Boyfriends, Stepsisters, and Witches REVIEWING Bewitching

Welcome to today's review at The Real World According To Sam!

Today we are talking about the "sequel" to Beastly, a fairytale retelling I reviewed a couple months ago. You can check that out by clicking here: Review

Let's just....get into it because....I want to get this over with. 


Author: Alex Flinn
Genre: YA Fantasy Retelling
Year: 2012



Bewitching can be a beast....

Once, I put a curse on a beastly and arrogant high school boy. That one turned out all right. Others didn't. 

I go to a new school now -- one where no one knows that I should have graduated long ago. I'm not still here because I'm stupid; I just don't age. 

You see, I'm immortal. And I pretty much know everything after hundreds of years -- except for when to take my powers and butt out. 

I want to help, but things just go awry in ways I could never predict. Like when I tried to free some children from a gingerbread house and ended up being hanged. After I came back from the dead (immortal, remember?), I tried to play matchmaker for a French prince and ended up banished from France forever. And that little mermaid I found in the Titanic lifeboat? I don't even want to think about it. 

Now a girl named Emma needs me. I probably shouldn't get involved, but her gorgeous stepsister is conniving to the core. I think I have just the thing to fix that girl -- and it isn't an enchanted pumpkin. Although you never know what will happen when I start...bewitching.


Where do I even start with this one? I guess we can talk about the cover. 

What I like:
  • the background color and effect
  • the fog and the moon
  • the shadows
  • the dress, apart from the single strap
What I don't like: 
  • the facial expression (although I guess if you continually mess up peoples' lives and get banished or hanged for it, and you're still trying to get it right hundreds of years later, this may end up as your default expression as a result)
  • that single throws me off visually, but then again, I'm just partial to symmetry and I'm kind of picky about my dress straps (that's purely personal preference)
Okay, there's that. So I guess we have to talk about the story now, huh? Oh wait! We can talk about me and why I read this...

I genuinely like retellings. I read and watch a lot of them. I watch alternate versions of movies and remakes and retellings all the time. This entire blog started off as a means of comparing retellings of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice with the original work. I love fairytales and I like seeing what people do with classic stories. It's just fun for me. So naturally, after I read Beastly and greatly enjoyed it, I figured I would read more retellings from the same author. I thought I'd enjoy it, I thought it would be fun...except it wasn't. 

So I guess this begins the part I've been dreading. Talking about this book. I've avoided it as best as I could up to this point. I've dawdled and dallied and procrastinated and I'm still doing it. Okay, I'll stop now. 

Bewitching is supposed to be the story of Kendra, a witch. In reality, this book feels like two different stories, and not in a good way. This is the second book in the "Kendra Chronicles". Beastly is number one, but really I didn't see why it was relevant for these two to connect and become a "series". Maybe the third one will change my mind on that. I have a copy of that from the library that I'll get to eventually and...I'll probably talk about it when I finally get to it. As far as this one goes, it feels a bit too disjointed and unrelated to be anything other than a distant cousin to Beastly as far as books go. It would be better labeled as a spin-off novel, than as a sequel. Especially one named after the "main" character, who really isn't the main character of Beastly...which had a much more interesting main character, in my opinion. 

The story starts off with little Kendra living in the time of the Plague....back in the dark times of the Bubonic Plague, before we figured out how to treat it and avoid it better. This was back in the days of awful sanitation because the English learned mythology and poetry from the Greeks and Romans, but couldn't be bothered to learn from the Romans about plumbing. Go figure. Kendra has lost most of her family to the plague and all she has left is her little brother who has been ill as of late. He is healed magically, and she decides they need to leave so they can avoid dying from it or losing anything more. Instead she comes up on a gingerbread house, where there are children baked into gingerbread by a witch. The witch takes in Kendra and her brother in order to bake them too, but Kendra tries to find a way to fight back. It turns out Kendra has some magic abilities and the witch realizes this. She had lost her family too, so she decides she will take in Kendra for real and will take care of both her and her brother, while teaching Kendra how to control and improve her magic. 

