Spelled by Betsy Schow with Excerpt

Spelled by Betsy Schow with Excerpt

’m not a fan of The Wizard of Oz (flying monkeys anyone?) but I do love my mash-up stories and Betsy Schow promised to have plenty thrown into the mixing bowl.  There are pop culture references (Wrong Direction, Hans Christian Laboutin shoes) as well as influences from Alice in Wonderland, Beauty and the Beast, Jack and the Beanstalk and even Frozen, the influences and insets are frequent and often bring a giggle.  No flying monkeys from the rather insecure wicked side – no it’s a flock of flying puppies, far easier on the imagination.


Dorthea isn’t a wonderfully sweet or engaging heroine at the start of the story: she is selfish, snotty and over the top spoiled, and as the Princess of Emerald, everyone just allows her to be as horrid as she can be.  All hope isn’t lost for her though, she’s given the opportunity to prove herself useful by finding her parents who, with the aid of a spell, were relocated to Kansas.  Most of Dorthea’s issues stem from her boredom (she’s not particularly fun to hang out with – so she doesn’t really have friends) and her fears. See – she’s only been minimally trained in self-defense, and there are, contrary to the popular saying, more things to fear than just fear itself: trolls and gigons and dragons and even wicked witches. Yep, plenty to fear.

But, despite all of the pitfalls and only having a reluctant, tell it like it is servant Rexi who frequently injects some reality into Dorothea’s life, and her hand chosen suitor Kato the three move off to find her parents, save the Kingdom’s many ills, and most importantly, how much she really can change to put her kingdom and people first, and lose the shallow, selfish self she had hung on to for so long.

With people and events and puns mixing in frequently, driving the action forward, the characters are not particularly complex, although both Dorthea and Kato do develop an affection as the story progresses, and Dorthea does change for the better.  Frequent nods to the “storyteller” give an interesting perspective from the characters, “I’m not bad, I was written this way’ sort of offhanded excuse is offered, giving the sense of a story that dropped from the air into the author’s hands, fully formed. In reality, the storyteller becomes one more element embroiled in the direction of character behavior and personalities, with everyone in the story being aware that he/she exists.  A uniquely placed element, it displays yet another perspective on writing a story, while cleverly placing blame for bad acts on some other entity.

Fast paced and frequent puns, pop culture and witty moments, lovely quotes at the start of each chapter and plenty of characters and elements to keep straight, the story moves forward with a laugh, never taking itself too seriously.  With an ending that really is open for more, I expect this is the first of at least two books and the lack of a love triangle or even an insta-love trope was refreshing and unique in the world of teen / tween lit.  A story that is perfect for readers 12 and up who want a little different sort of tale, it’s a perfect summer read.

Spelled by Betsy Schow with Excerpt

Title: Spelled
Author: Betsy Schow
Genre: Contemporary Sweet Romance -Adult, Teen Reads
Published by: Sourcebooks Fire
ISBN: 1492608718
Published on: 2 June, 2015
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 352
Rated: four-stars
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See this Title on Goodreads

Talk about unhappily ever after. Dorthea is completely princed out. Sure being the crown princess of Emerald has its perks—like Glenda Original ball gowns and Hans Christian Louboutin heels. But a forced marriage to the not-so-charming prince Kato is so not what Dorthea had in mind for her enchanted future.

Trying to fix her prince problem by wishing on a (cursed) star royally backfires, leaving Dorthea with hair made up of emerald flames and the kingdom in chaos. Her parents and everyone she loves are stuck in some place called “Kansas.” Now it’s up to Dorthea and her pixed-off prince to find the mysterious Wizard of Oz and undo the curse…before it releases the wickedest witch of all and spells The End for the world of Story.

A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

Read an Excerpt 


Most of the crowd had dispersed. The final few stragglers looked at me with the all ­too-common look of fear mixed with trepidation. Pix ’em. They were just servants. It wasn’t like their opinion mattered.

Only one remained, watching me with open curiosity. He looked to be in his late teens or was magically enhanced to appear so. He could have been a hundred for all I knew. I’d never seen him before in my life. He was handsome enough, for a commoner, even in his worn leather pants and cracked work boots. A foreigner, his hair was unruly and dark auburn, which complemented his tanned but dirt-smudged complexion, though the tall, dark stranger vibe was ruined by his piercing pale blue eyes.

Well, I’d had enough of being a sideshow for the day. “If you’re the new gardener, the hedges are overgrown and in need of a trim.” I pointed in the direction of my father. “While you’re there, you can help the king with the wisps.”

The young man’s expression clouded over, but he didn’t move.

I stamped my foot and pointed more forcefully. “Off with you. Courtyard’s that way. Be sure to clean those awful boots before coming back in.”

“Someone told me I’d find a princess of great worth here. One with the strength to be the hero this realm needs.” He stared at me with those unsettling blue eyes. They were cold, like ice water—made me shiver from head to toe. Then his gaze seemed to search even deeper. Finally, he looked through me, like I was nothing.

In brisk steps, he strode across the marble to the courtyard. But before crossing the threshold, he turned back to glare at me with his lip curled ever so slightly. “It seems she was mistaken.”

Just like that, I had been sifted, weighed, and found wanting.

I felt my own lip curl in response. How rude! Who the Grimm was this peasant to judge me? I was wearing a Glenda original. Original! Not some fairy-godmother knockoff worn by those servant girls turned royal. I was a crown princess, for the love of fairy, and no one dismissed me.

Before I could put the boy in his place—down in the dirt, where he belonged—a clatter came from behind, making me nearly jump out of my shoes. I checked and was relieved that Sterling had simply dropped his sword. By the time I looked back, the gardener was gone.

After stowing his blade, Sterling held up his shield, not in defense of the entrance but so he could look at his reflection. “Clearly he’s blind and doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

I didn’t ask for Sterling’s opinion, but it made me feel better.

Until he opened his mouth again.

“Worth, pffft. I mean, look around at all the jewels. Your palace has everything you could ever want. Honestly, I don’t know what you’re fussing about. Why would anyone want to leave?”

Because a cage is still a cage, no matter how big or glittering the bars are.

And I would find a way free, no matter the cost.

About Betsy Schow

Betsy Schow is the author of the memoir Finished Being Fat, and has been featured on The Today Show and in The Wall Street Journal. She lives in Utah, but travels the country with Color Me Rad 5k, and partners with nonprofits to teach kids creative thinking and how to reach their goals.

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