Beauty and the Werewolf (Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms, Book 6)
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I have a fondness for retold fairy tales, and for “Beauty and the Beast” in particular. Mercedes Lackey is no stranger to the story either—she’s already written a novel called The Fire Rose, which is set in San Francisco right before the great earthquake. Her newest Five Hundred Kingdoms book, Beauty and the Werewolf, moves the story to a fictional setting and, as the title says, turns the Beast into a shapeshifter.
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“The eldest daughter is often doomed in fairy tales. But Bella— Isabella Beauchamps, daughter of a wealthy merchant—vows to escape the usual pitfalls.
Anxious to avoid the Traditional path, Bella dons a red cloak and ventures into the forbidden forest to consult with “Granny,” the local wisewoman.
But on the way home she’s attacked by a wolf—who turns out to be a cursed nobleman! Secluded in his castle, Bella is torn between her family and this strange man who creates marvelous inventions and makes her laugh—when he isn’t howling at the moon.
Breaking spells is never easy. But a determined beauty, a wizard (after all, he’s only an occasional werewolf) and a little godmotherly interference might just be able to bring about a happy ending.…”
This is one of those novels that I classify as “serviceable”. There’s nothing extraordinary about it, but neither is there anything blatantly clumsy. As with most of Lackey’s novels, it rolls along smoothly until it hits its conclusion within the space of a few pages. There’s nothing that feels left out or badly handled. Overall, it’s a decent read.
But there are a few inconsistencies. For instance, the novel opens with an obvious reference to Little Red Riding Hood, but then that particular fairy tale vanishes altogether and never comes up again. It felt a bit tacked on, as if the mere inclusion of a werewolf necessitated some nod to that story. The novel could have gone on perfectly well without it.
The other problem that I had was that it’s pretty obvious who the villain is, and given that the Five Hundred Kingdoms are ruled by the Tradition (which forces people into fairy tale roles whether they like it or not), most of the cast should have caught on to what was going on. Although I must say this: I admire Lackey for a span in the novel’s middle where the villain appears to be not so villainous. It’s pretty convincing, even if it’s not enough to totally erase suspicion; however, it made me want to see the story twist to make the bad guy not-so-bad, and that’s a reasonable accomplishment.
I actually had a hard time reviewing this novel because there are so many similarities to the earlier book The Fire Rose. In that story, the Beast is a man transformed into a wolf, there is a single self-composed male servant in the household, and the villain’s plot even advances in much the same way. In a strange way, I think that smoothed the way for me in this novel, because in spite of some glaring problems, I really liked The Fire Rose. This book just sort of slid into that same spot.
While it has a few issues that could have been better addressed, Beauty and the Werewolf is an entertaining read. It displays the best of Lackey’s writing, and if you’re a fan of the original fairy tale, you should find much to like in this book.
Also by this author: Brightly Burning, Changes, Changing the World, Conspiracies (with Rosemary Edghill), Crossroads, Elemental Magic, Exile’s Honor, Exile’s Valor, Finding the Way, The Firebird, The Gates of Sleep, Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit, Home from the Sea, Intrigues, Joust, Legacies (with Rosemary Edghill), Phoenix and Ashes, Redoubt, Sacrifices (with Rosemary Edghill), The Serpent’s Shadow, Steadfast, Take a Thief, Under the Vale, Unnatural Issue
This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on November 30, 2011.
Series: Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms
Page Count: 336
Publication Date: October 18, 2011
Acquired: Provided by the publisher as an e-ARC on NetGalley
Read an excerpt