Review: “Cloaked” by Alex Flinn

For the love of books

In Miami, there is a fancy hotel named the Coral Reef Grand, wherein is a shoe repair shop.  Johnny Marco and his mother now run this family business, which seems to be on a one-way track to bankruptcy.  Johnny is already seventeen years old, and he has never been anywhere.  He may not even be able to go to college and fulfill his dream—to become a famous shoe designer—because his mother and he are so poor.

With the comfort of his best friend Meg, Johnny manages to survive every hard-working day, but opportunity is right around the corner in the form of a celebrity.  Princess Victoriana chooses Johnny to go on an extremely well-paid mission: to find her brother Philippe, heir to the throne of Aloria.  This sounds like a sweet deal to Johnny, except when Victoriana mentions that the prince has been turned into a frog.  It’s incredible and completely insane, except when Johnny tries out the power of a wishing cloak for himself.  Suddenly, he’s conversing with talking animals through a set of magic earphones, traveling to new places, and being targeted by a witch named Sieglinde and her body-building son.  But through all his encounters with talking swans, a used-to-be human in the form of a fox named Todd, or assassins chasing after the spoiled brat of a prince, Johnny has to decide if what he really wants is money and a beautiful princess.

If anyone knows how to take old-fashioned fairy tales and give them a modern spin, it’s Alex Flinn.  Cloaked is a coming-of-age story, but this teenage narrative is in the middle of inexplicable magic.  Johnny is faced with a major problem in Victoriana’s quest besides his own financial situation, and he tries to handle it like a hero would.  However, things are not always what they seem, so Cloaked becomes very humorous during the twists the author takes her storyline along.  Amusing scenes abound, like Johnny bribing Todd with delectable pastries in exchange for information or an interview of a skeptical forest ranger.  There are the romantic entanglements for many characters, and Flinn gives a happy ending to her fairy tale while solving its mysteries.

Meanwhile, she also presents an interesting analysis of poverty versus wealth.  However, the intended romance she tries to develop from a solid friendship between her main characters somehow feels less genuine than the relationship, for example, between Jack and Talia in A Kiss in Time.  Nevertheless, Flinn has compromised by accentuating new delightful additions in comparison to her previous fairy tale novels, i.e. the talking animals and quotes either about shoes or fairy tales retold within Cloaked.  Another singular change is Sieglinde, who is an incorrigible villainess unlike the antagonists in Beastly and A Kiss in Time.  The royal children of Aloria are representations of how spoiled and conceited royalty can be, not to mention how overestimated celebrities are in terms of beauty and talent.  As always, teen jargon slips easily into Cloaked and creates a flowing story that is expressive and captivating aside from the disappointing romance.

Cloaked is a fairy tale novel that utilizes many unknown fairy tales as its background, a scenario where a reader could get confused.  However, Flinn makes all her ideas and retellings work together, resulting in an enjoyable read.

Original review: Part 1: Alex Flinn turns the spotlight on unfamiliar fairy tales; Part 2: Alex Flinn turns the spotlight on unfamiliar fairy tales, Examiner.com

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