Beauty and the Werewolf by Mercedes Lackey
(part of the Five Hundred Kingdom series)
In a world where the forces of Tradition steer people’s lives to follow the routes of legends and fairytales, Isabella Beauchamps is a merchant’s daughter, wears a bright red cloak, and gets attacked by a werewolf on her way from Granny’s house. Let’s pause for a moment here and let the heroine’s name slowly sink in: Isabella Beauchamps.
However, unlike the sparkle-Bella that we all know and love, Bella-Beau is a practical, strong-willed character who is not at all impressed when a run-amok werewolf turns her world upside down.
But what really keeps this story–and others in the series–so engaging is the dramatic tension between what we know happens in stories of Beauty and the Beast and Red Riding Hood and what the author does. We know there will be a happy ending, but will Bella’s Beast turn out to be the unpleasant Gameskeeper, rather than the werewolf? Will Granny bite it? Will the Gameskeeper get to cut our werewolf open at the end? Who are the invisible servants, anyway?
Lackey walks the line between tipping her hat to the fairy-tales, and creating her own, original, self-contained story, and all without using references for references’ sake. In a typical Lackey fashion, the author builds a world–and characters–of moral ambiguity, probing the deep, deep questions of power and responsibility, family and fate. It doesn’t stop the reader from figuring out who the main villain is fifty or so pages in, however.
Let me give you a clue. We’re introduced to three major characters, and it’s not Bella, and it’s not Bella’s love interest.
The book itself is romance lite, with a rather universal level of age appropriateness. I would recommend it to younger readers, to anyone looking for a light, feel-good adventure with a spunky heroine and a happy ending, and to all recent Mercedes Lackey fans. Beauty and the Werewolf is a lovely way to spend an afternoon. So if you like her LUNA books, you will love this novel.
And if you enjoy story retellings as much as I do, I would definitely encourage you to try out the first of the Five Hundred Kingdoms series, The Fairy Godmother by Mercedes Lackey, or her other, somewhat more substantial “Beauty and the Beast” retelling, The Fire Rose.
Other Recommended Reads:
- Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley
- Beauty by Robin McKinley
- The Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison
- Red as Blood, or Tales from the Sisters Grimmer by Tanith Lee
- The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
Galley pdf received courtesy of NetGalley & LUNA Books.