Review: Dearest (Woodcutter Sisters #3) by Alethea Kontis

Review: Dearest (Woodcutter Sisters #3) by Alethea KontisDearest by Alethea Kontis
Series: Woodcutter Sisters #3
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on February 3, 2015
Pages: 320
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Readers met the Woodcutter sisters (named after the days of the week) in Enchanted and Hero. In this delightful third book, Alethea Kontis weaves together some fine-feathered fairy tales to focus on Friday Woodcutter, the kind and loving seamstress. When Friday stumbles upon seven sleeping brothers in her sister Sunday’s palace, she takes one look at Tristan and knows he’s her future. But the brothers are cursed to be swans by day. Can Friday’s unique magic somehow break the spell?

I received this book from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in exchange for an honest review.

I did something I never do when I started reading Dearest. I didn’t read the first two books in the series first. I’m equally shocked and scandalized at my behavior. I never do that. Did it affect my review of Dearest? No. My issues with the book are trivial. But, I still fully intend on reading the first two books so I’ll update my review if anything changes.

Dearest by Alethea Kontis is a charming fairy tale mash-up in a series about the seven Woodcutter sisters, all named for the days of the week. Dearest is Friday’s book. Friday, a seamstress who believes she is destined to be a devotee to the Earth (it’s kind of like being a nun), finds her world upended after a great flood, when she finds seven brothers sleeping at the top of Sunday’s castle—they are swans by day, men by night, doomed to this fate until their sister can weave them shirts made from nettle. Friday and swan-brother Tristan, fall in love at first sight and are thrown together by fate to break the curse.

One of the things that I like the most about Dearest is its easy, effortless writing. It feels like I’m sitting at my grandmother’s feet, listening to her tell me a story. Her writing style is comforting and is emblematic of everything I love about fairy tales.

“Trouble was, they didn’t have much faith to begin with. Their dreams had gone from the beaches of Arilland to the palace ballroom and no further. Faith was a thing sewn into the patchwork skirts of a girl on another shore.”

There is just such rhythm and beauty to her prose. The story itself is a mash up of “The Wild Swans” and “The Goose Girl.” I haven’t read the original source material, but it really doesn’t matter. Kontis’s writing alone makes me believe she uses the source material ethically and with great care.

The only part of Dearest that feels forced is the instant love connection between Friday and Tristan. She looked at him and knew he was her destiny. In a book about magic and fairy tales, sometimes this convention works. It doesn’t particularly work well here. We know so little about Friday and Tristan when this happens that there isn’t enough back story that makes their connection clear. We know that Friday is different, but it’s just not enough to explain the fated connection between the two. It makes the first half of Dearest lag a little.

But the second half of Dearest more than makes up for the first. Friday has her own adventure—an adventure that makes her realize her worth. That alone is worth slogging through some of the passages talking about fate and destiny. Friday is the real darling of Dearest. She’s the kind of protagonist that I love to read stories about. She’s kind and gentle and loving, but she struggles in knowing what her place is. Her maritime adventure is thrilling and learning about her fire power makes me feel like I, too, will find my place when I feel lost.

If you haven’t read Enchanted or Hero, go out and get them immediately because Dearest is a gorgeously written story about a patchwork princess looking to find her special place in the world.

three-half-stars

© 2015 – 2016, Jessica Workman Holland. All rights reserved.