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Review: Spelled (Schow)

AUTHOR: Betsy Schow
SERIES: none
PUBLISHER: Sourcebooks Fire
ISBN: 9781492608714
PAGES: 352
SOURCE: SLJ review copy
GENRE: retelling, fantasy
SETTING: World of Story, City of Emerald

SUMMARY: After learning she is being forced to marry arrogant Prince Kato, spoiled, sheltered Princess Dorthea of Emerald makes an ill-fated wish on a cursed star. Hoping to somehow undo the curse, Dorthea and Kato must find the mysterious Wizard of Oz before the wickedest witch of all is unleashed on their world.

REVIEW: I was so excited to receive this book for review. The blurb sounds fantastic, and I always love a good Oz retelling, especially one with a dash of romance between two people who initially hate each other. And yes, Spelled started off really cute with loads of potential. I loved the abundant fairy tale references and even chuckled out loud while reading on the bus a couple of times.

Spelled is fun and cute, but I had some trouble with the meandering plot. I sometimes found myself lost, like I had missed some crucial moments in the story. I didn’t understand things like why the author chose to make Kato a chimaera or the motives of the witches. The white witch story was especially weird and confusing. There are plenty of run-for-your-life moments, but rather than getting absorbed in the action, I just wanted to get through the scene and eventually, the book. It is a cute story, and I absolutely loved all the fairy tale references. I wonder if it was just me, that maybe when I read it, I wasn’t fully engaged or was thinking about something else? This is one of those books where I think “it’s not you, it’s me.” I’d be really interested to see how my students respond to it.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Despite abundant potential, Spelled fell flat for me. The story is good, but it could have been great with a little less action and a little more character development. Despite all this, I think young fans of fairytale retellings might enjoy this better than I did.

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: I do plan to order this, despite my lukewarm reception of it. Retellings are incredibly popular at my school, and the front cover and blurb will make Spelled easy to book talk with my students.

READALIKES: Dorothy Must Die (Paige); Splintered (Howard)


  • Overall: 3/5
  • Creativity: 3/5
  • Characters: 3/5
  • Engrossing: 2/5
  • Writing: 3/5
  • Appeal to teens: 3/5
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 3/5


  • Language: none
  • Sexuality: mild; some kissing
  • Violence: mild; fantasy violence, fighting, spells, etc.
  • Drugs/Alcohol: none

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