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Review of Charming by


by Jade Linwood

Revenge plots are always fun. Give me a woman scorned any day. Charmed combines a revenge plot with another one of my favourite tropes—a fairy-tale remix setting. Jade Linwood takes elements of some of the most familiar fairy tales of the Western canon, turning their protagonists into women who are out to avenge themselves, and in some cases their countries, against none other than Prince Charming. I received an eARC from NetGalley and publisher Rebellion.

Like many fairy tales, Charmed contains stories within stories. The book opens with Prince Charming arriving to rescue Sleeping Beauty (Bella in this version). After he absconds with some of the palace wealth, the book jumps ahead to Bella meeting Marie Blanche de Neige (Snow White) and Doctor Emilia Rapunzel. These two each tell their tale in turn, and having discovered that the rogue in each tale is the same man, they make a revenge pact. The last act of the book comprises the actual plot unfolding, involving a deal with a dragon, another fairy tale protagonist, and more.

I love how Linwood has reimagined each of these protagonists. This feminist revisionism has itself almost become a trope of remixing fairy tales. Linwood takes it one step further, however, essentially syncretizing these tales into their own, imaginary European theatre. Each comes from a region clearly reminiscent of a specific part of Europe, such as Italy or France or Germany, albeit with the addition of creatures like dwarves, dragons, and demons. The three women at the centre of this story are each their own person, with different motivations, dreams, and goals. In particular, Bella proves very difficult for the other two to deal with (perhaps because her century of sleep has suspended her growth into adulthood)—however, I think Linwood makes it evident that Bella’s perspective is just as valid as Marie or Emilia’s.

The pacing of Charmed frustrated me a little, especially at first. I felt like it was taking too long to go from backstory to revenge story. I’m not sure if there is a solution for this (other than making each story-within-the-story shorter, but perhaps that would lose some of the rich character development). Similarly, I’m glad Linwood did her best to give Charming himself sympathetic motives. At the same time, the way in which that exposition is finally delivered to us was clunky.

Finally, our protagonists themselves don’t seem to grow or change all that much. We see a little bit of it in their backstories (any of which could make an interesting novel in its own right), and then the ending hints at growth that can happen now that they are each able to move on. But for the duration of the book itself, they don’t really develop as characters, which is frustrating.

Ultimately, Charmed is a charming book (yes, I went there), but like so many remixes, it felt like it was missing something. I don’t know if my bar is just too high or if I have unrealistic expectations. In any event, this is a book that has a great premise that is faithfully and competently executed—I had fun reading it over the course of an afternoon on my deck—but I’m not sure it is memorable.


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