Thursday, 30 June 2011

Book Review: The Sevenfold Spell by Tia Nevitt

Title: The Sevenfold Spell
Author: Tia Nevitt
Release Date: 27 September 2010
Length: 23,000 words
Publisher: Carina Press
Source: review copy provided by publisher via NetGalley
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Amazon, Author's website

Grade: 4 stars

Novellus superbus!

Goodreads appetizer: Have you ever wondered what happens to the other people in the fairy tale?

Things look grim for Talia and her mother. By royal proclamation, the constables and those annoying “good” fairies have taken away their livelihood by confiscating their spinning wheel. Something to do with a curse on the princess, they said.

Not every young lady has a fairy godmother rushing to her rescue.

Without the promise of an income from spinning, Talia’s prospects for marriage disappear, and she and her mother face destitution. Past caring about breaking an arbitrary and cruel law, rebellious Talia determines to build a new spinning wheel, the only one in the nation, which plays right into the evil fairy’s diabolical plan. Talia discovers that finding a happy ending requires sacrifice. But is it a sacrifice she’s willing to make?

My Thoughts: I have to say The Sevenfold Spell is the fairy tale retelling I have read which is the most original and which deviates the most from the classic fairy tale. I loved Tia Nevitt's unique perception of what really happened in the Sleeping Beauty tale. There are two main arcs where The Sevenfold Spell differs from the original Sleeping Beauty: the arc regarding the heroine Talia and the other one concerning the princess.

Let me first start with Talia's story.

The story grips the reader right from the start and sucks you in, making you curious to learn more about this alternate universe and version of Sleeping Beauty. The story starts with magistrates walking the town and destroying all spinning wheels due to a royal decree, which tries to circumvent the princess' curse this way. However, we never saw before how such an act could affect other people, and here we are on the side of the others: Talia and her mother as well as their neighbours have lost their living, their despair and uncertainty at the future was jarring.

We get our very first shock at the beginning when it is revealed that the heroine is a poor and ugly young woman who has warts! *gasp* Yes, not the usual beginning we are used to where the heroine's spellbinding beauty and musical laughter are described. Oh no, Talia, our heroine is a realist and she is her own most severe critic: men only deem her plain, but it is her own view that she is ugly. But she has accepted that fact since a long time. She has resigned herself to her fate, and knows she has not much chance at matrimony, and at love none whatsoever.

Besides the physique of the heroine her attitude towards love and romance was also unusual. When a young man who she considers a friend of her mentions they should get married it is not a passionate proposal and speech of undying love, oh couldn't be further from that:
On one such day, shortly before I turned eighteen, he interrupted his own description of the birth of a calf to say, “We should get married, you know.” I gawked at him.
He shrugged, and then blushed to the tips of his ears. “We get on well. You don’t seem like a henpecker, and I’m not likely to be an adulterer.”
I understood what he was trying to say. I was plain and he was homely. Neither of us was likely to find anyone else. 

And her reason for accepting him? Not butterflies and damp palms either:
He was plain, certainly, but he had other things in his favor. At the top of the list was his interest in me.

But this lack of passion and love at first sight wasn't enough for Tia Nevitt, no, she still had to jumble it up a bit more :-) Unfortunately it seemed Talia would not get her happy ending and marriage and her own cottage and children all became a distant dream. And seeing so much hopelessness, resignation and unhappy endings in a fairy tale was shocking to say at least. But Talia is a strong and determined heroine, different from the usual simpering princesses who just wait for their princes to come and save them. Talia is independent and takes matters into her own hand, she tries to take charge of her own destiny.

The other element which I found stunning since it deviated so much from the usual fairy tale canons was that the heroine had needs, sexual needs. And she wasn't sorry or ashamed of them. She even risked being called a tramp and being shunned by society for the short moments of companionship she could get this way.
My infrequent confessions went something like this: “I have not been chaste, as a maiden ought,” I would say to the priest.
“With whom have you not been chaste?”
“A butcher. A baker. A candlestick maker.”

The Sevenfold Spell is a steamy story with sensual sex scenes that you most certainly wouldn't find in your usual fairy tale :-p

Then let me tell you how this story deviates from the original when it comes to the princess:

Her curse was sevenfold:
"The spell awaits the seventh part, still. It goes like this: “Beloved by all, with Beauty the most perfect, Elegance the most graceful, Temperament the most amiable, Judgment the most sensible, Music the most lyric, And wit the most keen."
And since it was interrupted by the evil fairy before the seventh and last part could be announced, the princess was simple! She had the maturity and intellectual of a child even when she became 16! (but have no fear it is a fairy tale, so all is well, which ends well... ;-)

The ending nicely ties off all the loose ends and satisfies all fairy tale fans. The light and happiness really came through and I was happy to see that Talia after so much suffering and bleak years got to be happy.

Tia Nevitt finished The Sevenfold Spell with the perfect humourous ending:
“Talia shall indeed have all the things you have granted her,” she said. “Love, marriage, children, wealth, health and long years. However, she will never—” Swat! A broom smacked her out of the air and dashed her to the marble floor, senseless. “—be troubled by fairies again,” Mother concluded as she leaned on a broom. All of the fairies, including the stunned evil fairy, vanished from sight. Mother turned to me. “Gawd! I’ve wanted to do that for seventeen years.”

Verdict: The Sevenfold Spell was a unique and completely original spin on the classic fairy tale. Tia Nevitt created an interesting alternate universe and the unexpected twists and turns will definitely keep you guessing (and hoping) until the end.

I usually dislike novellas because I always find the story rushed and deem it would have served the author, the reader and the story better if it were longer. However, it wasn't the case with The Sevenfold Spell. It was well developed, the ending was lovely, and all fairy tale lovers could sit back with a sigh that all the characters got their happy ending :-)

Plot: 9/10
Characters: 8/10
Ending: 8/10
Writing: 9/10
Cover: 8/10

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