Sweetly by Jackson Pearce

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Sweetly by Jackson Pearce

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: All Gretchen saw of the creature chasing them was the yellow eyes. It took her twin sister, and destroyed Gretchen's life. Now she is eighteen, and she takes to the road with her brother Ansel, hoping to start afresh. But it's not so easy to escape.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: October 2011
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781444900590

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This book is the second in a series of fairy tale retellings (the first being Sisters Red) which, without being closely connected, share common elements. They both deal with the paranormal, including the Fenris, which are about as far from the glamorous and sexy werewolves of recent books and films as you can get. They stalk. They kill. They eat. End of story. The two books also look at the aftermath of an attack, and how it changes the lives of those who survive.

This story does have some of the elements of paranormal romance: the protagonists find themselves falling in love with attractive but enigmatic people who have A Past (capitals obligatory!) and danger always lurks nearby. What is different here is the stylish and original way the author uses the story of Hansel and Gretel as a framework for the story, including many of its elements in new and interesting ways.

Gretchen is six when she loses her twin sister in the woods. She becomes paralysed with survivor guilt, unable to cope at school and so distraught she even goes back into the woods and waits for whatever took her twin to take her too, just so she can finally understand what happened on that terrible day. Her parents eventually both die of grief, and as soon as Gretchen is eighteen her stepmother throws her out, along with her brother Ansel. He was also in the woods on the fateful day, and being a whole year older than his sisters believes he was responsible for what happened. This makes him extremely protective of Gretchen.

When their car breaks down in a small town, the two siblings find themselves staying in a house in the woods with Sophia. She is charming and friendly, and spends her time making delicious chocolates, but Gretchen soon discovers opinions in the town are strongly divided over her. Some love her, some hate her and call her a witch. So far, so good: we have our candy house, our siblings (who even eat so much chocolate they put on weight!) and a possible but obscure threat.

One of the best qualities of this book is the way our heroine develops from a terrified girl to a confident, courageous young woman. While Ansel is preoccupied with his growing love for Sophia, Gretchen is being taught to shoot by a boy who also has a tragic past and who is fighting back against the Fenris. And in a gratifying reversal of roles, it is Gretchen who ends up worrying about her brother. He is daily more in thrall to Sophia, who remains a mystery until very near the end of the book. Is she good, or is she evil? And even if the reader guesses what her secret is long before it is revealed, the climax is so bloodthirsty and shocking that this hardly matters.

An honest review must mention one or two quibbles. The emphasis and copious space devoted to Sophia's craft could make the reader feel at times that she has a remake of Chocolat by Joanne Harris in her hands. And the odd emphasis on sea shells and the ocean, which clutter the story and seem to bear no relation to the theme of the tale, is only explained when you realise that the third book in the series is based on The Little Mermaid. But these are small points, when compared with the way terror, death and bloodshed are starkly and dramatically contrasted with the sumptuous array of chocolates on sale in Sophia's chocolatier. This book is a flawed but ultimately satisfying read, and will be welcomed by fans of books which serve up paranormal romance with a dash of gore.

For another encounter with werewolves by the same author, this time in the context of Red Riding Hood, try Sisters Red.

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Buy Sweetly by Jackson Pearce at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Sweetly by Jackson Pearce at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Sweetly by Jackson Pearce at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Sweetly by Jackson Pearce at Amazon.com.


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