villages when I start having intense chocolate cravings. Owen was adorable. The book does switch point of views once we reach the point in the story where Owen shows up, so we get a back story on him as well. The things he goes through for Emmeline, once he starts to like her, is just… *sigh*. I guess it’s romantic, although I’d rather he didn’t have to go through all that just to get the girl, but it’s a fairytale, so there’s always hardships for the otherwise happy couple. I don’t want to spoil anything, but there is a lot more to this story than Emmeline magically making chocolate. There’s adventure and romance and devious schemes and near misses and heartfelt moments. It’s deeper than the summary lets on, which was great to discover since I went into it apprehensive of what kind of story could be taken from the Ugly Duckling. Suzanne Selfors did a great job here and I look forward to reading more from her. (Btw, her book Mad Love sounds really cute, too. I’ve already made a note to read it.)

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nina {ᴡᴏʀᴅs ᴀɴᴅ ᴡᴀᴛᴇʀ}

    3.5. Cute little book. Something I might have love more as a kid. Lots of things I could have hated but I think I just like Suzanne Selfors, since this is my second book by her. Fairytale style! Cute little read. And the last of my current library to-be-read books (thank goodness now I can take a break!). Notes: - I like that while at first glance it might seem everyone is in love with Emmeline for her skill, it's actually not the case, each man has their own reason for wanting Emmeline, except o 3.5. Cute little book. Something I might have love more as a kid. Lots of things I could have hated but I think I just like Suzanne Selfors, since this is my second book by her. Fairytale style! Cute little read. And the last of my current library to-be-read books (thank goodness now I can take a break!). Notes: - I like that while at first glance it might seem everyone is in love with Emmeline for her skill, it's actually not the case, each man has their own reason for wanting Emmeline, except one who does love her (well it was more a cute infatuation that will grow to love, but I won't judge it since this story is an exception for me). - I like Emmeline's naivety. It doesn't make her stupid, and it doesn't make her lie. I hate liars, and I hate characters who lie for stupid reasons. But Emmeline doesn't lie at all. She's just incredibly naive yet willing to learn. I like her hidden strength. - I love the way the true story behind Emmeline's magic is unravelled by retellings of the same story. I think and have always thought that kind of way of telling a story to be the best. More Review later!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Amara Luciano

