The Amaranth Enchantmentby Julie Berry
~ Goodreads ~
Rating: 1.5 Stars
-- SPOILER ALERT --
The more I thought on it, the more I decided that this book really wasn't all that great. In fact, even though I sped through it pretty quickly, and even though there were parts that were enjoyable, it still didn't make up for the disconnects I had with the plot and the characters and the world.
Sometimes I feel like I'm maybe too nice and try to understand why certain books were as popular as they are... even though I'm sure I didn't really enjoy it myself. I might have been conditioned my whole life to question if the problem lies with me rather than just saying straight out that I didn't like a book... for reasons.
Sure, the writing was decent and pretty. Sure, the concept was pretty well designed (as well as you can design a rewritten fairy tale, I guess).
But well-written doesn't make up for poorly created and poorly developed.
One of my favorite fairy tales of all time is Cinderella. This is mainly because it was one of my first fairy tales when I was a child. It holds sentimental value. And when I was young, I liked the idea of being whisked away from a common, dreary life into something as magical and wonderful as royalty with a Prince Charming and all. As I got older, of course, I realized that Cinderella didn't so much as fall in love with the Prince Charming as she fell in love with the idea of having a better life away from her cruel step-family (I guess if you can even really call it love).
I mean, Cinderella and Prince Charming meet in one night and fall madly in love. Prince Charming can't even be bothered to recognize the girl without a shoe to guide him. This is insta-love at its best, obviously -- not that I want to poo-poo all over everyone's favorite happily ever after.
At least the fairy tale itself doesn't elaborate too much on the angsty romance part -- because you get your insta-love and then you get your miracle, and then you get your HEA, and then the story's over with few conflicts.
The Amaranth Enchantment however, slaps you in the face with insta-love within the first two seconds. Lucinda sees the prince for the first time when he enters her aunt and uncle's jewelry shop, he smiles at her and makes small talk -- it must be love. No, it doesn't matter that Prince What's His Face is engaged/betrothed to someone already. He smiled at Lucinda, he talked to Lucinda... he might have flirted a little bit. It MUST be love!
After that first encounter and the prince went away, I thought that maybe she would tone down the insta-love and maybe just turn it into a mild attraction. Lust at first sight is a little more believable than love at first sight -- pretty people are allowed to be attracted to each other and it happens all the time (and we've established already that all YA characters will forever be extremely attractive even if they won't admit it themselves). But when Lucinda and the prince meet again she acts like they'd been in this epic romance for centuries and, oh my God, he would NOT send her to her death for petty thievery against the crown because he lurves her... right?
They had two dances together. They may have chit chatted and flirted while they were dancing. The prince is STILL betrothed to a princess whom he claims he wants to impress with the most beautiful stone in the world. But no, he's definitely in love with Lucinda... and so when she steals back Beryl's stone from right out of his jacket pocket and gets caught for it (not because she wants to help the Amaranth Witch, but because she wants to be rich again so that she can marry the prince... the prince who is betrothed to a princess of another land already), she feels betrayed by him when he and the King send her off to prison.
Apparently the prince was also losing sleep over the issue as well. I'm not sure you're allowed to feel bad about it if you've just sent a girl off to her death for petty thievery without so much as an explanation. Then again... historical times, monarchies, absolute rule... whatevs. Behead first, ask questions later... You know. Show those plebeians who's boss!
But, you know, he hasn't been able to sleep and he seriously thought about rescinding his betrothal and all and marrying Lucinda instead. He's the one who's been suffering because the girl he fell in love with is about to die. And she lied to him.
You kids had two conversations and two dances! This is NOT an angsty forbidden love!
Geez. Just beg King Daddy to take back his death sentence and bring the girl into the palace as a mistress or something. With such an unbendable rule stating that thievery against the crown deserves death... you people can pretty much make up any rule you want anyway.
Lucinda is not the most likable heroine. Even while she's down on her luck with no family, no money, no home... she still acts like she's a rich, entitled noble daughter. The rest of the characters are flat. Prince What's His Face (I don't even remember names now and I'm too lazy to look them up) has no personality, really... just like the Prince Charming of every other fairy tale -- he's just there as the love interest for convenience. The street rat slash thief... What's His Name (I don't remember his name either) isn't even a commendable guy... then again, he's a thief after all and does whatever he wants to do even if his logic only makes sense to him.
The initial meeting of Lucinda and the thief is questionable and their "friendship" lacks any credibility. I've heard of strong connections and relationships built around mistrust and crap like that (if that makes any sense, maybe), but this was just plain ridiculous. I mean, the thief barges into Lucinda's bedroom at night, demands lodging and food, steals from her, gets her kicked out of her only form of shelter, but then he teaches her to steal from the prince (since he sold the stone he stole from Lucinda to the prince) and then abandons her when shit hits the fan. He doesn't even have the decency to feel bad about starting this stupid chain of events. And then he has the audacity to follow her around thinking that she'd forgive him if she knew how much trouble he went to through the night to figure out how to collect her corpse and give it a proper burial.
And Lucinda lets him follow her.
This seemed, also, to be a weak attempt at a possible love triangle -- you know, what with the gaping and blushing at Lucinda's wondrous beauty when she puts on her mother's dress to attend the Royal Ball with said thief.
Anyway, the story itself was fairly decent for a fairy tale retelling, though the world's logic lacks any sense. The plot itself had some semblance of progression and the back story leading into the present day conflict was interesting enough. I didn't like any of the characters.
Beryl, the Amaranth Witch, must come from a world of stupid people: Why send evil villains into another world so that they are allowed to continue being evil villains, even without their magic stones? Why not imprison them? Or execute them? Why is it necessary to sacrifice a good person in order to send the bad guy away from their own world? If your magic stones are so powerful, why hasn't anyone come up with some sort of magical binding thing to restrain the bad guys so that you can throw them into the well so that they can wreak their havoc in another world? And why, oh, why did Beryl leave the stone in Lucinda's possession rather than taking it back to her world with her when she knows that someone in Lucinda's world is trying to get his hands on it and it would be disastrous if he managed to do so?
Story events with lots of disconnect and logic fails. Characters that are meh... and a romance that's just ridiculous. To say that I'm disappointed is a massive understatement.
This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in April 2014.