The Sweetest Spell
By Suzanne Selfors
Walker & Co., 2012. 404 pgs. Young Adult
Born with a deformed foot, Emmeline was left at the edge of the forest to die--except, protected by a group of cows, she lived. Her survival and her deformity have made her an outcast among her people, the impoverished dirt-scratchers, who fear she has some sort of black magic. When a flood wipes out her entire village and carries her beyond the Flatland boundaries--the only place the dirt-scratchers are allowed to live--Owen Oak, the son of a dairy farmer, finds her, and after his family nurses her back to health, discovers that she has a magical gift long lost to the people of their country--the gift of making chocolate. While the gift suddenly offers Emmeline a way out of poverty and respect she'd never have as merely a deformed dirt-scratcher, it also the sort of gift that others will do anything to get their hands on. Just as Emmeline starts to hope for a better life, and perhaps even acceptance beyond the Flatlands, she becomes the target of the evil schemes of those who will do anything to get Emmeline's chocolate for themselves.
The idea of chocolate being the hot commodity in a society seemed a little silly to me, but Selfors did a great job of making it believable. This fantasy world is a delightful one to visit. With adventure, political intrigue, a dash of romance, and a heroine who dares to believe in herself and fight for her people, this book was fun from start to finish.