    In less words: Frankly, more people should be interested and begin reading this book. It’s about acceptance, forgiveness, true love, and the importance of doing the right thing even when fear is escalating. The Sweetest Spell by Suzanne Selfors is both lighthearted and heavy, a quest for acceptance and truth, and full of situations gone awry—both comically so and otherwise. If you’re into fairy tales and can enjoy the charming ridiculousness they entail, and have a healthy interest in happily ev In less words: Frankly, more people should be interested and begin reading this book. It’s about acceptance, forgiveness, true love, and the importance of doing the right thing even when fear is escalating. The Sweetest Spell by Suzanne Selfors is both lighthearted and heavy, a quest for acceptance and truth, and full of situations gone awry—both comically so and otherwise. If you’re into fairy tales and can enjoy the charming ridiculousness they entail, and have a healthy interest in happily ever afters, as well as a fairly mild curiosity about cows—pertaining to their milk-giving prowess and magical effects—then you’re sure to dig The Sweetest Spell by Suzanne Selfors. In full: The day Emmeline Thistle was born, and was left to die, she was saved thanks to a ring of cows that were drawn into the forest and stayed to guard the infant as the predators awoke. The next day, the milkman wandered in search of his cows and walked back with baby Emmeline in his arms, returning her to the care of her parents. Her father hasn’t been able to look at her since. The townspeople haven’t treated her with a kind word or offered a helping hand since. And, ever after, Emmeline has lived with the knowledge she was born unwanted, and the reason for her abandonment is obvious to everyone when they witness her lopsided gait. For me, the classic fairy tales—those which I’ve read or the retellings I’ve watched—contain an emotional pattern: it begins with sorrow as a result of loss or a deprivation of some kind or both, then it flip flops between happy and serious before ending with a big joyous splash that never fails to conjure smiles on the faces of the stories’ recipients. The Sweetest Spell by Suzanne Selfors follows that well-charted routed, which lends the story a comfortable familiarity as Suzanne simultaneously whips up a fairly unique story. Now, I’ve never read or heard much about The Ugly Duckling fairy tale and don’t know much except the obvious, so I’m afraid I missed out on any nods to the original story. However, that didn’t take away my enjoyment of the book. In fact, I want to say that it added a kind of freshness to my reading palette and helped me enjoy the The Sweetest Spell by Suzanne Selfors even more. Dual narratives generally make me leery, because I find that most times one voice, when both are well-written and distinct, can overpower the other, so that you’re more inclined to be actively interested in one more than the second, which then causes you to want to half-dismiss some of the story because you’re so eager to get back to the more preferred narrator’s side of things. I didn’t find that to be a problem with Emmeline Thistle and Owen Oak, the two main characters. At times, it even felt like they almost blended into one voice, which sometimes made it difficult to discern who exactly was telling the story until some jarring detail helped me identify the current narrator. This didn’t shake me out of my focus in the story—it was fairly easy to go with a flow, kind of like when you find a ditch in the road, and instead of stumbling you simply walk around it without a hitch in your stride. Though, some, I imagine, will stumble despite the warning. Because I had such a smooth time with the pace and the switch in perspectives, I had no trouble at all avoiding logical reasoning as the story unfolded. The world Suzanne’s built for her fairy tale reimagining has a ton of quirks and a few holes that will make the more disbelieving, skeptical sort work harder to suspend disbelief. I’m someone who’s really easily convinced, and has no trouble at all immersing myself in the most unbelievable story lines—though, that doesn’t always mean I’ll enjoy them anyway. This one I did like. I found the weirdness of the story to be very fairytale-esque and quite charming. Emmeline’s odd and mysterious connection with cows saves her life not just the one time, but twice, and her bond with them persists during the tale, cropping up in useful, even lucrative ways. And I loved how it goes on to have an important link-up with the enforced segregation between Emmeline’s people and the outside world in Anglund. The Sweetest Spell by Suzanne Selfors reminded me a little of The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy. The story neither debunks any faulty elements in fairy tales nor does it live up to the caliber of humor in his story portrayed by the omniscient narrator and other characters. But, the quirky, fun feel and the way in which Owen’s rescue attempts to retrieve the damsel go awry vaguely reminded me of one of my favorite books of the year! An added bonus, of course. Not to mention the way in which the overall plot kind of veers off in many engrossing directions, not only due to the dual perspectives but also all that’s happening within the story and how it’s intertwined. You’ve got the politics in Anglund, the suspicious exportation of Emmeline’s fellow “dirt-scratchers” to the dreaded mineral fields, the legend of chocolate and, inadvertently, that of the two peoples residing in Auglund, and Emmeline’s mysterious involvement in all of it. Emmeline as a character is a deeply vulnerable one which she wards off with her strength, steadiness, smarts, and light sarcasm. The loneliness and the shame and embarrassment that go hand in hand with her deformity are almost unbearably sad, and I was brought uncomfortably near to full-on crying because I was so genuinely affected by the unfortunateness of her life. And as I grew to like her, and appreciate her more for her admirable qualities, that sadness just deepened. Her loyalty, hard work, and gentleness finally pay off when it paves her a way into the Oak family’s hearts—the mother still bearing unused love as a result of the loss of her daughter and eldest child, the solemn father who is a good, honorable, understanding man, and the son reluctant to fall in love for fear of losing his independence, of having his nature tamed, who enjoys a good barefist fight and sampling milkmaids too much. None of the characters are one-dimensional—including the many villain-ish ones—and I appreciated that. However, the main highlight of The Sweetest Spell by Suzanne Selfors is definitely the romance. Although it happens somewhat quickly, it still retains a sense of believability, and any doubt you might have is quickly shooed away by the sweetness you don’t want to question. Because it’s so happy, and Emmeline is in desperate need of happiness and the chance to experience love and to be loved by someone else. It’s soft and subtle, and though he refuses to admit he’s falling quickly, you’re rooting for Owen the whole way. I was their own personal cheering gallery within the confines of my cave bedroom, and couldn’t quite contain my shout of joy when all the doubts and missteps are shoved aside for a happy, satisfying ending. I don’t know what it is about this week, and my reading about sad and even sadder characters, but I’m too pleased to express in mere words my general sense of bliss after finishing this book. Which is what I think fairy tales should ultimately accomplish—it should gift you with a pleasant feeling to retain and fortify your belief in happily ever after. The Sweetest Spell by Suzanne Selfors is a questing fantasy, a half-lighthearted half-sober story, that, while it won’t be perfect for everyone, quenched my thirst for cheer and turned out to be more enjoyable than Selfors's MAD LOVE from last year. Click here to the full review for more quotes, more reviews of the book, and recommendations for those of you looking for something similar or are just interested in what The Sweetest Spell reminded me of.

  12. 5 out of 5

    ❅ Karen ❅

    I absolutely loved this book! I didn't really know what to expect because the synopsis just seemed so weird to me but I decided to give it a shot! 100% do not regret it! The fact that she had a special bond with cows is just perfect for her character. Also there are some funny moments with the male characters and I just couldn't believe the situations they out themselves in! I absolutely loved this book! I didn't really know what to expect because the synopsis just seemed so weird to me but I decided to give it a shot! 100% do not regret it! The fact that she had a special bond with cows is just perfect for her character. Also there are some funny moments with the male characters and I just couldn't believe the situations they out themselves in!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Charlie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book. Hhmm it's not bad, but I judge a book a lot on it's romance. I personally found the romance all tell and no show. Emmeline and Owen SUPPOSEDLY spent a lot of time getting to know one another, but there were no deep conversations between the two, therefore no foundation for a romantic relationship. So when the pair were split up for the majority of the book, I couldn't help but roll my eyes when they characters reconvene with a kiss. I enjoyed the character of Peddler and his daughter This book. Hhmm it's not bad, but I judge a book a lot on it's romance. I personally found the romance all tell and no show. Emmeline and Owen SUPPOSEDLY spent a lot of time getting to know one another, but there were no deep conversations between the two, therefore no foundation for a romantic relationship. So when the pair were split up for the majority of the book, I couldn't help but roll my eyes when they characters reconvene with a kiss. I enjoyed the character of Peddler and his daughter since I found them to be the most complex. I also liked that LGBTQIA was hinted in the story. Even though I talk a lot of smack about this book's romantic elements I still found it sweet, since I am a sucker for romances;) If you enjoyed this book, then that's great! I myself was just not very invested.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Aisyah ♡

