Unlocking the Spell is written by E. D. Baker. It was published in 2012 by Bloomsbury. It is the sequel to The Wide-Awake Princess. Baker’s website can be found here.
“When Princess Annie helped her older sister, Gwendolyn (aka Sleeping Beauty), wake up from that pesky hundred-year curse by finding her beloved prince, did life get back to normal?
Not a chance!
Unfortunately, that beloved prince, Beldegard, is stuck in the body of a bear. And as much as Princess Gwendolyn loves him (a little too much, Annie thinks!) it soon becomes clear that only Annie, with her amazing ability to fend off magic, can find the evil dwarf who cast the spell.
Luckily, Annie has assistance from the handsome prince Liam, and for a girl with no magic, she certainly has a few tricks in her repertoire.”
After reading this book, I find that I actually prefer this world to Baker’s other world in The Tales of the Frog Princess. This is even more of a fairy-tale world than the other, and Baker incorporates lesser-known fairytales, such as Puss in Boots and the Town Musicians of Bremen, not to mention sly references to the fairytale about the tablecloth that gives you food and others.
This book is also hilariously funny. Just the image of Annie holding Beldegard’s hand so he turns human and sitting there as he and Gwendolyn kiss is hilarious. And the fairy-tale world fits perfectly with the humor of the quest.
Lest you think it’s all fun and games, there’s also character development! Gwendolyn and Annie improve their relationship and Annie, because of the events of the last book, begins to appreciate her lack of magic more—and so do the people around her.
Finally, I have to say that I absolutely adore the cover art.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Fairy Tale
Liam leaned forward in his seat. “Where is Carabas located? I’m afraid I’ve never heard of it.”
“Ah, that is because it is far from here, located in the kingdom of Dorinocco,” said Puss.
Liam snorted and covered it with a pretend cough. Annie couldn’t help but smile. He was the second son of the king and queen of Dorinocco […] If anyone would know about the towns in Dorinocco, it would be Liam.
“How interesting,” said Liam. “You see, I’ve traveled extensively throughout Dorinocco, yet I’ve never heard of Carabas.”
“I have a question for you,” Beldegard said to the fish in a softer voice as he leaned toward the side of the boat.
The fish swam closer, peering up at the bear prince with its cold, round eyes. “Yes?” it said. “What is it?”
“Were you ever a human?”
“Human?” the fish said, sounding incredulous. “Of course not! Now if that isn’t the stupidest question I’ve ever—”
With a swipe of his paw, Beldegard scooped up the fish and shoved it into his mouth.
Unlocking the Spell has many references to the lesser-known fairy tales, causing delight for those who have read them. It’s funny, adventurous, and cute, with development of characters and other good elements. I am eagerly looking forward to the next book.
You can buy this here: Unlocking the Spell: A Tale of the Wide-Awake Princess