Systematic Student + [YA]

Review: Cloaked by Alex Flinn

Cloaked is another modern fairy tale retelling by Alex Flinn, the woman who wrote the ever popular Beastly (Beauty and the Beast) and the recently released A Kiss in Time (Sleeping Beauty).

I've made no secret about the fact that I absolutely adore fairy tale retellings, and I very much enjoyed Flinn's first two tales. Cloaked was just as much fun to read as the first two stories, but I actually liked this one even better.

Before I get into the story itself, I need to mention one of my most favorite parts of the book. In the beginning of each chapter, Flinn included a quote from one of the Grimm's Fairy Tales she took inspiration from and included it under each chapter numbering as a sort of foreshadowing for what was to come. I love the original fairy tales, and have read them many times, so it was beyond delightful to see them quoted within the story.

Cloaked is the story of Johnny, a young boy trying to help his mother pay their bills by spending all his free time working in their family shoe repair shop, located in a large Florida hotel. Johnny has big dreams, but is realistic enough to know that all they will ever be are day dreams. He works in the shop, but his real passion is design. He has notebooks filled with designs for high end, beautiful shoes. He's even managed to save enough scraps and materials to make up a prototype, and he knows they are a good design. But alas, he needs to stay behind to help his mother, and their is no way they will be able to afford college or trade school to further this dream. Although he wishes and hopes that there was some way something might be different, he has resigned himself to his fate.

But, in the way of all fairy tales, fate decides there is something more in store for our unassuming hero, and when a foreign princess (think Paris Hilton with a crown) comes to stay at their hotel, Johnny's life will change forever. Because real magic exists in the country out fair princess comes from, and her brother has been turned into a frog in a wicked attempt for the witch to steal their throne for herself and her evil oaf of a son. The princess is desperate for assistance, and promises Johnny money and marriage if he successfully saves the prince. In need of money, desperately hoping for something more out of life, and afraid to offend the princess, Johnny agrees to look into the disappearance of her brother.

It takes Johnny some time to admit and accept that magic really exists, but once he does, he finds himself in the middle of an impossible adventure, giving assistance to talking geese, taking aide from rats and foxes and searching every where for a missing toad all while being chased by magical crazy folk. By his side, ready and willing to offer whatever assistance she can is Meg, Johnny's longtime best friend who helps her family run the coffee shop also located in the hotel.

I adored the mash up of fairy tales included within Cloaked. We see elements of The Six Swans, The Elves and the Shoemaker, The Valiant Tailor, The Golden Bird, and of course, The Frog Prince. Almost all of these tales come from my favorites of the Brother's Grimm. Being so familiar with fairy tales in general, and these fairy tales in particular did mean that I was able to predict a lot of what was about to happen, but there was enough that surprised even me that I was not left feeling like this was another predictable retelling.

This was a wonderfully fun story, filled with mischief and mayhem, love and loss, and the hope for brighter days. Johnny was a great character, well rounded and fully written. There are times when he is your typical 17 year old boy, but he is so much more than that. He's loyal and loving, willing to put others before himself and he truly wants to do the right thing. He is sacrificing his dreams to protect and assist his mother. Meg was also a wonderfully written character. Although we don't see as much personal development in her as a character, a lot of the growth we see in Johnny is a direct result of Meg's influence and company.

All in all, this was a wonderfully enjoyable book. It's the perfect combination of reality and myth, fact and fiction, and is full of all the elements which make a wonderfully perfect fairy tale. This is a story that I very highly recommend to any and all whole love a good fairy tale.

*Disclaimer: I received this book through Star Book Tours.