fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Nancy Holder Once Upon a Time SpiritedSpirited by Nancy Holder

During the height of the French-Indian War, Isabella and her father, who is a doctor with the British army, are making their way to a new fort through the New York wilderness. In the meantime, Wusamequin, a Native American brave who is looking to avenge the death of his wife and child has a vision of soldiers crossing through the lands of his people. In a fit of rage Wusamequin leads a party of warriors against the English. Impressed with the way Isabella fights back, he spares her life and takes her into his home as his slave, though soon both of them begin to realize that they are becoming much more than servant and master.

I liked the idea behind Spirited; I love stories where Native American tribes take in settlers and the settlers learn that all they have been taught about “Indians” is wrong. It’s a classic theme, I know, but I can’t help liking those kinds of stories anyway. The hitch with Spirited, however, is that Nancy Holder decided to insert lots of different kinds of magic and folklore into the plot.

For example, little fairy beings come to Isabella while she is a prisoner in camp. They help her learn the language and keep her safe from those in the tribe who would do her harm. Now, some little touches of magic in a story are fine with me. These touches did take Spirited from the “historical fiction” category into fantasy, but then Holder took it to the next level.

Once vortexes started to open and Isabella and Wusamequin started fighting off evil spirits in the dream realm, Spirited jumped from “interesting” and into the ridiculous. It was like I was reading two different books. Spirited started off as a great historical fiction with a little Native American magic thrown in and became a sci-fi/fantasy that happened to be set in the 1700s. It reminded me of that episode of “The Big Bang Theory” where Sheldon is walking around a Renaissance fair dressed as Spock. The two just did not go together.

To top it off, in the epilogue Holder says that Spirited was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I must be a bigger idiot than I thought, because I totally didn’t get that at all. In fact, I was baffled when I read that last part. If I flip through Spirited page by page, I can kind of see the similarities, but a retelling? That’s stretching it. A lot.

In conclusion, I didn’t “get” Spirited. The plot left me confused and kind of upset at the end, I found the characters to be very one-dimensional even for a YA book, and I put down Spirited feeling very unsatisfied. I have a couple more of the Once Upon a Time books in my pile, but after this one I might shove them towards the bottom.

A very generous 2 stars.

War. Rage. Magic. Love. In May 1756 war is formally declared between the British and the French. During this highly dangerous time, Isabella Sevens is travelling with her father to the British stronghold Fort William Henry. In the forest, Wusamequin, the young and handsome medicine man, looks to avenge the death of his wife and child at the hands of British soldiers. When Wusamequin spots Isabella and her father, he alerts his warriors to capture them. But Wusamequin is quite taken with how bravely Isabella battles. He orders the warriors to spare her and her tfather, and they are dragged back to their village. However, many members of the Mohican tribe still want them to be killed. In a desperate plea to Wusamequin, Isabella vows to stay as his hostage if he lets her father go.

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsJulie Waineo, one of our earliest guest reviewers, earned an MBA at Bowling Green State University. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies with a minor in French. Now living in Virginia with her husband and dog, Julie is an avid reader of not only fantasy, but historical fiction, the occasional “chick lit,” and children’s literature.