Enchanted by Alethea Kontis

Enchanted** spoiler alert ** Once upon a time, a girl kissed a frog, which turned into a prince.

Once upon a time, there was an old woman who lived in a shoe. She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.

Once upon a time, there was a royal ball to which every eligible maiden was invited. Actually, before Disney simplified the story line, there was a series of three balls, and Our Heroine had three gowns – golden as the sun, silver as the moon, and shining as the stars.

Althea Kontis has taken a double handful of fairy-tale motifs and woven them all together into one seamless story, with plot twists that make Enchanted a breathless roller-coaster of a tale.

Monday’s child is fair of face. Tuesday’s child is full of grace. Sunday, the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, can do magic… but she has no teacher, and the magic doesn’t always work the way she expects. She has learned to be very careful, and wishing for an enchanted frog to stop being a frog mswan princeight turn him into a tiger. Wishing for him to be restored might turn him human, but not breathing. The frog can only be restored to human form by the kiss of true love, but who could love a frog?

swan princeIt takes a few days for Sunday to fall in love, and the story involves a cow swapped for magic beans. That golden ball mentioned above takes part, too. Once the frog is back in the palace, the course of true love does not run smooth – or this would be a much shorter story. If all the eligible girls in the kingdom attend the ball, all the eligible bachelors will show up, as well. So does the girl who can feel a pea through a dozen mattresses. Too many fairy godmothers are championing their various charges, and some fairies really, really, don’t like each other. The Pirate Queen adds an interesting twist.

Sunday and her sisters can’t go to the ball until all the chores are done, and (just like the Disney story) they can only go IF they have a gown to wear. The family does not have enough money for one set of gowns, much less gowns for three nights. Although a few of the seven sisters no longer live at home, the girls and assorted brothers take a lot of feeding. There isn’t much left for aristocratic clothes.

Attention is paid (count your coins before you pay) to how the gown are constructed. The ornamentation and embroideries are removable, so that the gold trim and ribbons on a blue gown can look different tomorrow as gold trim and ribbons on a red gown, while the blue brocade over-layer of the blue gown utterly transforms the look of the silver gown. The blue gown in turn is given pearl and silver trim which looked vivid and sharp on the red gown, and now look soft and delicate on the darker color. Once upon a time, people lived wihtout mass-produced clothing, and careful forethought was needed more than it is now.

Someone ruins their clothing by laying down in the hearth and getting covered in cinders. Readers will enjoy the clever twist which turns this familiar trope inside out and upside down.

While Sunday has several sisters at home to support her, the Prince is an only child, and his mother is dead. He team consists of a loyal manservant, a guardsman, and a cousin who is half fairy, and staying at this court until his long-lived parent finally dies.

At the first ball, the cousin sees dangerous fairy magic, and diverts attention away from Sunday.

At the second ball, Sunday is attacked by ordinary people who are jealous of the attentions paid to her by the prince. She escapes and gets home, more or less in one piece. Sunday’s fairy godmother comes to the family’s cottage to help out.

Someone tears apart the ball-gown, and one of the sisters will not attend the ball.

At the third ball, royal marriage is proposed to the wrong person. Someone else’s fairy godmother has proven too strong for Sunday’s fairy godmother. The prince tries to explain matters to Sunday, and she flees the palace. She keeps her shoes as she runs, but another fairy-tale motif leaves the prince with her shoe after all.

Sunday and her frog prince must use every ounce of their cleverness, magic, and the loyalty of their family and friends. Will the giant beanstalk help or hinder? Will the goose that lays golden eggs get killed? Will the woman who lives in a shoe figure out what to do with her problem children?

Readers will get an extra thrill every time they recognize a fairy tale cameo. Although several modern retold fairy tales have merged two old stories to a pleasing new whole, Enchanted successfully takes this to a whole new level

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