by Jackson Pearce
Release date: August 23, 2011
Publisher: Little, Brown
Genre: Young adult urban fantasy
Copy origin: Preordered via BookDepository.com
SWEETLY is a modernization of Hansel and Gretel and a companion book to SISTERS RED.
Twelve years ago, Gretchen, her twin sister, and her brother went looking for a witch in the forest. They found something. Maybe it was a witch, maybe a monster, they aren’t sure—they were running too fast to tell. Either way, Gretchen’s twin sister was never seen again.
Years later, after being thrown out of their house, Gretchen and Ansel find themselves in Live Oak, South Carolina, a place on the verge of becoming a ghost town. They move in with Sophia Kelly, a young and beautiful chocolatier owner who opens not only her home, but her heart to Gretchen and Ansel.
Yet the witch isn’t gone—it’s here, lurking in the forests of Live Oak, preying on Live Oak girls every year after Sophia Kelly’s infamous chocolate festival. But Gretchen is determined to stop running from witches in the forest, and start fighting back. Alongside Samuel Reynolds, a boy as quick with a gun as he is a sarcastic remark, Gretchen digs deeper into the mystery of not only what the witch is, but how it chooses its victims. Yet the further she investigates, the more she finds herself wondering who the real monster is, and if love can be as deadly as it is beautiful.
Somewhere in the first few chapters of Sweetly by Jackson Pearce, I realized something quite crucial: Holy shit, I like this book. I really like this book.
I adore Jackson. I wish I could recall how I ever discovered her — it was probably when Sisters Red was being released — but I’ve been
stalking watching her vlogs since she posted Writers’ Blok. She’s incredible. She’s charming, and sweet, and adventurous, and oh-so-pretty. I bought Sisters Red back when I didn’t buy books on a whim (oh how times have changed), and I preordered Sweetly the moment the option was available.
But here’s my moment of admission: I never finished Sisters Red. It has been sitting on my bookshelf, about one-third of it read, for quite some time. And it was never that I disliked the book, I just didn’t have the attention span to finish it. I didn’t immediately connect with either of the two female leads, or to the pseudo-love triangle, even though I appreciated the sister dynamic and the Fenris mythology.
That said, I wasn’t sure I’d like Sweetly. Hansel & Gretel was never my favourite fairy-tale (maybe because I never had a brother), and I had all these doubts I’d make it through. And then I opened up the book, and then I read the first few chapters. That was all it took. I was hooked. I devoured it.
Sweetly is not a strict retelling of Hansel & Gretel, which I’ve noticed a lot of reviewers give Jackson flack for. And that’s fine because, as I mentioned, I don’t really like Hansel & Gretel aside from a creepy Korean flick I saw once (and highly recommend if you at all like Asian horror). It’s much more than that — it takes the basis of this fairy-tale, fleshes it out, and makes it an amazing story about relationships and family and watching people fall in love and finding your inner warrior and growing up and all that stuff.
It’s thrilling and engaging throughout, with a great cast of characters full of depth, each with their own secrets. It does slow down a bit in the middle section, but more than makes up for it by one of the best climax sequences I’ve ever experienced in urban fantasy, and a lovely ending.
I gave it four stars on Goodreads — it’s not perfect, but it’s pretty close. I can’t wait until she releases her next Fairytale Retelling book — which I hear is based on “The Little Mermaid,” which I do love.
Even if you don’t pick up Sweetly, go check out Jackson’s blog. It’ll probably make you wish you had.