    I love this book so much! I've found my new favorite :D I love this book so much! I've found my new favorite :D

  15. 5 out of 5

    Courtney Long

    Somewhere between 1.5 and 2 stars. Man, I don't know how to talk about this book. The Sweetest Spell is about Emmeline, an outcast of the most hated group in her country, shunned because she has a deformity. After a flood sweeps her and her entire village away, she meets a supportive family whose son, Owen, sends her heart a-flutter. The even biggest surprise: she has the magic for the lost delicacy of chocolate, though there are some that want to use her abilities for their own ambition. This is Somewhere between 1.5 and 2 stars. Man, I don't know how to talk about this book. The Sweetest Spell is about Emmeline, an outcast of the most hated group in her country, shunned because she has a deformity. After a flood sweeps her and her entire village away, she meets a supportive family whose son, Owen, sends her heart a-flutter. The even biggest surprise: she has the magic for the lost delicacy of chocolate, though there are some that want to use her abilities for their own ambition. This is one of those books where it started out not bad and then just got worse and worse. I liked the two main characters on their own, but their "romance" was so rushed. It wasn't exactly insta-love, but it was near enough. It's never explained why they're into each other, just that they suddenly are. Other than that, most of the characters were flat...either they were good or bad. The one major exception is Peddler. You think you know him and why he does what he does, but Selfors twists everything about him so that you better understand his actions. I did like seeing both sides of the story from Owen and Emmeline. It’s always fun to see what the love interest thinks, especially when the story is written from the very limiting first person, as this story was. However, the author didn’t handle these POV changes well. There was no warning between chapters about the switch, so I would often be reading the first page of a chapter in the wrong voice, and it wasn’t until the speaker would mention something they couldn’t know or would talk about their articles of clothing that I would suddenly realize what had happened. It was very irritating. Either signal with your chapter titles who is narrating, or at the very least make it obvious within the first sentence or two. Then there was the world building, which I found flawed. This sounds silly, but it bothered me how closely the world resembles England, yet isn’t. Like, they live in Anglund, where the major city is Londwin. The shunned/hated group is the Flatlands where people with red hair live. Either make it set in England or legitimately make up your own world. When you make the two so similar, it just distracts readers trying to figure out why it sounds like a real place but isn’t. I also thought the creation of the “dirt-scratchers” wasn’t done well at all. I get that Selfors was trying to create a hated group, but the result just came out juvenile. First, there’s their name. What is a dirt-scratcher? Does it stand for poor farmers? Do they literally scratch dirt? It’s never explained, leading me to kind of assume the latter, which is just silly. And then, the OVERWHELMING prejudice against them was just too on the nose. I can understand the Wanderlanders talking about dirt-scratchers when they encounter one, but when we first meet Owen Oak’s family, we’re treated to a long, out of place ramble from his housekeeper about how terrible the dirt-scratchers are. How convenient. It makes it seem as if the Wanderlanders are always talking about the dirt-scratchers, when really, if they’re as unimportant as Selfors wants us to believe, I rather feel the Wanderlanders wouldn’t think about them much. Overall, this just isn't that good, but it's not one of the worst things I've ever read, so I can't really get it a one star reviews. I wouldn't recommend it to others.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Joie

    Rating: 4 stars I'm just going to be honest here, for having such a whimsical, maybe even comedic, story line, I really didn't expect this story to as good as it was! To have the ability to make chocolate is cool, and I'd definitely want it, but for that to be the central point around which the story revolved? I was skeptical. But kudos Suzanne Selfors, kudos for taking this strange idea and spinning it into an amazing story with fantastic world-building, great characters, and touched on rather s Rating: 4 stars I'm just going to be honest here, for having such a whimsical, maybe even comedic, story line, I really didn't expect this story to as good as it was! To have the ability to make chocolate is cool, and I'd definitely want it, but for that to be the central point around which the story revolved? I was skeptical. But kudos Suzanne Selfors, kudos for taking this strange idea and spinning it into an amazing story with fantastic world-building, great characters, and touched on rather serious topics. Emmeline Thistle, who is born with a deformed foot, is looked down upon by everyone in her village, and by everyone in all other villages for being born a "dirt-scratcher." This girl was absolutely amazing. Emmeline was such a selfless and caring character and in her journey of fighting for her people, you could not help but root for her success. She goes through so much in this story, yet never loses her strength and faith. This book is written in dual POVs switching between Emmeline and Owen Oak, a boy who saves her life, and I normally don't like switching POVs, but I think it worked so well in this book! Not only did it give me a glimpse into both Emmeline and Owen's thoughts, it also allowed me as a reader to see much more of this fictional world that Selfors has created. Selfors creates such a vivid setting in Anglund, I had no problems picturing each place the characters visited. There's an old-timey, fairy-tale-esque feel of this land ruled by a royal family, and the magic of being able to create chocolate adds to that. Yes, the concept is kind of silly, but it's very well incorporated into the novel and Selfors made it very believable. I loved the back story of how this magical ability came to be. One of the biggest surprises for me was the group of characters in this novel. Emmeline and Owen were great, but I was really pleasantly surprised by how much I loved the secondary characters. Even the ones who were first portrayed as villains had some back story that gave them some possibility for redemption and made me empathize with what they did. The one thing I wasn't crazy about in the novel was that the romance was a little of the insta-love variety. I feel like Emmeline and Owen's feelings progressed way to fast, it was just too unrealistic. However, as the novel progressed, I really did like them together. I don't consider the romance to be an overwhelming part of the novel, because there's SO much more to the plot than hey-I-just-met-you-and-this-is-crazy-but-let's-live-happily-ever-after. All in all: The Sweetest Spell is a delightful and magical story about self-discovery and strength. This novel definitely exceeded all of my expectations and I highly recommend it! *I was provided a copy of this book via netgalley for an honest review

