The Sweetest Spell

August 2012. 416p. 978-0-80272-237-5. 16.99.
Gr 7 Up–A fun and frothy romantic fantasy. Almost abandoned at birth because of a twisted foot, Emmeline has always been an outcast among her people, the Kell. When the king enslaves the men and her village is destroyed in a flood, Emmeline is taken in by Owen Oak and his family. She discovers that she can churn butter into chocolate–a food that’s been lost for years in the land of Anglund. Romance blossoms, but the two are separated when the girl is kidnapped for her magical abilities. Short chapters that alternate between Emmeline’s and Owen’s narrations keep the story moving at a fast clip. Selfors’s elegant prose is well suited for depicting both the sweetness of chocolate and of first love. However, there’s plenty here for nonromance fans: fights, near misses with death, and even political intrigue when Emmeline ends up at the court of the king and queen of Anglund. The multiple versions of how chocolate disappeared, each representing a different political spin, add nuance to the narrative. Both characters are strong, and Emmeline’s transformation from drab pariah to beautiful, powerful young woman will provide vicarious thrills for readers. A scene where she declines a marriage proposal from the handsome but arrogant Griffin Boar, who scorned her back in their village, is a particularly satisfying moment. While Emmeline’s predicament wraps up a little too quickly and conveniently, her reunion with Owen is fully gratifying.-Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

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