Review: Spellbound by Cara Lynn Shultz

Series: Spellbound #1

spellbound -cara lynn shultz What’s a girl to do when meeting The One means she’s cursed to die a horrible death?

Life hasn’t been easy on sixteen-year-old Emma Connor, so a new start in New York may be just the change she needs. But the posh Upper East Side prep school she has to attend? Not so much. Friendly faces are few and far between, except for one that she’s irresistibly drawn to— Brendan Salinger, the guy with the rock-star good looks and the richest kid in school, who might just be her very own white knight.

But even when Brendan inexplicably turns cold, Emma can’t stop staring. Ever since she laid eyes on him, strange things have been happening. Streetlamps go out wherever she walks, and Emma’s been having the oddest dreams: visions of herself in past lives— visions that warn her to stay away from Brendan. Or else.

3 Drink Me Potions

Let’s just say that initially, Spellbound did not start off as pleasantly as I would have hoped. The protagonist, Emma, just annoyed me with her immature attitude and her analogies for situations. For example, right off the bat into the story, we see Emma complaining about attending her new prestigious school with her baby cousin. And by “baby”, there was only a two-year gap between them in age.

I knew that juniors did not hang out with the lower classes. It was like hanging out with a bunch of vegetarians and wearing a bacon necklace.

I let that slip by, as a few other reviews I read prior to beginning the book warned of Emma’s strange comparisons. However, what really annoyed me was the way she handled a comment that she had no smart comeback for.

Anytime I couldn’t think of something clever to say, I just told the person they were whatever we were talking about….
“It’s dinnertime, kids,” she [mother] would call from the kitchen. “Turn off the TV.”
You’re a TV!” we [brother and I] would call back in unison.

Heck, I know this “joke” brings back fond memories of what her family used to do, but she did this several times throughout the story at the most random of times. It was just seriously tiring to read and felt unnecessary to add.

Oh, and this book really went all out with the cultural references. There were mentions of more pop culture things than most stories would go, kind of like those movies where branded items were “discreetly” placed for viewers to see. Cara Lynn Shultz mentioned things like Jay-Z music videos, Family Guy, Hulu, and countless more references pitted throughout the novel. I’m not normally the kind of person who minds any acknowledgement to current popular culture but this was intense. So for anyone out there who actually does mind, I’d warn you about that considering it even got on my nerves. I didn’t even understand every little reference she used either. Is the author trying to sound like she knows teenagers very well and had to use whatever tidbit she could get her hands on to make it seem so? I have no idea.

BUT, that’s where my annoyances stop. It was a lot of grievances, I’ll admit, but I eventually warmed up to the story a bit. A thousand year old curse that somehow seems linked to the antique necklace Emma was given to by her late brother? A somewhat stereotypical yet still charming guy who was hard to understand? I thought it was worth the shot to keep going.

Here’s the shorthand of what Spellbound felt to me.

The pacing
It wasn’t all that exciting for a long while into the book. I think it made it easier for me to breeze through the first half because I was reading the ebook version, otherwise flipping so many physical pages might have deterred me a lot earlier. But, as soon as the curse was first brought to light, it did intrigue me more.

Shultz did not just briefly mention a story of long ago, but actually went into detail of how it came to be. I like the intricacies of detailing what had brought such events to pass instead of breezing through a short tale because it didn’t matter as much as the present.

From there, the story unfolds at a decent pace, although it wasn’t strangely exciting either. This brings me to my next point.

The predictability
I should’ve known how the curse would’ve played out by the end of the book. I will admit, I was hoping for a far more intriguing and original way to conclude the story and break the curse. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take too many guesses to figure that out. The action and climax that led up to the final conclusion at least still had me intensely waiting it out.

The only part that I couldn’t piece together was the involvement of her brother, Ethan. His role was always unclear to me, and to this end, I’m still uncertain as to how and why he was acknowledged into essential portions of the plot.

Also, I didn’t see how Emma’s impending “death” would arise from. In hindsight, I should’ve seen it coming, but I was too focused on another crazy character and the predictability of the exact “moment” it would happen in.

I must admit, a lot of this story wasn’t very original or…new. Reading it, you get a lot of the “ah, been there, done that” moments, like you’ve read this piece of the plot before or figured it would play out sort of in this way.

The characters weren’t very well-developed. Sure, Emma’s friend Angelique was definitely different, considering she was a practicing witch. But it was the stereotypical kind of portrayal of one. Do they have to be all loner types that jump at the opportunity to whisper an incantation for someone? Another example would be Emma’s baby cousin, Ashley. She’s just an enthusiastic girl who looks up to Emma, rather naive and way too perky about everything. Kind of the ideal little girl attitude who worships an older role model. There was never any real depth to any of them.

Emma and even Brendan felt a little bit like that at times. Yes, Emma grew up in this story (thank God!). I wouldn’t have lasted if she was still so annoying. However, they still need a dose of character development that felt lacking. Brendan’s mysterious, but he’s apparently kind-hearted with good intentions underneath everything. I’d rather Shultz showed me that rather than just tell it.

Concluding thoughts…
Okay, I will admit, this was not a glowing review. Or what would have been expected for a 3-star review. But for some reason, I still liked it enough to give it 3 stars.

It may not be original, but Shultz incorporated elements of stories which made me like those stories in the first place. So sometimes, originality isn’t the key to a great story as it can get confusing when authors try to make everything brand new and never done before.

I liked the intrigue behind the curse, the anticipation of Emma’s impending predicament, and their romantic moments(albeit, not a romance that was as well-developed as I would’ve hoped for, even though they are soulmates). Okay, the romance may fall more into the category of “could’ve been better”

Either way, Spellbound was enjoyable enough to keep reading on a boring afternoon (or on the commute from school). If you don’t expect too much and just take the story as it is, it can be entertaining to follow along.

Overall Recommendations:
Spellbound held grievances that were definitely big enough to take note of. Initially starting off with an annoying protagonist, lacking well-developed characters and the use of strange prose throughout the novel, this may stack up to be more than one can take.

I suggest that if you already sound disgusted at these things, this isn’t the book for you. However, if you just want a mildly entertaining romance with its moments of darker intrigue and suspense about a curse between star-struck lovers, then give it a go. This book isn’t for everyone, so be warned. At most, it may surprise you to be quite enjoyable, and at worse, it may end up in further grievances.

Spellbound is a lot of surprising things, so keep your mind open as you dive in. That’s my best advice. Not the worst debut novel I’ve read, but certainly not near the best. Entertaining enough to thrive off boredom, but ultimately, it’s a forgettable novel that leaves no lasting imprint.

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