  17. 5 out of 5

    AmyFlo

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I absolutely loved this book. It was light, breezy, fun, and charming. It was exactly what I needed to remedy the dreadful merfolk books I'd subjected myself to in the past few weeks. Emmeline is a delightful heroine. Of course she has the typical heroine origins: an outcast even in her own oppressed society. That she doesn't sulk or is consumed with self-pity is admirable. She accepts who she is and has secret wishes for her future. She tries to be helpful, knows she's a burden, but again, she d I absolutely loved this book. It was light, breezy, fun, and charming. It was exactly what I needed to remedy the dreadful merfolk books I'd subjected myself to in the past few weeks. Emmeline is a delightful heroine. Of course she has the typical heroine origins: an outcast even in her own oppressed society. That she doesn't sulk or is consumed with self-pity is admirable. She accepts who she is and has secret wishes for her future. She tries to be helpful, knows she's a burden, but again, she doesn't cry about it. What I really like about her is that she doesn't become a typical 21st century depiction of tough by becoming a fighter. Not that I have anything against women who can fight for themselves (in a physical sense), but I like it when any character is shown to be strong on the inside and solve problems but not wielding a sword. That the baddies are taken away instead of slaughtered was a refreshing twist. But I'm going to stop giving a summary. This is a fill-in-the-blank hero story. But I'm not going to hold that against it, because that formula is timeless for a reason: it works. What strikes me about this story is how compassion can affect others. Even non-deliberate compassion. Owen's mother is grieving, so she dotes on the washed-up Emmeline. Owen isn't the polished diamond in the rough. He's got his own flaws. Emmeline is naturally distrustful of everyone. Her people are treated like animals, but she has a source of pride in her heritage. Despite being chained to a log in isolation, Emmeline sees humanity in her captor through his sick daughter. It's her compassion about Lara that causes Peddler's change of heart. No one is purely evil (except the queen, but there does need to be a baddie). Even One-Eyed Henry is more than just a brute. I love that Emmeline accepts everything about herself. The gift she was given is meant to be shared, her foot is part of who she is (without it, her live would not have turned out as it did... I loved that she made all those connections). I loved that Owen loved her all along. That Griffen's eyes were opened to true beauty, and the Prince was kind and good hearted without being too good to be true. But she's no Mary Sue. At least I don't think so. If she was a Mary Sue, she would have been in love with Griffen, would have picked up a sword and mowed Peddler down. She would have saved herself at every instance without any assistance. But she needed others to help the kingdom, and she was happy to go back to her quiet life with Owen. Highly recommend this charming fairy tale.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Krystle

    Chocolate! CHOCOLATE! Who doesn’t love chocolate?! Ahhh! I picked up this book because of that tease in the premise. Haha. *ahem* Okay, now let’s get on the real review, shall we? The set-up of this book was refreshing in that it’s not your stereotypical pretty fluff of farmers, magic, pretty gowns, and dreams of romance and princes. I liked how she created her people who are outcasts and have formed their own traditions and customs which are very different from the other people of their land. I to Chocolate! CHOCOLATE! Who doesn’t love chocolate?! Ahhh! I picked up this book because of that tease in the premise. Haha. *ahem* Okay, now let’s get on the real review, shall we? The set-up of this book was refreshing in that it’s not your stereotypical pretty fluff of farmers, magic, pretty gowns, and dreams of romance and princes. I liked how she created her people who are outcasts and have formed their own traditions and customs which are very different from the other people of their land. I totally loved all the butter churning into chocolate scenes. It made me crave chocolate like crazy. And then when the characters talk about the different things they crafted out of her chocolate, oh it made me salivate so bad… If you have cravings for chocolate, I suggest you have a nice handy bag of them at the ready. LoL. The writing is decent, simplistic and adequate for the job but I’m not sure if it’s entirely made out for straight up fantasy. There’s a prominent contemporary/modern feel to it, which I assume is an influence from her earlier novels which are contemporary with a magical flair. It doesn’t seem to have that extra depth needed. I've read one of those novels before, I think it was Coffeehouse Angel? And I liked it well enough. I think she's better at those light-hearted sweet tales instead of trying for all in genre switch. I think the long extended quest and adventure part really brought down the book. It was really draggy and I couldn’t muster up enough interest in it at all. There wasn’t any real tension or suspense for me. Things just happened one after another and it took too long to get to the main finale. The romance was too neat for me. I mean, while I liked that he loved her for her flaws and all, there wasn’t any real exciting moments between them. They were kinda sappy and it didn’t really bring any depth to the story. I liked the ending though. It was a surprise twist. I liked the different way each side told their tales and how it trickles down into the present. Not too sure if I liked what happened to the “villain” at the end or her portrayal, could do without that stuff nowadays. Not in the mood for it. Cool tale that had me five pounds fatter from stuffing my face with chocolate but fluffed a bit too much with a non-engaging adventure.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Whatchyareading

