Friday, March 11, 2016

ARC Review: Charmed by Jen Calonita

Title: Charmed
Series: Fairy Tale Reform School #2
Written by: Jen Calonita
Published: March 1, 2016 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Charmed is the exciting sequel to the wildly popular Flunked -- second in the brand new Fairy Tale Reform School series where the teachers are (former) villains. "Charming fairy-tale fun." -Sarah Mlynowski, author of the New York Times bestselling Whatever After series. 

It takes a (mostly) reformed thief to catch a spy. Which is why Gilly Cobbler, Enchantasia’s most notorious pickpocket, volunteers to stay locked up at Fairy Tale Reform School…indefinitely. Gilly and her friends may have defeated the Evil Queen and become reluctant heroes, but the battle for Enchantasia has just begun. 

Alva, aka The Wicked One who cursed Sleeping Beauty, has declared war on the Princesses, and she wants the students of Fairy Tale Reform School to join her. As her criminal classmates give in to temptation, Gilly goes undercover as a Royal Lady in Waiting (don’t laugh) to unmask a spy…before the mole can hand Alva the keys to the kingdom. 

Her parents think Gilly the Hero is completely reformed, but sometimes you have to get your hands dirty. Sometimes it’s good to be bad…

*** I received and advance copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not changed my opinion. ***

I read the first book in the Fairy Tale Reform School series and thought it was a cute Middle Grade fairy tale retelling with fun characters. And while I liked the second installment, it didn't quite engage me the way the first book did.

One thing I do love about this series is the world. This book was of course part of my retellings month for obvious reasons. In this series, the author does a fantastic job or creating something different and unique based on things that we know really well. Her take on the fairy tale villains and creatures like ogres and fairies is carefree and complex. It makes for some fun characters and a unique setting for the book that plays on the traditional fairy tale tropes. Speaking of that setting, in Flunked we are introduced to Enchantasia, a place where "happily ever after" is not quite so happy here we get explore that even more, in particular the Royals. What I like about this series is that there's a subtle conversation here about power and authority. That is definitely explored a lot more in this book which made for a very interesting undertones in that setting and in the plot.

Unfortunately as far as the plot goes, I had some of the same issues with this one as I had with the first book. The general plot development was interesting and it did build to an exciting climax with a clear conclusion which I liked but along the way it felt muddled. I should have totally been hooked on the "find a spy" concept but I wasn't. Maybe because I didn't quite understand why there was a spy in the first place. There was just so little context to this book. It just went from moment to moment with little explanation or segue. And then when we did finally get to the big reveal it was very obvious to me. Now don't get me wrong, that it was an interesting twist that played beautifully into the concept of power and good and evil for the series but it didn't hit in the same way. This is not a very long book and it's a fast read but for me it could have benefited from being a little bit longer with a little more explanation (words I never thought I would say!).

The other reason I think I didn't quite love this book as much as the previous book in the series is the characters. In the first book we spent a lot of time learning about the teachers at Fairy Tale Reform School, the reformed villains. I loved learning about their histories and seeming them try to walk that line between good and evil. In this book they were barely a part of the book. Even new teachers Blackbeard and Princess Rose had tiny parts. I missed the teachers. This one however was more about the students. We got to learn more about Jax, Ollie, Kayla, and even Jocelyn. They were interesting but I kept them at arms length for some reason. That reason was probably Gilly. Our MC, Gillian aka Gilly Cobbler was the one hold over from the two books which I guess is a good thing as she kind of carries this book. I connected with Gilly's struggle to get out of a bad situation in the first book and here she has to manage things in a very different way now that she's seen as a "hero" in a school for villains. It was interesting and added a lot of drama. Plus Gilly handled it with her trademark spunk which I liked.

On the whole, Charmed was an interesting sequel to a cute Middle Grade series that has an engaging world that plays with the idea of good and evil and characters that are unique and likable. But I didn't quite connect with it in the same way I did the first book. The plot wasn't as complex and the secondary characters could have been featured more. In general though, a fun and fast read.

I give Charmed: Fairy Tale Reform School by Jan Calonita 7.5 out of 10

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. This may be a good read if you are looking for something to get that Middle Grade reader in your life that likes fairy tales. But in general I would maybe grab this from your library if you are looking for a different kind of fairy tale between some more serious reads.

Have you read Charmed? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!


  1. I didn't love the first book, so I was already planning to skip this book. Good review. I sometimes feel like Middle Grade is hard to read as an adult. A true middle school age reader probably wouldn't mind a lot of the things we might. I agree that I would recommend these books to a child, but not really an adult - unless it's a read aloud.

  2. I still haven't read the first book in this series, but it definitely seemed like a ton of people really enjoyed it. I'm sorry the second wasn't as good for you! It's always difficult for me to enjoy middle grade books and remember that they weren't written with my demographic in mind. I'm glad you still enjoyed this one though! Great review!

    Tracy @ Cornerfolds