When I first read one of Mercedes Lackey’s books, I thought it was really cool how she took classic fairy tale stories and went in a new direction (I was also completely unprepared for the amount of sex in the book, but that’s not applicable to this book). I can’t recall if I knew this book was by Lackey when I snagged it or if I grabbed it because it sounded interesting and noticed the author after, as I’m wont to do, but it turned out to be a completely different experience than my first time with Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms series.
In Beauty and the Werewolf, Bella is unconcerned with the frivolities that come with her social station and seems to be well on her way to being a spinster and hopes she can at least have a similar degree of freedom as the local Granny. But on her way home from visiting Granny in the forest, she’s attacked by a lone wolf. Suddenly, Bella is thrown into the magical world as she is spirited away to the castle of a local duke–who happens to be the werewolf that attacked her! While waiting to see if she’s been infected by the bite, Bella discovers that Duke Sebastian is living under the werewolf curse, but not even the kingdom’s Fairy Godmother seems to know who cursed Sebastian or why. But working together, Bella and Sebastian just might be able to find a way to break the curse before it consumes him entirely.
As I said, Lackey takes classic fairy tales and uses them in different ways so that she can keep the sort of cliche stories without being identical stories. In the series, the Tradition pushes people toward the fairy tale or story that most matches their circumstances. Characters then can choose, do they like the story or do they want to fight for something different? While the stories play out in typical fairy tale fashion, it gives Lackey the freedom to hang on to fairy tale elements while also blazing whatever trail she wants. It’s a fun way to experience fairy tales as an adult.
I must say, however, I didn’t really care for the characters in Beauty and the Werewolf. Bella, for all that she was not the traditional female society expected, still fit in with the snobbery and pettiness common to wealthy families. And though she seemed to change some, it wasn’t really a process. It just sort of vanished as the romance began to take center stage. The one other issue I took with the book was how no one suspected the culprit, even though the culprit was obvious and had clear motive–even down to the altruistic-seeming behaviors.
Only because I mentioned it in the beginning, this book does not have quite the sexual content as the first book in this series that I read. In fact, other than a kissing scene or two and a couple references to scurrilous behavior, the book was clean, which makes it good for advanced but maybe not quite mature readers.
All in all, it’s a fun and quick fairy tale read that combines elements from several stories to creating something new. You don’t have to work through the book, it’s just a fun read.