Not Everyone Stays Reformed: Charmed by Jen Calonita

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Cover for Charmed by Jen CalonitaCharmed is the second book in Jen Calonita’s Fairy Tale Reform School series. Following the events of Flunked, Gilly Cobbler is famous for defeating the Alva, the Wicked One who cursed Sleeping Beauty. Her family’s finances have improved thanks to the Princesses ordering their glass slippers from them; they are now well-fed and clothed. Gilly is still worried, though: Things might still go wrong with the family fortunes, and Alva was brought to a temporary stop, not captured. The Wicked One is now trying to recruit students to her cause. Someone inside the school is clearly helping her, and if Gilly and her friends can’t find out who, Enchantsia may be in for a nasty change of rulers.

The book lives up to the promise in Flunked; it is a light-hearted, sideways look at the fairy tale world with humor, plenty of action, and a closer look at what it means to be “good” and “bad,” and how difficult it can be to tell the difference. Gilly makes snap judgments about others without properly looking into matters, and this causes trouble. Fortunately, she has good friends to talk sense into her and to help her figure things out.

There is a brief awkward point partway through: Calonita is trying to show the dangers of joining the popular crowd and neglecting ones friends, so she shows Gilly abruptly taking on the mannerisms of the Future Ladies in Waiting with no clear reason: Gilly joins still hating pink and then suddenly starts specifying which shade of pink should go where and snapping out orders about napkin folding. While this is a popular theme and any reader can fill in the gaps, it would serve the book better to leave this point out of an already active book or to add a few more pages for Gilly to get in touch with her pink self.

In other ways, Charmed is full of the same straightforward vigor that made Flunked so enjoyable. There is the unexpected sight of Blackbeard bringing his ship into the school pond, the chance to try out wand use, and friends who know each other well enough to show up when trouble hits. There are still Pegasus stables, students from all kinds of backgrounds, not all of them human, and an evil witch to defeat. Gilly’s first person, present tense account of events is interspersed with news from the Happily Ever After Scrolls “Brought to you by FairyWeb.” Calonita loves her fairy tales and knows how to laugh with them while she tells her tale.

Charmed comes out March 1, 2016. Look for it on Amazon or Powell’s Books.

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