    I got this book months ago and read it almost right away because the summary just grabbed me. Once you read said summary for this book, y’all are going to think I’m crazy for recommending it. BUT I hope you give it a chance because it really is a cute, sweet story, though kind of silly, but isn’t that what most fairy tales are anyway? In case you can’t tell from the summary, this is a retelling of the Ugly Duckling with Emmeline as the Duckling. This poor girl didn’t have the best life growing up I got this book months ago and read it almost right away because the summary just grabbed me. Once you read said summary for this book, y’all are going to think I’m crazy for recommending it. BUT I hope you give it a chance because it really is a cute, sweet story, though kind of silly, but isn’t that what most fairy tales are anyway? In case you can’t tell from the summary, this is a retelling of the Ugly Duckling with Emmeline as the Duckling. This poor girl didn’t have the best life growing up, but she perseveres through with her father and her favorite cows, who are pretty much her only friends. I felt so bad for Emmeline at the beginning of the story. As the book progresses, her circumstances change, especially when her special gift is discovered. Btw, magically making chocolate from milk has to be the best superpower EVER. It may not be good enough to save the world, but it would save me from rampaging villages when I start having intense chocolate cravings. Owen was adorable. The book does switch point of views once we reach the point in the story where Owen shows up, so we get a back story on him as well. The things he goes through for Emmeline, once he starts to like her, is just… *sigh*. I guess it’s romantic, although I’d rather he didn’t have to go through all that just to get the girl, but it’s a fairytale, so there’s always hardships for the otherwise happy couple. I don’t want to spoil anything, but there is a lot more to this story than Emmeline magically making chocolate. There’s adventure and romance and devious schemes and near misses and heartfelt moments. It’s deeper than the summary lets on, which was great to discover since I went into it apprehensive of what kind of story could be taken from the Ugly Duckling. Suzanne Selfors did a great job here and I look forward to reading more from her. (Btw, her book Mad Love sounds really cute, too. I’ve already made a note to read it.) This book was reviewed at WhatchYAreading.net on August 7, 2012.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jannat Bhat

    The Sweetest Spell is a fairy tale story to its core, vacillating between the utter hopelessness of depression and the bright eyed wonder of youth and happiness. It begins with Emmeline’s recounting of how she is an unwanted. Left to die of exposure after being born with a curled foot, Emmeline survived only because she was guarded by some local cows. Thereafter, cows show affection for the girl who none of her people want around. When events turn and it is discovered that Emmeline possesses the The Sweetest Spell is a fairy tale story to its core, vacillating between the utter hopelessness of depression and the bright eyed wonder of youth and happiness. It begins with Emmeline’s recounting of how she is an unwanted. Left to die of exposure after being born with a curled foot, Emmeline survived only because she was guarded by some local cows. Thereafter, cows show affection for the girl who none of her people want around. When events turn and it is discovered that Emmeline possesses the power to make chocolate, an ability that has not existed for generations, Emmeline finds herself the most sought after woman in the country. Emmeline is a charming and likable character with the sense of humor that develops in those who are largely scorned by society but remain good at heart. Her willingness to love and resilient hope counteract the downfall of events that becomes more and more depressing until you question whether there is any power that can lift this story out of it. Emmeline shares her story with a young man, Owen Oaks, son of a dairy farmer and champion bare fist fighter who finds himself an unlikely protector. Both our hero and heroine were easy to like and root for, and though half the story is narrated through Owen’s perspective, this is unarguably Emmeline’s tale. Through Emmeline we see the transformation of one who is cast aside as nothing into that which is most desired. I loved that while The Sweetest Spell was a rags to riches story, Emmeline did not fall victim to the sort of character changes we often see in such tales. Emmeline retains her heart, knows when to say no, and what the best riches in life truly are. It was a story with unexpected depths, charm, and managed to take the skeletal message and story of The Ugly Duckling and transform it into something wholly original. There was chocolate, romance, an evil queen, hot air balloons and lots of red heads. Readers will find this book very sweet indeed.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kayla Edwards

    I was so pleasantly surprised with this novel - I was not expecting it to be as unique as it is! I picked it up because, umm, chocolate. What girl hasn't wished for the power to just create chocolate at least once in her life? I loved the legend and political elements in the story, it pulled me in and made this adventure a quick and enjoyable read. I love Emmeline's character so much; watching her open up and come into herself is a privilege. She's one of my favorite heroines from my recent read I was so pleasantly surprised with this novel - I was not expecting it to be as unique as it is! I picked it up because, umm, chocolate. What girl hasn't wished for the power to just create chocolate at least once in her life? I loved the legend and political elements in the story, it pulled me in and made this adventure a quick and enjoyable read. I love Emmeline's character so much; watching her open up and come into herself is a privilege. She's one of my favorite heroines from my recent reads. All in all, a quick and entertaining story.

