Sunday, November 27, 2011

Beauty and the Werewolf by Mercedes Lackey

Beauty and the Werewolf is the latest offering in the Five Hundred Kingdoms series by Mercedes Lackey, and here I have to use the term series somewhat loosely as you can pretty much pick them up in any order and read them without too much trouble, or wondering what has happened in other stories up to this point.  This series leans heavily on traditional stories and fairytales, but uses them in a rather unique way - there is a powerful force called the Tradition (note the capital T) which tries to force people into the mould it thinks fits best for their personal circumstances.  So while a stepmother may not begin as mean and petty, the force applied by the Tradition may eventually turn her into the typical stepmother found in tales. 

This particular tale of the Five Hundred Kingdoms introduces us to Bella, a feisty and headstrong young woman who runs the household of her merchant father while indulging her hypochondriac stepmother and being the perfect big sister to her twin stepsisters.  Everything seems to be going swimmingly, until she runs into a spot of bother one night while on her way from visiting the Granny in the local forest.  Bitten on the ankle by a werewolf, Bella finds herself bundled up and whisked off to the local manor where she finds out the secret that has made the Duke a recluse all these years - he is the werewolf that bit her.  Forced to live in the manor with the Duke Bella tries to make the best of the situation and soon finds herself caught up in the mystery of why the Duke is a werewolf (it didn't happen the usual way after all), and the greater mystery of the servants of the manor who are not what they appear to be.

This is not my favourite book in this series, but it was also not the worst one in the series either (I never did manage to get very far with the The Snow Queen).  Isabella is more than a little annoying to begin with, and it took a while to warm to her as a character, but at least she does change over the course of the book and becomes a much better person (in my humble opinion anyway).  At times the characters seem a little flat and two dimensional, but that may just be because some of the other books in the series have set such a high standard.  Lackey's understanding and use of fairytales and traditional stories is phenomenal and you can see that not only in this series, but also in her elemental masters series which is set during different historical periods in our own world - and some of the stories have been the same, the sleeping beauty, Cinderella, and more.  The Tradition is a fantastic device for allowing all sorts of different things to happen, or not as the case may be, and there is a wealth of material out there to allow for many more books in the five hundred kingdoms series. 

If you like this book then try:
  • The fairy godmother by Mercedes Lackey
  • The sleeping beauty by Mercedes Lackey
  • The fire rose by Mercedes Lackey
  • The serpent's shadow by Mercedes Lackey
  • Phoenix and ashes by Mercedes Lackey
  • Reserved for the cat by Mercedes Lackey

Reviewed by Brilla

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