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The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry

Up front, I have to say that I have a quibble with the contents of the book cover. First, the title of the book, because there's no such thing as "the amaranth enchantment" mentioned within the book, and the only enchantment I can find in the book is the enchantment that I felt as a reader whilst reading it. It is indeed a very minor sort of point, but I find that I'm having issues with lately with titles that don't really seem to tie into the books particularly well (and yes, it's primarily a Harlequin romance sort of issue, but my recent romance-novel binge made me very sensitive to the issue). There is, however, an Amaranth, a red flower also known as Love-Lies-Bleeding, mentioned in various places in the book, so it's not entirely misleading as titles go. And there's a witch – or at least someone who passes as a witch – so the fact that the title contains the notion of magic makes sense as well. Second, I've got issues with the image on the cover, which is entirely misleading as to what amaranth (aka "pigweed") looks like, since the pretty girl is holding some sort of lily, and Love-Lies-Bleeding looks like dangling bloody plumes, but in all honesty, the lily is prettier, so I understand its selection. Kind of. Therein lies the bulk of any negative comments I can offer you about this book, since I'm pretty happy with what lies between the covers, and the things I'm quibbling about regarding the cover are kinda silly, inasmuch as the title and cover made me want to pick the book up in the first place. Moving on.

I picked up this book after reading about it over at Kate Messner's blog, and Kate assured me that I'd like it. Kate was, as usual, correct. It is a charming fairy tale story that borrows cleverly from the Cinderella story (resulting in an "I see what u did thar" sort of moment about 3/4 of the way through the book), and adds a few interesting bits and bobs along the way. Like the explanation for Beryl, the Amaranth witch, which I will not spoil for you, but which crossed genres and made me emit a small "squee" of delight when I hit it.

Happy-making characters include: a beautiful witch (the aforementioned Beryl, whose name alone makes me happy), an orphaned girl (I do so love my orphans!) named Lucinda (and no, she is never. not ever called "Cindy", and I didn't even spy that until just now because I am a dunce), a handsome prince named Gregor (hooray! I love handsome princes and the name Gregor!), a handsome thief named Peter (pushy pickpockets with hearts of gold make me happy, too!), an evilish step-aunt named Aunt (okay – she has another name, too, but it really isn't used much apart from a key plot-point moment) and a bad guy named Lord Coxbury (that the first syllable of his surname sounds vaguely dickish is probably not a coincidence, I think). Oh, and a goat named Dog, whom/which I find utterly charming. Also? I kinda want a goat. Or two. No can do in suburbia, however. But I digress.

Happy-making plot points (which may or may not be faithfully related here, because I don't intend to provide you with any spoilers) include: mistaken identities, dancing, thievery, knife-play, escapes, hiding, secrets, jewels, portal-travel, romance, intrigue, bribery, revenge, imaginary gardening, and more.

Were there some fairly predictable plot elements? Heck yeah – and that is not a negative when one is reading a fairy tale, I think. But there are some lovely twists and turns along the way, including the aforementioned genre-twisting that I will not reveal here, but which is a thing of beauty, in my opinion. I will be schlepping my copy to Nashua in hopes of stalking finding Julie Berry to sign it for me. You know, before she becomes ultra-famous and reclusive, because I expect to hear good things about her career.

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( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 9th, 2009 07:38 pm (UTC)
The phrase isn't a plot point, but the amaranth is. Like you, I loved the title, too, and as you can tell, was also disappointed. That said, I quite enjoyed the book.
Mar. 9th, 2009 07:13 pm (UTC)
Oh yay!! I'm so happy you enjoyed this one!
Mar. 9th, 2009 07:39 pm (UTC)
It was right up my alley. I will probably re-read it sometime soon to take a bit more time with it. I was up late last night reading it, and picked up speed in order to reach the end (and bed), but will enjoy savoring it a bit more on a second reading.
Mar. 9th, 2009 08:00 pm (UTC)
Any book that causes one to emit a squee of delight has got to be good.
Mar. 9th, 2009 09:40 pm (UTC)
Oh, and I so want to talk about that particular plot discovery/moment, but I won't because it would be spoilery.
Mar. 9th, 2009 09:04 pm (UTC)
This sounds like a fun read... I must then (read it, that is!) :^D
Mar. 9th, 2009 09:42 pm (UTC)
I think you'll enjoy it. Although if you only read one fairy tale book this year (why you'd limit yourself, I don't know), my recent favorite remains Chalice by Robin McKinley.
Mar. 9th, 2009 09:58 pm (UTC)
I read some of Chalice. I had a difficult time getting into it, although the writing was beautiful. (I hate when that happens!)
Mar. 9th, 2009 10:28 pm (UTC)
You'll like this one, I'm sure. Although well written, it's more accessible than Chalice by a lot.
Mar. 9th, 2009 10:31 pm (UTC)
Cool! I put a hold on it at the library!
Mar. 15th, 2009 03:24 pm (UTC)
I couldn't put it down! Read 'til past midnight to finish it! It was excellent!
Mar. 15th, 2009 07:21 pm (UTC)
SPOILERS - Don't read what follows if you care about spoilers.

Sorry for that part, Julia, but I didn't want anyone unwittingly to turn up here a month from now and find out something they didn't want to know. But - how cool was it that Beryl was from another world (or at least another dimension)? Right then, when that crossover to sci-fi concepts occurred, is when I decided that some of the predicability of the rest of the plot (including the secret identity of another character, which I kind of saw coming - maybe not the precise wrinkle, but the general idea) didn't matter to me in the slightest. It was brilliant, I thought. Absolutely brilliant.
Mar. 16th, 2009 11:08 am (UTC)
No problem - that's a good idea. I liked the sci-fi crossover, too. Funny thing - even though there's Stonehenge and Easter Island and all kinds of things that point to extra-terrestrial visitors or other dimensions since the beginnings of time - we still automatically (more or less) think that these things are new (or space-agey.) BTW - I did not see that coming with said character - until the scene with the queen (uh oh... that's a bit poetic... the scene with the queen - the goat by the moat (I loved Dog!) - the thief in relief - feel free to stop me any time!
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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