More Swans, Less Woodcutters, Please – Dearest Review

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Title: Dearest (Woodcutter Sisters #3)
Author: Alethea Kontis
Genre: Young Adult (maybe middle grade) fantasy/fairy tale
Published: February 3, 2015
Rating: ★★★☆☆

In the third book of the Woodcutter Sisters series, magically gifted young seamstress Friday Woodcutter is caught in the middle of a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Wild Swans.” This is labeled a companion book to the series, and should stand alone, but it is best if you read Enchanted and Hero first.

After a series of strange events that are confusing even if you’ve read the previous two books, Friday happens upon a banished royal family from a faraway land hiding out in an enchanted tower. The seven brothers have been cursed to live as swans by day until their sister, Elisa, can weave them each a shirt out of prickly, painful nettles. If Elisa can’t complete this task on time, the evil ass who usurped their kingdom and killed their parents will find her and the brothers will remain in swan form for the rest of their lives.

So Friday runs into them and immediately befriends Elisa and falls in love with Tristan, one of the younger brothers. And because she’s so loving and compassionate and magically gifted in the weaving and sewing department, she decides to help Elisa spin some nettles into shirts and break the curse.

That’s basically what happens plot-wise, but throughout the fairy tale retelling is weaved the drama of Friday’s own enchanted family. That may seem like a neat little narrative device to frame the series as a whole, but the book relies too much on recounting the magical eccentricities of the extensive Woodcutter family, whose history is crammed with every fairy tale archetype imaginable, when it should focus more on the new characters more central to the immediate plot. I would have rather read more about Elisa and her brothers’ history, what with all the usurping and cursing and bloody murder, than the frequent references to Friday’s family members who don’t even appear in this book.

Friday herself is rather boring. The Woodcutter sisters are named and magically gifted after that days of the week nursery rhyme, and poor “loving and giving” Friday is the blandest one. Her talents include orphan child care, inherent empathy that heals wounds by taking them on herself, and an ability to sew like a pro with an enchanted needle. It’s magically impossible for anyone not to love her saccharine sweet spirit. That’s how she and Tristan fall in love – they see each other and immediately recognize that fate brought them together. Unfortunately fate didn’t think to throw in a little chemistry with all that insta-love.

Three stars because I’ve enjoyed the rest of the series and a few lines of dialog between the swan brothers made me chuckle, but I was too frequently distracted by all the clutter to really love it. Too many secondary characters with convoluted histories, and way too many fairy tale references tangentially thrown in all over the place kept this book from being as charming and clever as it could have been. Hopefully the next Woodcutter sister, if she gets her own book, will be more interesting.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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