This is a 3.5 star book, rounded up because I definitely enjoyed it quite a bit. Recommended here by Siskel101, I was always going to be in the mood for a Beauty and the Beast retelling. Belle remains my jam, Disney weirdness aside (did you know she’s apparently 17? What would have been lost in the storytelling if she had been 27? Nothing, that’s right. Kids don’t understand the difference between 17 and 27, they’re both Old).
This was definitely not as good as Robin McKinley‘s two Beauty and the Beast retellings (Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast and Rose Daughter). But McKinley is an author of the first water, and that’s not really a fair comparison. A better one in my opinion is Sarah J Maas and the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, which this is definitely better than.
Thematically both novels feel similar–cursed prince, different not-princess who comes and is the key to saving him. But that’s a Trope, so it’s probably not that surprising. I found myself enjoying Harper’s attempts to escape and rationalize why she wasn’t escaping and how she stressed about the various choices she had to make. It rang decently true, the way that someone might behave if suddenly kidnapped from their world and deposited in another. Rules of the world were pretty solid as well, with little “mysterious box” syndrome. As Harper learns about the truth of the curse, you’re left thinking things make sense.
Thing that did NOT make sense: Harper’s hair. She has curly hair that she a) air dries without any product and after shampooing with no mention of conditioner and b) has BRUSHED OUT. Like to reiterate Harper has CURLY hair which is REMARKED UPON and is then BRUSHED. OUT.
It did not surprise me in the least that the author has some typical straight-ish hair, or she would never have made Harper do either thing.
I also felt deeply that the romance angle in this book could have gone literally any which way, 3 choose 2 or 3 choose 3 between Grey, Rehn, and Harper. They should try for a polyamorous triad and probably would be happier for it. The vibes were strong between all of them, in a way that I’m also not used to seeing in books of this ilk which go out of their way to choreograph one (1) HEA (that’s usually very heterosexual).
Spoiler: That their GRAND gambit didn’t work was actually decently surprising to me–it’s not often that our heros’ daring escapades fall so thoroughly flat. I did expect that Rehn as the monster would be the weapon that fights off the enemy soldiers, so no surprise there. And no real surprise that the curse would be lifted afterwards…but lots of surprise that it’s not like it’s definitely because Harper is in wuv with him. Because she’s not sure she is! She wants to see if she could be? But she’s 18, give her a break.