“There once was a shoemaker who worked very hard, but was still very poor …”
When you’re reading a fairy tale, and it gets to the part where the protagonist gets tricked by some painfully obvious ruse, don’t you think, “WHO would fall for that?”
Well in Cloaked, I think you would fall for it, probably. Especially if there were a lot of money and the love of somebody totally hot on the line, which is exactly the situation here. We meet Johnny, a seventeen-year-old shoe repair guy who works in his mother’s shop in a fancy hotel in South Beach, right before he gets wrapped up in his own modern day mash-up of every under-told fairy tale in the book. Pragmatic Johnny just wanted to step away from his shoe counter for five minutes to catch a glimpse of an infamous Paris Hilton-esque Princess as she checked into the hotel. Instead, he ends up being offered a mission that, if completed, could free him and his mother from the toils of working class drudgery forever and fulfill his boyish dream of becoming a luxury shoe designer (what? adorable).
What ensues is a charming quest in which Johnny must prove himself worthy, in classic fairy tale manner, to various characters including foxes and swans (former humans, of course, just like the frog prince he’s been sent to find). As we follow Johnny, we get a tour of the Florida Keys, in addition to a bunch of lesser known fables cloaked in modernity. The Elves and the Shoemaker, The Salad, The Six Swans, and, of course, The Frog Prince are all present, among others.
This abundance of fairy tales may strike some readers as excessive, but I was happy to go along with it, mostly because of Johnny. He is likable from the start; he is so earnest and genuinely funny, though very easily duped. Plus he designs ladies shoes. And knows lots of quotes about shoes. And talks about people in terms of their shoes.
Whether you favor Birkenstocks or Jimmy Choos, Cloaked is a fun read, and it’ll have you rooting for the poor shoemaker, all the way to grandmother’s house (I mean it’s a fairy tale…and it’s Florida).
Shannon Rogers is a former (tear) Figment intern from New Mexico. She recently returned to her adopted hometown of Chicago where she lives in an apartment shaped like a pie slice.