Enchanted -- Alethea Kontis
As I'm a sucker for stories that play with fairy tale conventions, Enchanted had me from page one:
My name is Sunday Woodcutter, and I am doomed to a happy life.
I am the seventh daughter of Jack and Seven Woodcutter, Jack a seventh son and Seven a seventh daughter herself. Papa's dream was to give birth to the charmed, all-powerful Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. Mama told him seven girls or seven boys, whichever came first. Jack Junior was first. Papa was elated. His dream died the morning I popped out, blithe and bonny and good and gay, seven daughters later.
The story begins with Sunday meeting Grumble the frog, and so you might think you already know how it ends. Think again: Enchanted isn't a retelling of a single fairy tale. It's a retelling of a whole pile of them. Some (like The Frog Prince and Jack and the Beanstalk) figure in very prominently, while others appear in blink-and-you'll-miss-them cameos (like Snow White and The Princess and the Pea). The stories appear here and there, in unexpected-yet-matter-of-fact ways, but they never overshadow the overarching story, which is about family and forgiveness, being your true self, humility and yes, love.
It's clever and charming*, written with warmth and humor, has some scary bits and a nice little romance. Sunday is a likable heroine who adores her family, even when they drive her batty. Her siblings and her parents and almost all of the other characters are fully-realized, three-dimensional people. And although Enchanted works perfectly as a stand-alone, I've fallen so much in love with Sunday's family** that I can't help but hope for a companion novel or two.
All of that said, if you prefer books that are completely A->B->C linear in their storytelling, then Enchanted might not be for you. For one thing, it starts off in the first person, in Sunday's journal, but then quickly switches over to the third person for the majority of the book, and although Sunday is clearly the protagonist, the focus occasionally snaps over to follow Grumble as well. Both of those things add to the bounce-around nature of the book, but those are minor compared to the next factor.
The main thing that might be difficult for linear-liking readers is this: Diana Wynne Jones is clearly an influence here. There are a bazillon seemingly unrelated threads that don't always seem to jive—sometimes they even seem extraneous—at the time, but by the end, everything somehow magically fits together. Magically, mind you. It doesn't feel contrived or forced. It feels inevitable and right, as a fairy tale should. If you love that aspect of DWJ, then give Enchanted a try. I'm not saying that it's on the same level as a Howl's Moving Castle or a Charmed Life or an Archer's Goon or a Merlin Conspiracy, but really, what is?
*And you know how I despise that word.
**They're definitely on my Fictional Families I'd Like To Be A Member Of list.
Book source: ILLed through my library.