Eventually, Kendra gains a new family and she lives throughout the years, trying to help others. After the initial introduction to Kendra during ye olde sick times, we get into the story of Emma. Throughout Emma's story, Kendra interjects at random points and we read about other times that Kendra tried to help others, but failed. So there really are two-ish stories going on. I couldn't bring myself to get invested in each story and each interruption. As soon as I would get into one, another one would interrupt or be over. It became very distracting. The main story is really supposed to be about Emma if chapter devotion to one particular story indicates anything. Roundaboutly, after the introduction, I guess we are supposed to care a lot about Kendra. I honestly cared more about her when I knew less about her in some ways. In Beastly she was an interesting character and when she's involved in the story with Emma, I liked her. In some of the side stories, I just get irritated of being jarred out of my reading environment and then I have a hard time getting into the next part. It makes me feel tossed around and like its impossible to get a handle on different characters or fully care for them, when I really want to. 

The main story is about Emma and her struggles with changing family dynamics and teenage relationships. Emma's stepdad had been involved with a different woman at some point and had a daughter with her. He was married to Emma's mom after and became Emma's stepdad. After his ex-wife dies, leaving his biological daughter alone, Emma's family takes in the girl. So Emma has a stepsister, whose name is Lisette. At first, Emma and Lisette have a bit of a rocky start, but seem to start getting along. They share things and both seem excited to have a sister. Until, Lisette gets jealous, starts stealing things from Emma, and then frames Emma like she's a mean person or makes her feel guilty for having been around the dad for so long when she was left with a mom who became sick and died. It's pretty bad and very manipulative. It doesn't even just end there. Emma's relationship with her stepdad ends up being fractured and things go even Emma's life is becoming a mess. She gets a boyfriend who she has really liked and who really likes her. Instead of being able to be happy, Lisette decides she needs to ruin that too. Kendra goes to the same school as these stepsisters and she befriends Emma and finds out what is happening. She decides she wants to help. 

So this is ultimately a retelling of Cinderella, but in a way that is not at all satisfying. I generally cared about Emma and I felt bad for her. Lisette was incredibly manipulative and conniving. While I feel bad for Emma, I still couldn't get behind some of her decisions or thoughts. There were points where I was like "No, don't do that. Stop thinking like that. That's bad for you. Try to go for better." Ultimately, I was pretty satisfied with the ending, but it was so rushed that I barely got any satisfaction from it. I would have liked to have spent more time in the last section so certain things in there could feel properly developed. 

The main issue with this book is the pacing, constant cutaway stories, and the lack of focus. I like the story of Cinderella a lot, but this just didn't do a good job of conveying that story in an effective manner. Most of the characters were awful people I would never want to encounter in my life, and even Emma made decisions that made me shake my head. I had lots of sympathy for her, but sometimes she went with things or wanted things that just...again, I was shaking my head. It was unhealthy emotionally and mentally, so I'm glad she got past some of that in time. I still couldn't stand the cutaway retellings, because they always interrupted at a high tension point. It just destroyed so much of the tension build-up and really didn't make me feel like what I was reading as an aside was worth losing that tension. I didn't come out of this book feeling like I cared more for Kendra or like this was her story in any way. I think the series is a bit of a misnomer at this point. 

For me, this book was a trainwreck. I liked a couple of things, but ultimately it was too bogged down, too choppy, and too rushed at the most satisfying moments to make me happy with it by the end. Was I generally happy with HOW it ended as a story? Yes. Was I happy with the execution of that ending? No, not at all. Was I happy with the execution of this book? Nope. I think this needed some more editing before hitting shelves. It needed more focus. I would have gladly read a book full of short retellings that build up and go through time, telling the story of Kendra. That would have been great. I would've read a Cinderella retelling where Kendra played a role. Trying to force it all together as ONE novel? Not a good move. This is probably one of the worst retellings I have read so far and I will be more than happy to never read it again in my life. 

Unfortunately, I have to give Bewitching a Lone Star rating of ✯✯. It had some good pieces going in, but the execution was awful. There was a lot of potential and some quick clean-up would have done the job well enough. There was every reason for this book to be good and it just wasn't. No parts of this book are a bad story at the core. Throwing them together as a jumbled mess made it a bad story to read and slog through. 

This concludes another review here at The Real World According To Sam, where I bring the books to your screen and even put in my own two cents about them. Thanks for reading!