by: Alethea Kontis
Blog note: I won a contest over at Ensis Reads, formally Don’t Read! I got this wicked awesome traveling coffee mug (LOVE IT!), and I am going to do a full post with pictures this weekend!
This is the first book in The Woodcutter Sisters series, a book based on the family of Jack and Seven Woodcutter, and featuring modern retellings of European fairy tales – quite a few of them feature in each book.
The woodcutter sisters are seven sisters born to a woodcutter and his wife (naturally). Each of the girls is named after a different day of the week. Sunday, our heroine, is the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter – I do love that in this world, that is equally powerful as the seventh son of a seventh son. Sunday befriends a frog in the woods and thus starts an adventure to change the life of her and her sisters forever. And yes, this book is based mostly on The Frog Prince, one of my favorite fairy tales.
As a protagonist, I liked Sunday a lot. She was thoughtful and somewhat dreamy, but she still did things and was very much an active participant in the story. The frog prince, Rumbold, is also a good character – very flawed but likable. He spends a lot of time in the story learning to be a man, without having it be the central theme of the story. I very much appreciate that – I feel like too often a main male character growing into manhood automatically becomes the center of the story. Here, though, it is an important part without overpowering the story. I didn’t necessarily think he was romantic or dashing or any of the things I like my romantic heroes to be – but I did think he was an interesting character and a good fit for Sunday.
The plot was good, though the pacing was a little weird. There was a bit too much going on, even though it’s a fairy long YA novel. It was partly because Kontis was fairly obviously trying to set up plotlines for all the continuing book in the series, plus introduce other characters which have already had their adventures, like her sister Thursday. (That was pretty irritating. Thursday runs off to sea and becomes a pirate captain. I want to read that story!) Three of Sunday’s siblings have already found their ever after; one of them finds it as a minor side plot in this story. The writing was quite good, but there was simply too much going on. I feel like Kontis could have worried less about making sure we understand everything that’s happened or is happening to this family and worried more about tightening up the plot.
The book, however, was engaging and I definitely stayed up late to finish it! A great sign. Unfortunately, it also wasn’t that memorable. While I definitely want to read other books in the series, I did have trouble recalling what happened in this book while writing this review. I think part of that is so much happened that my brain kinda gave up on it.
The characters were, as a whole, engaging and interesting but Kontis ran into the same problem with them as she did with the plot; namely, there were too many that she was trying to give too much attention to. That means some of the characters, like Wednesday, became “tells” and not “shows.” Sunday tells us a lot about Wednesday but the reader never gets to see her behaving in her odd Wednesday ways, so her particular storyline isn’t very convincing or engaging, even though she’s central to what happens in the story. On the other hand, I completely fell in love with Saturday and cannot wait to read her book. The characters that Kontis fully fleshes out are done extremely well and absolutely perfect for a YA novel.
The flaws didn’t prevent me from enjoying the story but I do think a strong red pen could’ve turned this story from a book I really liked to a book I’d rave about. That makes me a little sad, to be completely truthful, though I’m happy I read it anyway.
If you’re into YA novels with a strong fairy tale influence or if you like ordinary teenage characters who have extraordinary adventures, you should definitely pick this one up! If you don’t like the feeling of being plunged into the middle of a series (I know it’s billed as the first, but it doesn’t feel like it), or if you like your fairy tale retellings with a darker or socially relevant edge, than alack! this may not the book for you.