“The book said there was a witch in the woods.
That’s why they were among the thick trees to begin with – to find her. The three of them trudged along, weaving through the hemlocks and maples. Long out of sight of their house, their father’s happy smiles, their mother’s soft hands”
12 years since their sister went missing in the woods Ansel and Gretchen Kassel have been kicked out by their stepmom. Embarking on a road trip to get the hell away from her they’re making their way to the ocean when they break down near to Live Oak. The town doesn’t like strangers but luck is on their side when Sophia, the local chocolatier offers them a place to stay in her quiet little sweet shop in the middle of the woods. They know the locals don’t take kindly to outsiders but some of them really don’t like Sophia, and when Gretchen learns that local girls tend to go missing around this time of year she starts questioning who and what she can trust.
Earlier this year I picked up Sisters Red in my local library. Followers of my blog will know that I loved it so much that once id returned the book I went out and bought my own copy. When Sweetly’s release date was announced as October in the UK I considered whether or not to get it imported from the US just to have it two months early. Then I saw a review which didn’t slate it exactly but pegged it way lower on impressiveness than Sisters Red, so I waited and bought it here. I was worried when it came, worried that I wouldn’t like it, that my expectations were too high, worried it wouldn’t be as good as Sisters Red. I really shouldn’t compare books like that but I couldn’t help it. However, now I’ve read it I know that it doesn’t matter. Sweetly takes what Sister’s Red did and does it just as amazingly! I loved every second of it and couldn’t put it down!
The story is a bit of a twist on Hansel and Gretel. I love the way it’s done with the slight change in characters names and the business aspect of the chocolatier…Jackson Pearce really does blow my mind when it comes to putting a twist on old fairy tales that have been with me for my whole life and I love what she does with them. She really makes the stories her own. I love that the loss of their sister is what makes Ansel and Gretchen so close and I love the thing that we learn towards the end, which I can’t really go into, sorry!
The characters are so full of depth and longing that you can’t help but love them. The townsfolk of Live Oak have reason to be the way they are. Samuel is immense and I couldn’t help but love him from the first mention of his bright green eyes. The siblings, Ansel and Gretchen are rocks for one another but I love that when the story starts out that is all they are and the two of them develop and form different parts of their being. I also love that although Gretchen was on such a downer at the beginning of the book, she became stronger, and it really pushed the whole “knowledge is power” thing for me because the answers for her sisters disappearance is what made her stronger. Finally Sofia… wow, Sofia, I don’t know what to think of you. I know why, I understand that but that isn’t the way I would go about things love. You were nice and kind and loving but in the end that was your reasoning. Too much love. Sofia was immense, full of emotion and for a time there was so much emotion there I kinda though she was going to turn out to be schizophrenic!
This book would be average if it wasn’t for the careful planning and amazing writing that Pearce has put into it. Each twist unravelled perfectly and just as I was figuring things out the story would twist into another direction. I saw some things coming, I didn’t see others at all but I can tell you that every part of the journey through Pearce’s magical world of Sweetly was immense and beautiful. I had assumed that it would be told in split narrative as Sisters Red was but it wasn’t and I think that is what made me love the character of Gretchen more, it’s all told from her point of view and you get every thought and emotion that runs through Gretchen chucked at you through amazing writing. Pearce is just a fabulous storyteller.
Sweetly is the second of the Fairytale Retellings series and is a companion novel to Sisters Red. It was published by Hodder Children’s Books in October 2011. My copy was purchased.