December 13, 2010

Enchanted Ivy: Review

Lily dreams of attending Princeton University, so when her grandfather takes her along to his reunion event for the weekend, she's thrilled. Her excitement doubles when she's offered the chance of a lifetime: solve the Legacy Test, and get a free pass — no questions asked — right by admissions.

The catch? She has to find the Ivy Key...and when she does, she realizes there's a whole fantastical world she's never known about, connected to her own by a single Princeton gate. But Lily may be underestimating just how badly both worlds want to use her...

Enchanted Ivy by Sarah Beth Durst


Lily's a likeable protagonist. She's got a well-honed sense of curiosity, a pragmatic mindset, and a slight inclination towards breaking the rules. When she's first confronted with the presence of magic, she is more than a little skeptical, and figures it's all rigged up somehow. So often in YA paranormal or fantasy reads, the protagonist happily accepts the existence of magic, no questions asked, so Lily's down-to-earth approach was pleasantly realistic. Perhaps she is a little too obsessed with her dream of becoming a Princeton student (and I'm not sure it was for the right reasons), but the campus does sound inviting from Durst's description.

I loved Tye, he was probably my favorite character. What can I say, his cute sense of humor coupled with a bit of a romantic flair makes for an appealing guy! He may tease Lily, but you can tell that when it comes down to it he is very concerned for her safety. Tye's unusually open about his feelings for a guy of that age...but then, he isn't your ordinary college boy. While he's eager to rush in to save Lily, he doesn't always end up rescuing the 'damsel in distress', and Lily does her utmost to stand on her own two feet and change the course of events herself.

Jake fell pretty flat for me, though that may be partly because the chemistry and connection between Lily and Tye was much more natural. He may be a "golden boy" but he lacked real personality. I'll give Durst the benefit of the doubt, though, as perhaps it was an intentional choice on her part to portray him as physically attractive but ultimately not that compelling. Let's just say that there was no contest in my mind between him and Tye! I did enjoy the friendship that eventually develops between the two guys, though.

Lily's mom intrigued me, particularly as to the cause of her memory (and other) problems. Spoiler, highlight to read: she turns out to be a dryad and the longer she spends away from her world, the worse her memory gets. I would have liked to have seen her experience going back to live with the other dryads, but we don't get told much more about her life there after she returns.

Special mention should go to the disturbingly twisted fairy who will make and break promises as it suits her. She was pretty despicable. I also really enjoyed the character of the Chained Dragon — he had caused immense hardship for many people, and yet there was something about his caged nature that had me feeling a little sorry for him. 

Premise and plot:

Enchanted Ivy's premise stands out amongst standard YA fantasy fare. It takes place over only a few days, at a college campus that exists in two worlds connected by a single gate. The concept of the mysterious Legacy Test, and the secrets of the "Old Boys," drew me in right away.

The plot starts moving quite soon after the beginning of the book, and I really enjoyed the first part of the story. Her quest for the Ivy Key reminded me at one point of the King's Quest computer games my sister and I used to play — Jake tries to tell Lily that she isn't ready for a certain step in the test, and then she totally ignores him and goes ahead anyway. Similarly, King's Quest didn't like it if you attempted to complete a task before you'd done certain others (and if it did let you, and you didn't have the right information or died). Anyway, I loved that Lily tried to do things out of order.

Also, the scene with the bookshelves in the library basement was so much fun. We had those cranking shelves at my university too, and sometimes you had to watch out or you really could get squished inside!

However, less than halfway through Lily discovers the key, and from then on in things get a good deal more complicated. This is where I must admit I started getting confused about the motives of various characters, particularly some of the "villains." Now, I definitely enjoy 3-D villains who aren't stereotypically evil, but I began to lose track of who was on which side and what they were trying to accomplish. The history of some of the families - in particular Lily's, Tye's, and Jake's - is probably enough to fill a whole separate book, and I'm afraid I had a difficult time trying to figure out exactly how everything connected in a way that would make sense and would explain what was happening in the present. Several times I found myself flipping back a few pages to re-read things.

Also, the climactic scene is dragged out quite long, encompassing several different fight scenes. Just when I thought it would be concluded, something else happened to keep it going. While this did make it a little less predictable, it ended up seeming like it hadn't been plotted so carefully. I felt as though I'd lost sight of the direction and drive of the story at this point. The very end of the last battle scene was well-crafted, though; I was glad to see Lily finally use her particular talents, and there was a touch of the bittersweet to it that I appreciated.

As for the magical creatures, I was a little dubious about the great variety of them all living together in the same place. Are relations between the different types harmonious? And how can you tell which is a Feeder and which isn't? The concept of a gate between worlds located at Princeton is a fun one, but we don't actually see as much of the magic world as I would have liked. What lies beyond the magic Princeton campus? Do they teach different subjects at this alternate Princeton? Do the two worlds manage to settle their disagreements at the end, and does that involve a role for Lily and Tye? So many questions!

Writing style:

Durst manages to transition well between moods with her writing, blending humor and drama quite smoothly. The reader is moved along at a quick pace, although I would have liked more description of the magic world and some of the creatures in it. Also, one very small detail: there was a lot of screaming in this book towards the end. I noticed it enough that I thought, "Oh dear. More screaming," at one point.

Final verdict: 3.5 shooting stars. It's got a creative premise, a sweet romance, and some magical adventures...but you might get a little confused as you read.

And on a bit of a random sidenote...anyone else remember King's Quest games?


  1. I'm loving the concept of this though I'm concerned that you say it gets confusing. I dislike having to go back and reread passages to understand what's happening. And lol, what was with all the screaming?

  2. Wow Danya, that was a heck of a thorough review! I really enjoyed reading your thoughts, it gave me a good feel for the book:) I do like the sound of both Lily and Tye, their relationship seems sweet and cute. Too bad it gets a little complicated in the middle, but it still sounds like something I would enjoy!

  3. I'm not sure why, but this book just doesn't grab me. Your review confirms a lot of my worries. Thank you for your honest and detailed review.

  4. This book has always intrigued me, but now i know to keep my expectations low. I appreciate how in depth your review is! Well done, Danya :)

  5. Hmm, I was a bit iffy about this one to begin with before I put it on my wishlist. So with your review in mind, I think I'll just see if my library has a copy of Enchanted Ivy.

  6. Thanks everyone for the comments!

    @Aylee: LOL, well there were a lot of exciting moments towards the end, so lots of screaming from more than one character :D


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