Friday, June 5, 2009

A prequel for a sequel

Title: The Salamander Spell
By: E.D. Baker
Format: Paperback
Pages: 272
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Series #: 5 of 6
Date Started: June 2, 2009
Date Finished: June 3, 2009

Rating: B+

Description (from Barnes & Noble): Grassina has always lived in the shadow of her perfect older sister, Chartreuse. But when a terrible spell leaves the Kingdom of Greater Greensward in great danger, it is Grassina who finds the magic to set things right. This hilarious prequel to The Tales of the Frog Princess series introduces new characters and brings back familiar fan favorites.

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I know I read the series out of order, but since this is a prequel, it doesn't really matter anyway. I liked this book more than Once Upon A Curse, but less than the other series. Perhaps if the characters of Grassina & Chartreuse hadn't been so similar to Hazel & her sister Millie from that book, and if I hadn't read them back to back, Salamander Spell wouldn't have seemed quite as unoriginal and stale as it did.

Like Hazel, Chartreuse is the beautiful older princess with many suitors and proper decorum. The only difference between her and Hazel is that Chartreuse doesn't have any magical ability. But she's just as much of a spoiled brat and just as mean to her sister. Like Millie, Grassina is the younger sister who's not as pretty and keeps getting shoved to the background. Also like Millie, it is Grassina who has the magic, and who wants to use it to help her kingdom.

The little differences between the characters helped to make this book seem a little more original than the other. Unlike Hazel, Chartreuse has someone who truly loves her, and she isn't always the wicked sister. Plus, her mom actually puts her in her place once in a while, although her methods are extreme. And unlike Millie, Grassina has more spunk and doesn't wait for her love to come to her. On top of that, while there's no Eadric or Emma or Li'l or Ralf, there is a Pippa and a Haywood and a manticore and a pack of werewolves to change things.

I wish I had read this book first, because it would have helped me understand Haywood's reactions in the other book. I had a hard time dealing with the fact that he seemed so weak, and I thought it might have been caused by the curse that had been placed on him earlier in the series. But once I read that Haywood had always been reclusive and shy, his grown-up persona made more sense. Honestly, this book really didn't feel exciting until Grassina ran off to the swamp and stayed there with Haywood. That's when all of the really good stuff happened, when Chartreuse and the sisterly catfight elements were less frequent, and when her mom's acid personality was removed.

However, I'm sure if I'd read this book first, I'd be complaining how unorginal Once Upon a Curse is. There is only so much cliche a person can take in two days. Thank goodness for Haywood and the swamp scenes, or this book would have gotten a lower rating than it did. B+

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