  22. 5 out of 5

    puppitypup

    YA Fairytale. I really enjoyed this story, and the writing flows beautifully. I would give this a solid 3.5 stars. What kept it from being a higher mark for me was the plot coming together too easily toward the end. That said, I would definitely read this author again. I up'd this to 4 stars because, for the YA audience, there is a sweet innocence to this story that is quite refreshing. YA Fairytale. I really enjoyed this story, and the writing flows beautifully. I would give this a solid 3.5 stars. What kept it from being a higher mark for me was the plot coming together too easily toward the end. That said, I would definitely read this author again. I up'd this to 4 stars because, for the YA audience, there is a sweet innocence to this story that is quite refreshing.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    A sweet book (pun intended) and a light read. Good writing, plot development, and character development. Not my favorite book ever, but I really enjoyed it! :)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gina

    A surprisingly good tale about magic & chocolate -- despite being wrapped in a cloak of prejudice. Emmeline Thistle is born with a deformation; in the Flatlands this is not good, because one is expected to work the land until death, and a deformed limb or other issues can be a hinderance, so she is whisked away and left near the forest to be eaten... but she is saved by four of the most unlikeliest of heroes: cows. This sounds harsh, but Flatlanders are not treated well by the rest of the kingdo A surprisingly good tale about magic & chocolate -- despite being wrapped in a cloak of prejudice. Emmeline Thistle is born with a deformation; in the Flatlands this is not good, because one is expected to work the land until death, and a deformed limb or other issues can be a hinderance, so she is whisked away and left near the forest to be eaten... but she is saved by four of the most unlikeliest of heroes: cows. This sounds harsh, but Flatlanders are not treated well by the rest of the kingdom of Anglund; they are very poor, seen as animals, treated like vermin, called the highly insulting "dirt-scratchers", and made to live in a certain area of the kingdom. They are never allowed to leave and can only marry their own; to do anything otherwise results in hanging. They are also easily identifiable due to their red locks; all Flatlanders have the same colored hair. But they make close-knit communities, respect the land and animals within, and have an almost spiritual connection to the elements. Emmeline survives her night, and the other Flatlanders see it as a bad omen; they avoid her constantly. She walks with a limp, due to her deformity. Her mother loves her, but her father remains distant, even after her mother passes. And cows LOVE her, going to her home every morning and following her everywhere. On the day of the Husband Market, a sort-of festival-like day where all the eligible, unmarried men gather in the town square and get bid on by the eligible, unmarried women, the king's guards swoop in and take all the unmarried men, including her father, saying they are needed for a war. Shortly after, it rains to the point where Emmeline's entire village is swept away by the river... including Emmeline. She ends up in not the Flatlands, taken in by a family of dairy farmers, the Oaks. The woman who cooks for the family is quite mean to her verbally; she's affronted they allow a dirt-scratcher in their house... sleep on a bed, given nice clothes, and get medical treatment... "Dirt-scratchers are animals! She may give you all a disease! We could all be arrested for even having her here!" But the Oaks do not care; they see a person in need and help is what they will give her. Emmeline gets well, and forms a friendship with the Oaks' son, Owen, who tells her the royal historical version of how the Flatlanders ended up where they are. Ages ago, they were known as the Kell, and they tried to invade the lower parts of Anglund and force the queen to give them land, food, and the secret of chocolate-making she carried--a secret she said she was given in a divine dream. When she refused, the Kell went on a killing spree, murdering royal chocolate-makers and causing other horrid things to happen. The Kell's leader was eventually caught and sentenced to death, but before he died, he cursed the queen: she who kills him will lose what she cherishes most and it will be given to one of his own. After that day, chocolate was never made again (and becomes a tall tale, of sorts), because the queen could no longer make it; she'd been placed under 'The Sweetest Spell'. The remaining Kell were forced onto terrible land, forbidden to leave or carry weapons, and treated like vermin. Emmeline ponders this while the Oaks consider keeping her, despite the laws; they all know her village is gone and the only road to the Flatlands was washed away and could take months to repair. Meanwhile, Owen takes Emmeline to their dairy barn and shows her how to churn fresh cream into butter; but when Emmeline tries to make it, it turns brown, like dirt. Owen cleans out the churner and gives her fresh cream... and it happens again. She grows panicky and upset, but Owen decides to try it, and is overcome by the sweet taste that makes him happy. He realizes: It's chocolate. The Oaks are thrilled; they share it with their neighbors and friends... and, soon, others know about Emmeline's very rare ability and will do ANYTHING to get their hands on her. And we discover that the war (that the Flatlander men were carted off to) and the historical version of events long-ago that Owen tells her are not what they seem. I loved this tale, although two things bothered me: 1) the switching of POV in each chapter & needing to guess who was speaking, and 2) the end was mildly anti-climatic. Suzanne Selfors writes very well and makes the magical realism aspects seem believeable. I recommend this book to everyone. PS: There are no overly-graphic scenes of violence, no sex, and no cussing.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    I was not expecting this book to be anything like what was really is. I was surprised with the many twists and turns. It was funny, but there were still times I cried. I would recommend this book to almost anyone. warning: this book does have a gay character

