This is quite a charming little book and I was actually quite impressed with much of the writing and the imagery and the feel of the story. It didn't quite have that magical something that makes you feel a fairy tale, but it was close and I found myself enjoying the story immensely.
Without giving too much away for fear of spoilers, I will say that the villian and the climax of this book were a disappointment to me. I don't think we need a detailed back story from our bad guy to make us understand why/how they are in a fairy tale retelling. But they do need a motive. Even if that motive is just- I'm evil and I know it... But in this book, I never really got the motive. I mean, I understood the superficial motive, but it didn't really... fit right to me. (It's really hard to explain this without just spoiling everything.)
There were a also few moments that felt rushed and a few characters that seemed to change halfway through, like the Peddler. Some of him I understood, but I felt like the author tried too hard to allow him to make an about face that wasn't really there. (You don't grin maniacally when you stab someone if you are really just a good person at heart...)
But other than wishing for a bit more character development in certain places and a slightly more sensical ending, this was definitely a book I enjoyed reading. Once I started reading, something about the writing was compelling enough to make me want to keep turning pages. There was never that insane rush to get to the end of the story because the action is so intense you just have to have to have to know what's going to happen next. Instead, it was just a gentle pull that kept me turning the pages, reading along. Which, considering how important cows are to this story and the way that cows move, feels like the absolute perfect pacing for this story.
I thought that most of the interactions involving Emmaline were done very well. The author really shows how deep rooted and damaging prejudices are and Emmaline has to face a lot of them, from the people in her village who scorned her, to the people in the rest of the kingdom who despise her and her people, to those so overcome with greed they see nothing of her except her magical ability to create chocolate, the thing they desire and crave more than any other. She is a strong character, one determined to remain true to herself no matter what happens and no matter what she's up against. And I loved watching her sense of self and purpose grow.
The story itself is full of the usual fairy tale fare- a damsel in distress, a quest, crimes again the King/Queen, lies, betrayal, false reports, true love, and etc. but Selfors always managed to infuse her own spin and her own touch to every part of the story. The basic fairy tale predictability was there, but nothing about this story felt like I was reading the same old thing. The fairy tale was buried underneath an original story and I truly enjoyed it. Is it the best book I've ever read? No. But it's definitely one I enjoyed and definitely one that's going to need to sit it beautiful hardcover on my fairy tale shelf.
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