Review: Enspelled

This book popped up as a surprise in Aya Ling's latest newsletter. I could not be more pleased to learn that she wrote another book along the same lines as her Unfinished Fairy Tales series, which was a guilty pleasure of mine. Both books feature girls from the real world who are transported into less-than-desirable roles in well-known fairy tales, go on a new adventure in the same setting, and live happily ever after. Enspelled is more overtly inspired by izekai anime and manga than the Unfinished Fairy Tales books because the main character is transported into the story of "The Goose Girl" after getting killed by a truck, which is a classic trope in modern anime. In fact, the story bears an extremely strong resemblance to an anime I watched recently called My Next Life as a Villainess. Both stories feature a girl who wakes up in the body of the villain from a story she is already familiar with after getting hit by a truck and must struggle to block all the "doom flags" that would lead to her character's downfall in the original version of the story.

Enspelled by Aya Ling

Enspelled begins with an orphan girl from Japan named Sana who reads a manga version of "The Goose Girl" fairy tale shortly before she is killed by a truck and wakes up in the body of Princess Rosemary, who is trapped in the body of Anne. Still with me? Those who are familiar with the fairy tale would have an easier time wrapping their minds around the double body-switching than those who are not. Anne is the villain of "The Goose Girl" who impersonates the princess in the original fairy tale. In this version, she does so with a magic spell from a witch that causes them to switch bodies, but her consciousness is replaced with Sana's shortly after the switch. Though Sana is aware that she isn't really Princess Rosemary, she must pretend to be until she finds a way for them to switch back so she can avoid being executed for Anne's act of treachery. It seems a bit convoluted to try to summarize, but it makes perfect sense in the context of the book, especially because it's told from Sana's perspective.

"The Goose Girl" is quickly becoming one of my favorite fairy tales after reading so many wonderful adaptations of it. However, this is the first time I've ever seen it told quite like this. Sana must tread carefully when she finds herself in the body of the princess for fear that she will be discovered and punished for Anne's crimes. She rouses suspicion from both Walter, a knight she has a crush on, and Falada, Princess Rosemary's magical talking horse. Even when she is ready to admit who she is, the spell prevents her from telling anyone the truth by putting her in debilitating pain. Sana is able to make an ally of Princess Rosemary by expressing remorse for Anne's foul deeds and defending her from a pervert who was harassing her. She also believes she has an ally in the sharp-witted Princess Aria, the sister of Prince Alistair, Rosemary's betrothed, but Sana struggles to shed the role of the villain when she learns that the witch who cast the body-switching spell expects her to kill Alistair.

This story was filled with twists and turns and made for a quick fun read. The ending went on a little longer than I expected, which was both a good thing and a bad thing. I didn't think it was necessary to come up with a logical explanation for everything that happened to Sana because that made the events of the story feel too forced. I had a similar issue with Aya's other series, Unfinished Fairy Tales. Sometimes it's better to just accept that not everything has a logical explanation. I liked how certain elements of Japanese culture were tacked onto the end of the book, but I would have liked to see them referenced earlier since the epilog didn't seem entirely necessary. However, these are all minor complaints when the rest of the story was so fun and exciting.

If you are looking for a quick escape into a fairy tale world, I can't recommend this book enough. It was a clever twist on the izekai anime genre and a new take on "The Goose Girl." I love stories that combine magic with the modern world, and this one really hit the mark for me. If you've already read Aya Ling's Unfinished Fairy Tales series, Enspelled is a quick read that shares many of the same elements and themes. If you haven't, you should definitely check it out before or after reading this one. I hope to read more izekai-inspired books from Aya Ling in the future.

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