Sunday Woodcutter is the youngest of seven daughters, all named for days of the week. She is supposed to be "blithe and bonny and good and gay," but what she really wants is to be interesting. She enjoys writing, but her stories have a nasty habit of coming true in the worst ways, so she writes only about things that have already happened. She's busily scribbling in her journal in the forest when she encounters a frog. The frog, naturally, can speak. Sunday knows she lives in a magical world, so at the conclusion of their first conversation, she gives him a kiss as a courtesy to try and break the spell. Nothing happens.
Despite this initial disappointment, the two continue to meet each other and a friendship grows. It should come as no surprise to you that the frog does eventually turn back into a man - and it happens rather early on in the story. The rest of the book is concerned with the man-turned-frog-turned-man-again wooing Sunday on his own terms while trying to prevent her from finding out just what happened between him and Sunday's (now dead) older brother, which could doom their relationship. There's also a bit of political maneuvering with the king and a couple of fairy godmothers plus some interesting back story about Sunday's very odd, very magical family.
Enchanted is a strange little book. While it's predominantly inspired by The Frog Prince, it's got elements of almost all major Western European fairy tales, including Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rumpelstiltskin, Sleeping Beauty, and more. It became a fun sort of game to spot as many as I could. Kontis juggles it all well: it could have seemed like a hodgepodge without any real cohesion, but she neatly avoids that pitfall. Mostly it just seems clever.
I liked that Kontis used The Frog Prince as her springboard but did not limit herself to a mere re-telling. By that I mean she created a new mythology with new magic, injecting some originality into these very old stories. Unfortunately, this is also the story's weakness. The fairy tale aspects were so easy to understand, but the new elements were often confusing. I suspect that I needed a bit more explanation of the magic as well as Sunday's family history for it all to really crystallize in my mind.
Still, Kontis' novel is an overall winner. It's got some lovely writing, a fun mix of new and old, and an interesting protagonist in Sunday (and her sisters are equally interesting - I particularly liked the one that eloped with a pirate, even though I think she actually gets no physical page time). Hand this to readers who like their retold fairy tales to remain plainly in the fairy tale realm - no modernization required. I suspect it would go over well with fans of Ella Enchanted, but as always, it nowhere approaches that book's greatness (in fairness to Enchanted, nothing ever does).
Review copy provided by the publisher. Enchanted is available now.