Friday, November 13, 2015

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

Reviewed by Ambrea

Josey Cirrini is the daughter of Marco and Margaret Cirrini.  Margaret, a true southern belle and town beauty, and Marco, the city’s golden boy and favorite son, were a perfect couple; however, Josey was far from a perfect child.  Now twenty-seven-years-old, Josey has realized she will never live up to her mother’s expectations—and so she hides a stockpile of treats and paperback romances in her closet to escape to each night, wishing for circumstances to be different.

When she discovers Della Lee Baker hiding in her closet, Josey finds her last sanctuary has been taken from her.  Suddenly, she’s stuck with Della Lee’s tough love approach to life and she’s soon expanding her small world, befriending Chloe Finley—a young woman who has a startling talent for finding books when she most needs them—and talking to her longtime crush, Adam.

But Della Lee has a secret, a secret that’s been hidden from Josey for more than twenty years.

Like Garden Spells, Allen’s previous novel, The Sugar Queen has little threads of magic laced throughout the novel:  Josey with her uncanny ability to detect secrets, even if she doesn’t understand them; Chloe with her books, which magically appear when she needs them; Rawley, who always keeps a promise he makes, no matter the cost to his heart; Julian with his magnetic personality that compels any and every woman’s attentions; and Marlena with her surprising skills at chasing away ghosts.

Allen has a special skill in portraying her characters.  She gives careful descriptions of her characters, and she pinpoints the little unexpected (read:  magical) things that populate their lives, linking them inextricably to a thin veil of magic that permeates the town.  And she’s meticulous in showing character perspective, allowing her readers a peek into the lives of her characters—such as the way Josey equates the best things in life with sugary sweets, or Chloe recounts her moods and experiences in the books that follow her—by showing the world through their eyes.  In Sugar Queen, I found this simply added another layer to her characters.

Although I enjoyed The Sugar Queen, I’m afraid I just couldn’t enjoy it as much as Garden Spells.  I don’t know why, but I simply found Garden Spells more appealing in its style and its plot—and, more importantly, in its portrayal of magic.  While I liked the magical elements of The Sugar Queen (specifically, I liked the idea of Chloe having books that followed her around on a regular basis, reflecting her moods and needs), it felt a little more obvious.  Garden Spells, except for the apple tree, felt more subtle.  The Waverly sisters have peculiar gifts, but they aren’t advertised overtly; rather, their magic is woven into the fabric of their family, like fine threads, and it feels almost like a secret.  The Sugar Queen doesn’t have that:  magic feels more like a nuisance than a gift.

Overall, however, I enjoyed The Sugar Queen and I would definitely recommend it for fans of Sarah Addison Allen.

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