  26. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    The Sweetest Spell is the story of how a girl can church milk into chocolate. It is a rare talent that all believed had died out as a result of a curse from one nation to another. The real truth of the matter, no one knows. But Emmeline Thistle, the outcast of the outcasts in her country, suddenly has this ability. Some will give anything to gain it. This book was cute and funny. Yet it addressed some relevant issues: prejudice based on nationality as well as beauty, error in history, and the va The Sweetest Spell is the story of how a girl can church milk into chocolate. It is a rare talent that all believed had died out as a result of a curse from one nation to another. The real truth of the matter, no one knows. But Emmeline Thistle, the outcast of the outcasts in her country, suddenly has this ability. Some will give anything to gain it. This book was cute and funny. Yet it addressed some relevant issues: prejudice based on nationality as well as beauty, error in history, and the value of a unique gift. I admired Emmeline. Everyone looked down on her until she realized she had this gift. But even with it, she understood that people only wanted her for the gift, not herself. It is a rare person who looked beyond her gift, and she valued the ones who did. (Did I mention there was romance?) She sacrificed a lot to save her people and right as many wrongs as she was able in her country. This book was certainly a cute story filled with the unexpected, even illogical (milk to chocolate, really?), but it reached much deeper, and I loved it for that.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mitch

    Like every other book I’ve read by Suzanne Selfors, The Sweetest Spell and I could go either way. The summary sounds weird, sure, but in reality, the story doesn’t get much weirder than say Saving Juliet, another Selfors book with a … er … unique premise. Pretty much the same light, silly yet enjoyable fun, I liked the story - my problem here isn’t that none of these people in a chocolate making story has ever heard of cocoa beans, it’s actually of the more mundane writing related variety. The su Like every other book I’ve read by Suzanne Selfors, The Sweetest Spell and I could go either way. The summary sounds weird, sure, but in reality, the story doesn’t get much weirder than say Saving Juliet, another Selfors book with a … er … unique premise. Pretty much the same light, silly yet enjoyable fun, I liked the story - my problem here isn’t that none of these people in a chocolate making story has ever heard of cocoa beans, it’s actually of the more mundane writing related variety. The summary gives away a pretty decent chunk of the plot - Owen Oak doesn’t actually show up until the second part of this five part book - but yet at the same time the actual story deftly fills in the details with a lot of imagination and humor. Emmeline’s a dirt scratcher’s daughter with a deformity, an outcast even among outcasts, but through a massive series of coincidences eventually learns that she’s also the only living chocolatier, potentially worth all the gold in the kingdom, who everyone wants to get their hands on. That massive series of coincidences, though quite amusing to read about at first, eventually started to get on my nerves unfortunately - I can accept one or two, like the cows rescuing her from near death not once but twice, but as they started to pile on like a series of unfortunate events, Emmeline ending up on the Oak dairy as a result of floods, various things that happen to her after she learns she alone can make chocolate, even how she got the ability to make chocolate, I just felt like I had to accept too many things in order for the story to work. Which is a shame because I really liked the characters. Emmeline shows a lot of growth going from unwanted disabled girl to famous chocolatier and the way she solves her problems really fit with the overall story. When she makes chocolate for the first time, even though I know it’s not real at all, it’s magical and fun and dare I say it - sweet. Besides the first part, the chapters of the four remaining parts are told from Emmeline’s and Owen’s alternating points of view, slightly confusing because the point of view will change several times in each part with no warning whatsoever, but adding Owen’s point of view did make the story more interesting as there are things going on behind the scenes that Emmeline’s not aware of. Plus, Owen’s a pretty cool character himself who also does a lot of growing between his first scene at the beginning of part two and the ending. And although I use words like light, sweet, fun a lot, that doesn’t mean the story’s total fluff, there’s some seriousness, particularly with Emmeline’s antagonist Peddler, who surprised me despite his obsession with owning Emmeline’s talents. But the really cool thing I noticed is that the fictional kingdom of Anglund is based, sort of, on England. Emmeline’s people, the Kells, are like the Celts, which makes everyone else like the Angles and the Saxons. It’s all pretty obvious once Londwin City is mentioned, but the way the English inspired mythos is interwoven into the story, some pretty funny moments with Kell tradition, like the husband market, other stuff with the history of chocolate, more serious parts like the cruel way Kells are treated in the kingdom, it all adds an extra, rich layer to the world building that I really appreciated. I imagine Emmeline and Owen’s ending is the highlight of the book for most readers, but how all the England based backstory’s eventually resolved, although more than a bit silly, is definitely an extra bonus for me. Overall, The Sweetest Spell is definitely a happy book. I may have a problem with all the coincidences required for the plot to work but nonetheless I have to admit it’s otherwise a thoroughly enjoyable read. I mean, there’s chocolate. 3.5/5.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Anna Kay

    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 w 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.*

