Berry, Julie. Secondhand Charm (2010). 342 Pages. Bloomsbury. $16.99
Deep in the forest, in a secluded village, a young girl has become known for her unique powers as a healer. Even gypsy charms– mere trinkets when worn by others– seem enchanted when Evie ties them around her neck. The love charm may be especially potent, since Aidan, the handsome stonemason’s apprentice, has been unusually attentive lately. But Evie wants more than a quiet village and the boy next door. She longs to travel to the city, to study at University.
When His Majesty the king pays an unexpected visit for the town’s annual feast day, Evie gets her chance. He awards her a scholarship, and suddenly– accompanied by both Aidan and her best friend, Prissy– Evie is on her way. But this story is no simple fairy tale*. Her journey takes unexpected twists, from the high seas to t he royal palace. And Evie will discover not just intrigue, adventure, and romance, but a most incredible legacy… a magic within herself she is only beginning to understand.
“What will you do when school is done, Evie?”
Priscilla peered at me through her thick spectacles. They had the unfortunate effect of making her already watery eyes swim large and fishlike. That didn’t bother me. After eight years as academic rivals at Sister Claire’s school, Priscilla and I had both decided that it was much easier being friends. And what were fish eyes between friends?
I am a little torn about Evie as a character. She reads like a Mary Sue** to me. She’s a reasonably pretty teenage girl with undiscovered magical powers which give her a leg up. For some reason, she’s endeared herself to royalty, and all of the men are in love with her, or at least in lust. Things happen to her which are not wholly explained, and things are too close to a cake-walk, as nearly all the “conflict” is imagined.
There are fights between characters which are never explained, and characters who go from being at least neutral about Evie to disliking her for no apparent reason. There are characters who have good reasons for disliking her, but they are villainized, as only the “bad” people don’t love Evie. (Another Mary Sue earmark.)
Did I like the book anyway? Yes, actually.
It was no outstanding piece of literature, and I won’t be raving about how amazing it was for weeks to come, but I don’t regret taking the time to read it. If you can get it from the library, and you’re feeling patient and/or indulgent about characters who get everything handed to them on an unexplained silver platter, then you may find this to be a decent read.
It scores a 2.5/5. I didn’t hate it, but I wasn’t “wowed” and I will probably not bother to re-read it.
* Yes it is.
** See Wikipedia.