500 Kingdoms: Beauty and the Werewolf
(C) 2011 Mercedes Lackey
Isabella Beauchamps is accustomed to being the mistress of her house, keeping the servants and her twin stepsisters in line while her stepmother spends her days gazing out the window and gossiping. A chance encounter with a werewolf in the woods, however, sees her taken by the king’s guards and effectively imprisoned in a remote rural manor house that looks more like a fortress than a residence. There she learns that her new host, Duke Sebastian, was the werewolf who bit her — and that for the sake of the region’s safety, she’s to be secured here for three months to ensure that she has not been werewolf’d herself. Not content to be an idle prisoner, Bella immediately goes to work putting the Duke’s household to order, including his dozens of invisible spirit-servants. Her arrival into the sleepy household and its absentminded lord’s life begins to expose the mystery of the Duke’s curse, and threatens the life of both. With a cover that brings to mind Little Red Riding Hood, but a story that’s definitely more of a spin on Beauty and the Beast, Beauty and the Werewolf is interesting but limited as a novel. A lot of space is given to Bella simply trying to understand the setting, to the point that we’re seeing Lackey’s worldbuilding as she hammered it out. That could be interesting in its own right, but it seems like filler within the novel itself. The big bad of the novel is also telegraphed fairly early on, although Lackey does her best to misdirect readers halfway through. The story isn’t helped by Bella being obnoxious and bossy to the point of imperial. Still, I liked the idea of the traditional Beast being a werewolf.
Next up: I’m still plodding along in Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs, and have recently received two books that will complete a series I started in…erm, 2011.