Friday, March 4, 2016

Charmed by Jen Calonita, 2016

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Charmed is the exciting sequel to the wildly popular Flunked -- second in the brand new Fairy Tale Reform School series where the teachers are (former) villains. "Charming fairy-tale fun." -Sarah Mlynowski, author of the New York Times bestselling Whatever After series.
It takes a (mostly) reformed thief to catch a spy. Which is why Gilly Cobbler, Enchantasia’s most notorious pickpocket, volunteers to stay locked up at Fairy Tale Reform School…indefinitely. Gilly and her friends may have defeated the Evil Queen and become reluctant heroes, but the battle for Enchantasia has just begun.
Alva, aka The Wicked One who cursed Sleeping Beauty, has declared war on the Princesses, and she wants the students of Fairy Tale Reform School to join her. As her criminal classmates give in to temptation, Gilly goes undercover as a Royal Lady in Waiting (don’t laugh) to unmask a spy…before the mole can hand Alva the keys to the kingdom.
Her parents think Gilly the Hero is completely reformed, but sometimes you have to get your hands dirty. Sometimes it’s good to be bad…

(288 pages)

After my friend recommended Flunked (my review), I was really excited to get my hands on its sequel, Charmed. I got the ebook on Netgalley, and devoured it in a single day.

Was it as good as its prequel? No, not really. There's a certain charm (no pun intended!) that simply can't be replicated, and while Charmed does its best to match Flunked it unfortunately feels a little bit too much like a sequel.

I mean this mainly in the sense that the plot shares certain similarities with that of the first book, not enough to make it feel like a rip-off but enough to make it feel rather unoriginal. The main difference that distinguishes Charmed from its prequel is that in it Gilly is dealing with her newfound popularity and she basically winds up acting like an idiot. My other main trouble with Charmed is that I guessed literally every twist waaay too early. I like to have my books surprise me, something that Flunked did at least to a certain extent (it at least kept me guessing), but with Charmed I had zero doubt about whether I was guessing correctly - the foreshadowing was really obvious to me. I don't think this is really because Calonita drops too many hints, but that the plot is a little too similar to that of many other books I've read.

Honestly, I think that's the crux of my trouble with Charmed: it just doesn't stand out from the crowd the same way Flunked did. It doesn't raise the bar, it doesn't wow me, it doesn't surprise me. It definitely entertains me - I'm not denying that I was sucked in from page one! - but it does that and nothing more. It's not a book that I'm going to be drawn to re-read, because it doesn't have much meat. Flunked doesn't really either, but it's such an engaging premise and story that it's okay; Charmed is forced to stand on its own merits a little more because it doesn't get the narrative crutch of introducing a fascinating new world, and it just doesn't completely do it for me.

I don't want to be too negative about the book, though. It's fun and engaging, and I definitely recommend it to fans of the first book, but I guess I was just in the mood for something a little meatier.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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