March 29, 2011

Review: Sweetly by Jackson Pearce

Author: Jackson Pearce
Publisher: Little, Brown
Series: Sisters Red, Book 2
ISBN: 1444900595
Release Date: August 23, 2011
Pre-Order Information:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

*Novel provided by Book It Forward ARC Tours

For more information please visit Jackson Pearce's website.

SWEETLY is a modernization of Hansel and Gretel and a companion book to SISTERS RED.

Twelve years ago, Gretchen, her twin sister, and her brother went looking for a witch in the forest. They found something. Maybe it was a witch, maybe a monster, they aren’t sure—they were running too fast to tell. Either way, Gretchen’s twin sister was never seen again.

Years later, after being thrown out of their house, Gretchen and Ansel find themselves in Live Oak, South Carolina, a place on the verge of becoming a ghost town. They move in with Sophia Kelly, a young and beautiful chocolatier owner who opens not only her home, but her heart to Gretchen and Ansel.

Yet the witch isn’t gone—it’s here, lurking in the forests of Live Oak, preying on Live Oak girls every year after Sophia Kelly’s infamous chocolate festival. But Gretchen is determined to stop running from witches in the forest, and start fighting back. Alongside Samuel Reynolds, a boy as quick with a gun as he is a sarcastic remark, Gretchen digs deeper into the mystery of not only what the witch is, but how it chooses its victims. Yet the further she investigates, the more she finds herself wondering who the real monster is, and if love can be as deadly as it is beautiful.

Sweetly is the second novel in the Sisters Red series by Jackson Pearce, a series that breathes new life and brings fairy tale lore into the modern world. In this case, the novel is a great re-imagining of the story of 'Hansel and Gretel' creating a dark and enthralling world that was at times gruesome and mysterious. Nicely written with interesting twists and turns, this was a fun read that is sure to appeal to any fan of fairy tale re-tellings.

Pearce's world building is amazing as the story starts off with a thrilling chase perfectly capturing the finer nuances of the original tale. This creates a wonderful melancholy tone that gives an almost oppressive atmosphere as the heat of the setting and the emotions both serve to weigh heavily on the characters. This atmosphere is a great breeding ground for mystery and suspense, and surprisingly an enticing romance that only adds to the building pace as the sinister aspects of the plot become clear. The descriptive quality of the writing also helps to create the world, from the wonderfully intoxicating smell of the Choclatier to the malevolent and claustrophobic feeling of the woods that surround Live Oak, a deliciously small town full of interesting and often cantankerous characters.

The characters, however, are what really caught my attention. I loved Gretchen. She's such an desolate character with a deep seeded desire to save others from suffering the soul wrenching loss that she and her family endured. But, because of the circumstances surrounding her twins disappearance she is very withdrawn, knowing that to share the truth about that day only serves to make her appear crazy. Her brother Ansel is also quite appealing, though he is more easily swayed to believe that what they saw as children was nothing more then an illusion. But, because of his love of his sister and need to protect and support her, he never questions her convictions and instead trusts her even above his own reservations. There was something about that stalwart devotion that really tugged at my heart. The shared love between them is so pure, and extremely evident as Gretchen watches the romance between Ansel and Sophia flourish with nothing but hope and enthusiasm for her brother's happiness. But, as Gretchen comes to discover all the secrets Sophia is hiding she quickly becomes worried about her brother's unflinching devotion to a woman who conceals so much about herself and her past.

And as the story progresses, Gretchen comes to realize that she hasn't escaped the horrific creatures that stole her sister as she discovers the alarming string of girls that have gone missing from the small town of Live Oak. But, feeling the need to confront her fears she treads into the threatening darkness of the forest only to come face to face with the nightmare that has haunted her since her youth. Saved by local 'madman' Samuel, who plays the part of the woodsman perfectly, she comes to discover that there is someone else who shares in her terrifying knowledge, the witch she has always feared is a werewolf, or rather the Fenris, does in fact exist and is responsible for the string disappearances. The romance that quickly blooms between these two unpredictable allies was definitely one of my favorite aspects of the novel as Samuel allows Gretchen to regain not only her strength and confidence, but herself as well.

There is also a wonderful sense of mystery and suspense throughout the novel that the author perfectly captured. With concise, clipped sentences the tone is nicely set capturing the essence and emotions of Gretchen. There is also a certain amount of distance that comes through perfectly mirroring the disassociated appeal of her emotions. As the story progresses so too does the evolution of the writing, turning from mildly apathetic to more engaged with more confident thoughts as Gretchen comes to choose a new destiny for herself choosing to no longer mirror the path of the missing. As the climax begins, there is a wonderful sense of action creating a thrilling ending that perfectly complimented the build up going on throughout the novel, answering all of the underlying questions that spanned the story, plaguing not only Gretchen but her brother as well. Truly, this was a delicious culmination that was no less satisfying then the title implies.

But, while there was a lot that I loved about this novel, there were still some things that held up the flow at times. For instance, the pace was a major factor for the first half of the novel as Gretchen's character flounders to create a new life for herself leaving her childhood fears behind. It isn't until she meets Samuel that she truly opens up, creating a character that is engaging and far more interesting. Also, there seems to be an odd mentality from Gretchen at times, as she has seen the horrific dangers that lurk in the woods, but seems determined to ignore it. Often times this makes her seem fairly naive in her choices. And finally, the lack of exploration into the supernatural realm of the Fenris sort of nagged at me. They just seem to appear with no explanation in a town that seems plagued by disappearances. It just really seemed odd that they could remain undetected in such a small town where only two people was aware of their presence.

Overall, this was a fun read that captured all the wonderful elements that made 'Hansel and Gretel' a classic. This is a wonderful world full of such great potential with a writer that definitely knows how to spin a yarn unlike any other creating a series that is as addictive as the confectionery treats present within this tasty tale. Definitely a great read for fans of fairy tale re-tellings, or for any fan of Dark YA that is perfect for a quick read that will keep you utterly engaged!

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Scars

1 comment:

Sarah Allen said...

This looks so cool! These ideas are totally inspiring me to write my own versions of classic fairytales...sounds like an interesting, awesome challenge :)

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)