The Spell is a story about a royal family set in sixteenth-century England, which is torn apart when an archer shoots an arrow at the very young Princess Isabella. King Maurice becomes lost in the forest in his quest to find the mysterious archer despite being advised against it. He enters an enchanted territory where he becomes bewitched by a mysterious old lady and her granddaughter who use potions to keep him captive in their cottage while pretending to offer hospitality. The king’s attempts to escape continue to fail. Meanwhile, Queen Lilac convinced that the arrow is cursed becomes obsessed with reversing the spell that plagues the young princess with strange ills and has caused the king’s disappearance. The queen does not hesitate to go to any measure to reverse the spell, seeking help from seers and doers of the supernatural and keeping Isabella confined as a means to protect her. Isabella will do anything to escape the castle walls but continuous unlucky events keep bringing her back. Fed up with a life of misfortune, a grown-up Isabella secretly dares to reverse the spell herself.
Plot: Shaw's plotting is quickly paced and engaging yet never feels rushed. The many different plotlines that emerge following the injury of Princess Isabella, however sometimes add confusion to an already intricate narrative and could benefit from clarification.
Prose/Style: Shaw's prose is formal yet unpretentious and works to help set the scene of the novel. The tone feels appropriate for the sixteenth century English locale without being so elevated as to isolate readers.
Originality: Fans of historical fantasy will find much to love in Shaw's work. Queen Lilac is a compelling character whose obsession with the curse and the subsequent ramifications adds weight and intrigue to the story.
Character/Execution: Johndor is a strong protagonist; his proximity to family despite being non-royal provides a grounded perspective to the hectic events of the novel, and readers will likely find his loyalty towards and trust from the family endearing. The royal family itself is a wild cast of characters that rounds out the novel nicely.
Date Submitted: August 12, 2020
The premise is promising, but readers may be frustrated by the loose ends that remain: neither the identity of the archer who shot Isabella nor their motive is revealed. In addition, Shaw relies heavily on stereotypical depictions of women: Isabella, nicknamed “China Doll” because she is “so fragile and easily broken,” remains largely passive throughout, and her character development is tied primarily to her lovers.
The narrative is at its strongest when avoiding these clichés and focusing on the consuming dynamics between its protagonists, such as the tense relationship between Isabella and her mother. Shaw’s portrayal of the Kingdom of Fleurham—as charming but faded, saturated with tension between the English and French residents, and filled with “bewitched and enchanted villagers”—is compelling, too. Readers who enjoy European-flavored fantasy with traditional gender roles will be ensnared by this fairy tale.
Takeaway: This royal story is best suited for readers who enjoy classic fairy tales with European settings and damsels in distress.
Great for fans of: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
Design and typography: C
Marketing copy: C
Reviewed By K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite
The Spell is a work of fiction in the fantasy, fairy tale, and suspense sub-genres, and was penned by author C. V. Shaw. Taking the classic atmosphere of fairy tales and giving them a dark and thrilling twist, we find ourselves in the kingdom of Fleurham where King Maurice and Queen Lilac each have their own agendas to try to control the kingdom and save their daughter. Isabella, the princess in question, lives amongst this power play as a terrible curse plagues every day of her life. What results is a fantastic adventure mixing sixteenth-century English history with lavish magic and interpersonal drama.
Author C. V. Shaw has crafted a truly fantastic tale that will surely please fans of fantasy, fairy tale, and romantic suspense genres, and it packs a whole lot of passionate punches for a debut novel. One of the things which I really adored throughout was the building of atmosphere and the way that the mood shifted with the depiction of different scenes and how the characters physically reacted to what was happening to them. It gives a strong sense of immersion where you can be in the character’s head and emote with them, and this connecting kept me rooting for Isabella in particular as the rest of the exciting plot unfolded. The dialogue too was excellently penned, smacking of authentic history and character realism. Overall, I would highly recommend The Spell to fantasy fans for its accomplished writing style, immersive worldbuilding, and fantastic characters.