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ellen Ekstrom

    I wish all faery tales were like this. I thought it was one part Rumpelstiltskin, one part Cinderella, one part The Kitchen Knight and one part The Princess Bride. Emmeline Thistle and Owen Oak are two of the most likeable, interesting characters to come from the imagination in a long time. The third main character, Griffin Boar, reminded me of the obnoxious jocks in high school, the ones who thought they were God's greatest gift to everyone. Perhap that's what the author had in mind, but he was I wish all faery tales were like this. I thought it was one part Rumpelstiltskin, one part Cinderella, one part The Kitchen Knight and one part The Princess Bride. Emmeline Thistle and Owen Oak are two of the most likeable, interesting characters to come from the imagination in a long time. The third main character, Griffin Boar, reminded me of the obnoxious jocks in high school, the ones who thought they were God's greatest gift to everyone. Perhap that's what the author had in mind, but he was a little too predictable for me and I figured out the deal with Prince Beau as soon as he appeared in the story - I wish that could have been more of a mystery. I did like the banter between Oak and Boar in the dungeon, though; it was one-upmanship and bluster, and honest. Ms. Selfors weaves a tale that shows us the great and continuing divide between those who are privileged and wont for nothing and the rest of us, especially the very poor. The king and queen are despicable and hold dark secrets - one that threw me - and the people put up with their missrule to a point. The central figure is Emmeline Thistle, one of the Kell - a red-haired tribe of people who become 'dirt scratchers.' farmers, who are shunned and dispised because of something that happened in the past. I won't share that, for you get several versions of the historic account until the truth is revealed and it was a delight to figure it out. Emmeline has a rare gift because of that past. Emmeline is used to be being shunned and treated with hatred for her disability. People cannot see her true beauty because they see the deformity that is an accident of birth, and that's all they want to see, even though under the dirt and deprivation she is a physically and intellectually beautiful girl, a true heroine and fighter. Cows and chocolate figure prominently in the story. The cows are faery godparents of a sort and Emmeline has the gift to make chocolate. As one of a million and more people who love chocolate, that was draw for me! I won't say how she makes it - I was expecting a King Midas-sort of situation and was pleasantly surprised to discover something else. Boy, was it different! Like Ms. Selfors' wonderful story, "Saving Juliet," "The Sweetest Spell" had me laughing out loud and staying up way past my bedtime to read, this time around, the continuing adventure of Emmeline. It is a darker, more serious story in places than "Saving Juliet;" it brings to the fore the very real problems of class division and discrimination still with us. Excellent dialogue, description, sense of place and characters. I hope there's going to be a sequel for not only do I want chocolate, LOTS of chocolate, after reading "The Sweetest Spell," I want more adventures of Emmeline Thistle and Owen Oak. Pick up this book and read it!

  30. 4 out of 5

    A Book Vacation

    This novel is a masterpiece. A beautiful fairytale that is a must read. It’s so well written, so absorbing, that I had a very hard time disengaging; it permeated my thoughts and dreams for many a day afterward—it’s that good. I am really glad I read this novel, and equally as glad that the synopsis you see above is the true one that reflects the great writing of the story. Originally the synopsis on all major book sites (except Netgalley, which is where I first came across this novel) stated thi This novel is a masterpiece. A beautiful fairytale that is a must read. It’s so well written, so absorbing, that I had a very hard time disengaging; it permeated my thoughts and dreams for many a day afterward—it’s that good. I am really glad I read this novel, and equally as glad that the synopsis you see above is the true one that reflects the great writing of the story. Originally the synopsis on all major book sites (except Netgalley, which is where I first came across this novel) stated this: “Emmeline Thistle has always had a mysterious bond with cows, beginning on the night of her birth, when the local bovines saved the infant cast aside to die in the forest. But Emmeline was unaware that this bond has also given her a magical ability to transform milk into chocolate, a very valuable gift in a kingdom where chocolate is more rare and more precious than gold or jewels…” And that’s as much as I’m going to quote. Honestly, that synopsis made me not want to read this book—it seemed more of a joke than a true fairytale, and hence, I am very glad it was changed. If you check out Goodreads, you’ll see some reviews that make fun of this original synopsis, and rightfully so… it just sounds… dumb. Thus, I am very happy that most major book sites have now gotten the new/real synopsis up on their site, save Barnes and Nobel, which still states the original… So, if you’re one of the ones who saw the original synopsis and laughed, like me, then rest assured, this book is so much better than it was originally made out to be, and the new synopsis now reflects that. I fell in love with this story almost immediately. Emmeline is a true heroine; she is an all around great person who looks adversity in the face and refuses to give up. She’s very strong, even though her foot is curled and people look down on her with extreme disgust. But not only does this novel have a strong heroine, it is also has a strong hero and some amazing morals. This novel deals with racism, slavery, self-respect and self-esteem, honesty, forgiveness, understanding, greed, and optimism, to name a few, and it’s such an uplifting read, even though some of what happens within the story isn’t necessarily cheery. But, like all fairytales, it has a happy ending that truly makes the reader smile, and Emmeline’s influence on those around her, and the world in general, is astounding. Thus, I think this is a great novel for both young and older generations, and I’d love to see this made into a movie. It’s such a great book, and a must read. To see my full review: http://bookvacations.wordpress.com/20...

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