Rated Reads

The Sweetest Spell

by Suzanne Selfors

Rated: Mild

Emmeline has been an outsider her whole life, even among the “dirt-scratchers” who populate her village, the lowest of the low in the whole kingdom of Anglund. It’s bad enough that she has a curled foot and limps everywhere she goes, but the fact that she is still alive despite her father leaving her near the forest for dead when she was born spooks all of the villagers. Here’s the thing: cows found her and kept her alive, and the cows still follow her around. It’s just not natural. And now that she’s almost to the age she could be married, she knows that it just won’t happen; she’s always been unwanted and always will be.

But several things happen at once to change Emmeline’s fate and the way she looks at herself. The king orders the unmarried men of the village (which includes her father, since her mother died years before) to go to another part of the kingdom to fight in a war, and just after they leave, a flood washes away much of her town. Once again, Emmeline is saved by cows. The cows lead her to the home of a kind family who take her in despite her being a dirt-scratcher, and Emmeline gets to enjoy the company of the family’s son, who is nice to her and seems to overlook her disability. What really changes her life, though, is the discovery that she can make chocolate simply from churning cream.

No one has tasted chocolate for several generations in the whole kingdom, and now that the magic has returned, Emmeline is wanted by everyone. Unfortunately, her gift puts her in harm’s way, and she ends up kidnapped and essentially enslaved.

But even as Emmeline tries to figure out how to save herself and release her father from servitude in the army, she learns more about the truth of the history of the kingdom, of chocolate and of her own people. She slowly finds strength and courage and power within herself. At the same time, unbeknownst to her but known to readers, the kind young man she meets after the flood is determined to save her and make things right. Readers can’t help but cheer for Emmeline and for Owen as their stories separately unfold and eventually come back together.

The Sweetest Spell is a charming book with a reluctant heroine who gradually learns her true value, made even sweeter by love and chocolate.

Rated: Mild, for just a couple of uses of mild language and some mild violence.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for more than 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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  • The Sweetest Spell
  • by Suzanne Selfors
  • Rated: Mild
  • Genre: Young adult
  • Reviewer: