I’ve been looking forward to this book for a long time! It’s billed as a “companion novel” to Sisters Red, which I thoroughly enjoyed. (See my “fairy tales with a twist” post.) Sisters Red had great, well-developed characters, exciting plot twists, and a very innovative, modern twist on a classic fairy tale. And Sweetly? Well… in my opinion, Sweetly is no Sisters Red.
You can definitely see how the two books are by the same author, and not just because the Fenris reappear. Gretchen, Sweetly’s protagonist, reminded me of Scarlett and Rosie from Sisters Red. She’s been through a lot and she’s a little scarred. She’s torn between wanting a normal life and knowing she can never have one, not since her identical twin was taken by a witch when they were small children. She’s haunted by her sister’s memory, by wondering if she could have saved her sister, by wondering why the witch didn’t take her instead. Very compelling angst.
And Sophia, the beautiful chocolatier that Gretchen and her brother Ansel end up staying with, is another great character. The book builds up a good deal of tension around Sophia, who seems very sweet and lovable, though many of the townspeople suspect her of being a witch. Good stuff, as is Gretchen’s tentative romance with the rugged local Fenris-hunter.
So what’s the problem with Sweetly?For me, the problem with Sweetly is exactly what made Sisters Red so intense: the werewolves. I don’t want to give away too much here, but all werewolf-related elements of this plot made extremely little sense to me. I’m all for re-telling and adapting fairy tales, but the story of Hansel and Gretel originally contained zero werewolves, and perhaps there is a reason for that. And the–okay, again, I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but the wolves don’t act exactly the same way here as they did in Sisters Red, and the reason given for that seemed pretty bogus. So there were a few moments that I believe were supposed to provoke shock, but for me, merely provoked confusion and slanty faces. I simply was unable to suspend my disbelief enough to go along with the second half of the plot.
Alas! As is so often the case, werewolves have ruined an otherwise good time, and so I am forced to rate Sweetly two and a half hand-crafted chocolates out of five.